My Boyfriend's Back (sequel to NSG) Chapter 1March 16 2003 at 8:22 PM
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|Rebel Goddess (Login RebelGoddess)|
from IP address 188.8.131.52
I disclaim throughout.
Warning: Things get kind of dark from here on in. If you don't like what's happening, skim on quickly, but don't say I didn't warn you.
It had been three months and four days since the sunshine had gone out of his life. Shawn Brady was sitting and thinking, brooding about that day, the day it had all gone wrong. Megan was gone, and she wasn’t coming back. He didn’t know when, or if, he would see her again. It was his fault. If he hadn’t let her on the back of the motorbike, she would be in Salem with him, where she was supposed to be. He wouldn’t be stuck in this hell hole, and he might have found out what was going on with Belle and Henry. Anyway he looked at it, he had made a mess and he had not been the only one to pay. If it wasn’t against his religion, he would have considered suicide. He was so alone and his broken heart throbbed worse every second. Everyone had been lost to him through betrayal, deceit or his own sheer stupidity. He kept replaying that moment when he had seen the truck skid in the road, trying to think of how he could have done things differently, stopped what was to come. He had been on some serious pain killers that night, he had been in no fit state to drive. He shouldn’t have been on the back of that motorbike at all, but he had had to get out of there. It was too much.
‘Just like you, Shawn, isn’t it?’ he thought to himself coldly. ‘Run away as soon as the world gets too tough. Some Tough Guy you turned out to be. You couldn’t even protect the people you loved the most.’
The darkness of the room was getting to him. He closed his eyes and thought about that last day, thinking even more desperately how he could undo it all and start again.
Henry with his arm around Belle’s waist, in bed with her.
His mother and father arguing.
The way the truck had skidded across the road and slammed into that damn tree.
The searing pain across his legs as his jeans were ripped open by the road and the final agony of feeling his shoulder dislocate.
Seeing Megan’s body lying limply in the road, the rain soaking her through.
The blood that seemed to be everywhere, running through his eyes.
End of flashback
He had lost hope when he had lost Belle. Now only Paris was left to him. That was where she might come back to him, but even if she didn’t, Paris had Kitty in it. Kitty would be able to help him. When, not if, he went to Paris, she would be there. If she couldn’t help, and Belle didn’t come, he knew that the Seine would claim a drowning victim that night. What else was left for him but that? He still had time. Leaning back, he thought again, remembering so much that it hurt.
"Megan," he ignored his own pain as he stared at his Star Child, screaming at her across the road. "Megan! Speak to me! Move! Oh, God, don’t let her die. Don’t let her die."
He was praying harder than he ever had before. Even when JT was dying, he hadn’t been this desperate. When JT was dying, Belle had been by his side. Now he was alone. The lightning crashed, illuminating the road for a split second and the thunder rumbled after it. He could see the blood, covering the road. His legs wouldn’t obey him. His right shoulder was completely dislocated. With his left arm and his body, each inch gained a torturous pain to his body, Shawn crawled on his belly across the road. He had lost his helmet somewhere, but hers was still on. He didn’t want to remove it in case he hurt her more, but he need to see if she would be alright, or if he had just killed his best friend.
End of flashback
The tears welled up in Shawn’s eyes as he thought about that night. It was his fault. Always his fault. He forced them down again with a tremendous effort. They wouldn’t help now. He had to stay strong. More than that, he had to stay alive. Tears would do nothing for that. If he showed weakness, he would die from it. ‘I have to be her Tough Guy.’ He kept telling himself it, but he could barely hold it together. Images of Megan and Belle from that night kept going through his mind.
"Not now." Shawn took a deep breath and cleared his mind. In place of their faces he put Kitty’s. She was his strength now, his dream, the one he had to get to or die trying.
The door opened and a light shone in. Then that dreaded voice spoke. The words were benign, but the ideas behind them were foul and terrifying. The voice filled his nightmares, and he knew he would never really escape from it. How could he?
"Ah, Mr Brady, you’re awake."
"What do you want?" Shawn was still strong enough for defiance, and he spat the words.
"I think you know that, Mr Brady." The voice was almost sneering at him. Shawn’s stomach turned. He thought of Kitty, and was strong when the pain came. He would win this battle yet, even if it took him the rest of his life.
Chapter 2No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:30 PM |
The physical pain, when it arrived, was as intense as ever. Three months of this torture and he still wasn’t used to it. The manacles on his hands and feet were rubbing sores deep into his skin. His torturer looked at him carefully, examining him like a medical doctor would. Looking for signs of weakness.
"This won’t do. He’s no good to me wasting away. Arnie, I want you to take Mr Brady for a run every morning. Leave the chains on. It will make him stronger. He is to have red meat, I want to see the muscles on him through his clothes. He must be strong for what is to come. You can stop stretching him now. I think perhaps, we will use the machine on him now." The voice stopped, and Shawn’s arm were released from his position of hanging onto the ceiling by his wrists.
"Yes, boss." The voice was left in the room as Arnie fetched the machine, wheeling it in on its squeaking trolley.
"You know, Mr Brady, that I will win. Ah, here it is." The voice smiled at the sight of the torture instrument. It was a complex computer with a head set. Remembering every other occasion it had been used, Shawn shied away from it, like a frightened animal. It was a reflex he couldn’t control. Arnie grabbed his wrists and wrenched him down into the chair, roughly fixing the electrodes to Shawn’s forehead.
"Time to begin." The voice was ice cold and without emotion. That was something it had in common with Elvis, Shawn thought. The same emotionless manners, but if he thought Elvis Dimera was a nightmare, he had been living in a world of soft, pink, fluffy dreams. The voice made Elvis look like Belle in their characters by comparison.
The pain in Shawn’s head was terrible as the machine was switched on. The electric current flowing through it was doing something horrible to the insides of his head. He realised the voice had been playing with him, that this was the real trial. Everything up to this point had been a game. He was determined to pass the test, that or die. He couldn’t let the voice win. He couldn’t do that to everyone back in Salem. He couldn’t let the voice win, or Kitty would never see him again. He couldn’t do that to her.
"Being stubborn, are we?" The voice was more amused than angry. "Increase the voltage. Double it. I want him on his knees before we are finished. Then he may rest."
Shawn concentrated harder, pushing away everything but her face. He was making himself a new place to be, a safe haven for his mind while his body was being tortured. Nothing there would hurt him, nothing could. He built it up like a castle in the sky. The meadow was green, lusciously green, and it had tiny yellow flowers in it. The next wave of electric force passed through his body. Shawn closed his eyes and looked at the meadow. Now for the sky, it was blue with hazy white clouds. He could lie on his back and stare at those clouds. He was safe. The pain left him, but the electricity kept flowing. He could feel what the voice was trying to do to him, and he couldn’t stop it. Not yet.
"Enough." The voice was pleased. Shawn was even stronger than it had been thought. "Arnie, free him. He may have double rations tonight."
Then it was all over and the voice was gone, Arnie with him. Shawn stood in the darkness of the room and tried to remember what day it was. He passed to the wall and allowed his fingers to pass over the dents he had made there. Each groove represented another day of his captivity. He added another only at the instant before he fell asleep, and then it was more a recording of one less day until he was free. Another day fewer before he would be with her again.
Exhausted and in pain, Shawn curled up into a ball, feeling the familiar chains bash against his bones and closed his eyes. Now was not the time to die. Now was the time to live. If he lived now, there would be time for other things later. He didn’t dream much of the future, heartache lay where plans were destroyed. He thought of the past for a moment, and regretted it.
John Black, Belle’s father, spoke next. He was yelling too. "Damn it Hope! I can’t live this lie anymore! JT is my son just as much he is yours and I need to be with him!"
End of flashback
That had been the beginning of it all. The lies he discovered had started it, of course, but he now knew that there was more beneath the surface of Salem than anyone dreamed. More than even Stefano Dimera knew. Shawn blamed his own naivety for some of the things that had happened to him. His own stupidity for others. Betrayal went with every relationship in Salem. Some plotted, others were forced into impossible situations that seemed to necessitate lies, and then there were those who wouldn’t tell the truth if their lives depended on it. Pain lived in Salem, heartache fomented in the alleyways and behind the closed doors of the houses, deceit grew, encompassing everything in its malignant path. He thought there were people he could always trust, always rely on. Now he knew that the only person he was ever able to rely on was himself, and even that was being taken away from him.
Shawn woke with the pain in his body worse than he remembered it ever being before. His legs were numb, thankfully, but his shoulder felt like he had ripped it out of its socket. The dark haired, pretty nurse smiled down on him, and he tried to focus.
"Urhg?" He couldn’t say too much. Vague memories kept flashing through his mind, but nothing to keep a strong grasp on.
"How are you feeling? Do you know where you are?" She was young, quite pretty, with thick, glossy black hair. She had a tiny red rosebud nestled above her left ear, and Shawn got a glimpse of it as she leaned down to put a thermometer in his mouth. "Hang on," she pulled it out again, "your temperature is a little bit up, but that’s fine. It just means your body is fighting the infection."
"Where is this place?" Shawn’s mind was foggy, but he could just about remember Belle doing something wrong, something very wrong, and then there was something about the motorbike and Megan.
"This is Somerset Town hospital, don’t you remember your trip here?" The nurse began to look worried.
"My friend, a girl of my age, is she here too?" Shawn suddenly became desperately afraid for Megan.
"There was a girl, but she went to the general hospital instead. I can call and ask after her if you like?" Shawn nodded and tried to remember what had happened the night before, but couldn’t.
End of flashback
He’d been stupid at that hospital. He should have called home, called Belle, Philip, Pink, anyone, not just lain there alone. He was too damn stubborn though. His stupid pride was half of what had got him into this. He couldn’t help that now, but he could help the rest. Fighting to stay awake for another moment so he could think, he needed to plan. He thought he had a little more than three months to get out and get to Paris. After that, God only knew what he would be doing. He wouldn’t think about that now. That was for later, when he woke in a cold sweat and had no idea where he was. That was for dreaming when he was asleep, of being in Belle’s arms, of talking to Kitty, of dancing with Megan, watching JT grow up, everything that he would dream of later he pushed to the back of his mind. He tried to sleep, but the voice rang through his head.
"You will obey me, Mr Brady. There are things I can do to you that you can not even imagine in your wildest and most terrifying nightmares." It echoed through the room, and Shawn knew that even if he slept he would dream of it. There was no escape, possibly not even death would give him respite from it. Shawn had heard the voice of Satan, and it had an American accent.
The night was cold and lonely for Belle Black, alone in her room without her friends. More than three months ago Shawn Douglas Brady, her best friend in the world, had fought with his parents and disappeared into the night like a ghost. No one had heard from him since. Belle didn’t know why he had gone. She had thought perhaps that he had joined the Merchant Marines early, but they had no record of him. No Shawn Brady had turned up in any hospital anywhere in a tri-state area, and they hadn’t even got a postcard from him. Belle was miserable without him, and Philip was no substitute for her Tough Boy. No matter how hard Brady tried to cheer her up, he couldn’t do it. There was a rumour that Shawn had run away forever, but it was pointed out that he had no money, less than a tank of gas in the bike, and only the clothes on his back. He could have packed and gone, taking money with him as he had before when he had gone to see Megan in New York. The remains of his bike had been found on the coastal path miles outside of Salem. It wasn’t just a bit crushed, it was completely destroyed. The largest piece was the handlebars. After that, it had been speculated that Shawn was dead. That he would never come back, Belle refused to believe. She knew her Tough Boy would rather die then leave her wondering forever. He wasn’t like that. He had called every week when he had gone to New York.
They had found a number for Rosa and Guiseppe’s restaurant in Shawn’s room, but they had neither seen him, nor heard from him for several weeks. Philip even suggested asking Kitty if she knew where he was, but she had no idea. That had worried Belle. Shawn might have left her, his parents and his baby brother, but he wouldn’t have taken Megan and not told Kitty or not gone to her. Now all she could do was cry herself to sleep and pray he would come back to her one day. She refused to believe that he was dead. She would know if he was. She had a connection to her Tough Boy that would tell her if he died, as it had told her she was in trouble. She couldn’t shake the feeling that he needed her, that he was in trouble…
Shawn woke from his sleep to find his prison walls were broken down and he was lying in the meadow of his mind, with a beautiful girl standing amongst the yellow flowers, except now they were bluebells, and the girl had long daisy chains like jewellery hanging on her wrists, her throat and woven into her beautiful blonde hair. She was so beautiful, with soft blonde hair, huge blue eyes and the face of an angel.
"Hello." It sounded strange to say such a simple word to such a beautiful girl. He felt like he should be grovelling at her bare feet, kissing the ground she walked on.
She laughed, and Shawn felt his heart pound. It was a beautiful laugh, musical and flowing a waterfall.
"Hello," she said to him joyfully. Her face was so beautiful, and so full of happiness. "Are you coming?" She started walking, gliding through the meadow, the bluebells parting before her.
"Where are we going?" Shawn started to run after her, finding his feet heavy and the meadow strangely big.
"To see the children!" She called over her shoulder, "They’ve been waiting for you!"
Shawn suddenly knew that he had to follow her, that he had to get out of the meadow and accompany her wherever she went.
"Who are the children?" Shawn called after her, and looked down to see his feet were trapped by the bluebells. They were wrapped around his ankles. They were tightening, and the bluebells had changed from floral decorations to steel manacles. They were still as fine and as beautiful as the bluebells, the same shape, but now they bound his legs together. The angel was further away than ever, calling him on and laughing that wonderful laugh.
Then there was thunder in their meadow, and the voice of Shawn’s tormentor rang out. "You can’t leave, Mr Brady, you will never leave."
The angel was even further gone, beckoning with her beautiful hand, leaning out to him, but Shawn couldn’t move. The meadow was receding and the darkness of his prison cell was reclaiming him. He struggled desperately against his bonds, as the angel disappeared into the darkness, a bright spot marking where she had stood.
"No!" Shawn yelled out, and the walls of his prison closed in around him.
"But you see, Mr Brady, you can never escape, and you will never see daylight again." The voice was so calm, so cool, that Shawn was terrified by it. He almost wept as the dark returned, wiping away all trace of the meadow, daylight and the girl. The manacles were heavier than ever, and through the darkness, he thought he could hear the trundling wheels of the machine coming closer and closer.
Shawn woke, sweating and frightened, to hear the door of his cell being unlocked. Arnie came in and, with a lot of grunting, released Shawn from the wall, but not he manacles that held his hands and feet together.
"Come on kid," Arnie said to him, watching as the slender boy scoffed down his scant breakfast. "Running time."
For a few blissful minutes, Shawn thought that he would see the sun again. Then, when Arnie led him out of the complex, he realised that it was still dark. It must have been in the early hours of the morning, well before dawn as nothing but the moon and a million billion stars glowed in the sky, with no rosy hue of light to warm Shawn’s heart. The air, after the stale and foetid atmosphere of his cell, felt glorious in his lungs. He stood for a moment just breathing it in. He took in every detail of his surroundings, though there was dishearteningly little to see. A wood, as thick and as dark as any forest he had ever seen, surrounded the stone building, impenetrable and dangerous. A high wire fence, electrified he thought, was built around three sides, and on the fourth side, there was a cliff face as sheer and as smooth as glass. No escape routes, one high barbed wire gate, a crisp blanket of frost on the grass, and a snap of something more than a Salem autumn in the air. Arnie grunted, and handed Shawn a heavy duty pair of boots. Pulling them on gratefully, Shawn realised that he would be made to run around the sides of the complex, perhaps half a mile in its circumference, with his manacles on as Arnie drove a small golf cart style vehicle and dragged him by a chain. It would be torturous of months of enforced inactivity, but he would have to do it anyway.
"Move!" Arnie barked at him. "Hurry it up!"
Shawn felt himself half yanked off his feet as Arnie climbed into the little motor cart, the ten foot chain no use as a weapon as a gun was trained on him at all times. He began to run, not quickly but with a steady gait that he could keep up for hours if he had to.
The voice’s owner smiled at the video of the prisoner in the yard. Shawn Brady might be a goddamned son of a bitch, but he was going to be the most excellent subject for the treatment ever. He might even survive it to the final stage, if he was either very lucky or very clever. With the Brady family history, Shawn would probably be lucky, but not that lucky. Laughing softly, the voice switched the tape off and fell into a dreamless sleep, untroubled by the torture of Shawn or the consequences of the actions the voice had committed. There was no room for remorse in a heartless fiend’s mind. It would have been dangerous, and there was already plenty of danger in that life, though the voice did nothing to decrease the rate at which the danger came. Shawn, the voice knew, might one day turn, and bite the hand who fed him, but if the treatment was completed, Shawn would sooner kill his own parents and blow up the whole of Salem than harm a single hair on the head of the voice. Yes, he was a good subject. He had already proven that he was braver than any other person of his age and loyal to a fault, and now he was proving his intelligence and spirit. The voice would be very surprised if Shawn did not make at least one successful escape before the treatment was completed. It would only confirm Arnie’s theory that the boy’s spirit would be impossible to break, and only complete amnesia would stop him from continuing his life as the most faithful friend ever born in Salem.
"Truly," the voice whispered in it’s dreamless sleep, "the perfect subject for my project."
Then came a chuckle, low and cold, that passed through the window and into the yard. Shawn thought it was the most horrible sound he had ever heard as he passed under that window on his run, and ran a little faster to get away from it. He refused to cover his ears or act like it had really affected him, but in the core of his soul, it became another reason to live. No one could laugh like that and be less than a megalomaniac nutcase. ‘The enemy must be defeated,’ Shawn whispered to himself as he ran, a mantra he would repeat again and again to keep himself strong, ‘at any cost.’ He left the significance of the statement hanging in the air for a moment, and then whispered, "Even if I die, they go with me."
He smiled, a slow and unhappy smile of absolute belief. If it took him a hundred years and he had to kill every person that the voice put between them, he would have his revenge. For Megan, for JT, for Kitty, for Belle, he had to do it, but most of all, for himself and his angel. He couldn’t live with evil like that in the world and not need to fight it. It was impossible for him. He looked at the moon and swore by the twin solar bodies that controlled fate, that if it took him forever, the voice would die by his hand. He would silence it for eternity. Shawn smiled into the night, and ran faster.
Chapter 3No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:32 PM |
It was time for his fortnightly bath. Shawn loved it. It was the one time when the manacles came off. Arnie threw him into a room with a tub of warmish water, a lot of harsh soap and took off his manacles. An hour later, he would return, chain Shawn up again and return him to his cell.
Shawn stripped off his ragged T-shirt, and his jeans. They hadn’t given him any other clothes, and this was his once chance to rinse them out a bit before he returned to the drudgery of his cell. His chest was stronger than it had been. For all the voice had said, Shawn had spent his time, when not fantasising about his life in Salem, working out. Press ups, sit ups, lifting the iron frame of his bed, and attempting to wrench the chain out of the ring in the wall had done a lot for his muscles. More, now he was being given the chance to build up the rest of his body. Washboard abs, strong legs and the shoulders of a Titan were being developed around the already hard muscled Brady body. The tattoos on his skin rippled as he plunged himself into the water. He hoped the baths would be more frequent now that he was too run every morning, but he doubted it.
It was his one hour of partial freedom, something to be treasured and looked forward to. Just for a little while, he could pretend that he was home in Salem, sitting in his own bathtub, with his mother cooking downstairs, and his father playing with his baby brother. Shawn closed his eyes as he scrubbed his skin, thinking about his angel. The blonde hair and blue eyes were haunting him out of his dreams as well as when he slept. She had been so beautiful, so pure and innocent. She had been perfection personified. The water splashed around him. The room was a windowless box, larger than his ten by eight cell, but not big enough to provide any real sense of freedom. Shawn felt a little more hopeful. Perhaps, now that he was let out for runs, he would be able to break free from his prison. He wouldn’t try it the next day, but wait to earn their confidence and build up his own strength. Then he would reclaim his life and deal with his captors. They would regret the day they had kidnapped Shawn Douglas Brady.
Shawn had woken in his hospital bed in pain. He looked at the clock and found it had been three hours since the nurse had been by. He had been incoherent for a while, not recognising his surroundings, and the doctor had realised that the pain killers Shawn had been taking for his gun shot wound and the ones he had been given for his other injuries were combined to a near deadly effect. The doctor hadn’t known his patient had been taking anything else, and it hadn’t been until Shawn had gone into a fit that he had realised something was wrong. The drugs were out of his system now, and Shawn was waiting for the questions to begin.
The dark haired nurse with the rose bud above her ear was smiling at him. She had brought him a bunch of flowers that had belonged to another patient who had left them behind when they checked out. They had been poppies, beautiful and scarlet red. Shawn smiled softly. They reminded him of the roses he had been going to give Belle, before he realised she was sleeping with Henry. The tears filled his eyes, but he pushed them away. He had no right to feel angry with her. He was the one who told her that they shouldn’t be together for another year. It was his fault the situation had arisen.
"Lovely, aren’t they?" The nurse was arranging the poppies in a vase.
"Yes," Shawn’s throat hurt him as he spoke, and he reached out a shaking hand for a glass of water from the carafe on the table.
The nurse poured it for him and handed it to him. Shawn drank it thirstily, and smiled at the nurse.
"What’s your name?" his trademark grin flashed and she couldn’t help but smile back.
"Maggie." She was blushing slightly.
"That’s a lovely name," Shawn put the cup down and kept smiling.
"Can you tell me your name?" Maggie remembered what she had come in to the room to do.
"James Black." Shawn said the first thing that came into his head. "James Harley Black." He had thought of his motorbike, of his rebellious hero and of her as he spoke. James Dean and Belle Black gave him a name unrecognisable as his own. He had always hoped that Belle would change her name from Black to Brady, and it was strange to find that he was making the change himself.
"Good morning James," Shawn smiled with a little effort. Maggie was being nice, and he was trying to be nice back. "How are you? Be honest, being a tough guy helps no one around here."
Shawn flinched involuntarily at her accidental mention of his nickname. "Well, my shoulder is killing me, my chest hurts when I breathe and really don’t want to be here anymore."
"You have to rest, James." Maggie tucked the blankets in a bit tighter, unable not to notice the well defined muscles of her patient’s body. "You had dislocated your shoulder, but it was back in when you got here, so I’m not sure what happened to it otherwise. You broke a couple of ribs, and you’ve got some cuts and bruises along with a nasty concussion. I’ll be honest, it’ll hurt like Hell for a bit, but there’s no permanent damage."
"So my basketball career isn’t over?" Shawn was trying to smile, but there was a horrible pain in his jaw when he moved it too much.
"You’ll be scoring baskets in no time. The doctor will be through soon." Maggie finished fixing Shawn’s bed and rearranging the room a bit. "I called Salem General about your friend, the girl." Maggie raised an eyebrow at Shawn’s abrupt reaction of sitting straight up in bed, no matter how much he was hurt by his ribs. "She your girlfriend or something?"
"No, she’s my best friend." Shawn thought about Megan for a minute, and felt his chest tighten.
"OK, I believe you," Maggie had smiled at the same time. "Millions wouldn’t." She had chuckled with that, and the doctor had come in to see to Shawn’s wounds.
End of flashback
Perhaps if he hadn’t lied about his real name he would have been alright. His parents would have found him and he wouldn’t be having a bath in a steel tub washing the same clothes he had been wearing for three months. He dunked the T-shirt into the slightly dirty, soapy water, and watched it disintegrate slowly. The fragments of the shirt drifted in the water, and Shawn wondered briefly if the voice would give him another, or prefer him shirtless to make sure he was developing his muscles properly. He laughed at that, rather bitterly, thinking that the voice would poke and prod him like a horse to see if he was healthy and doing well. That was how he saw himself after that, a horse that had to get out. Perhaps the voice was his cowboy, controlling the wild creature as well as the cattle of his employees. Shawn wouldn’t let himself be tamed.
Abruptly, Shawn brought his head up and turned to see not Arnie but another one of the voice’s henchmen bringing the manacles back to chain him again. The gun wasn’t cocked, but the henchman obviously hadn’t realised. He wasn’t paying much attention. Suddenly, the taste of freedom he had in the bathroom went to Shawn’s head. Forgetting the danger from the gun, he slammed the guy to the wall, lifting up the manacles and quickly clicking them into place. Then Shawn ran. He was out of the door and down the corridor in seconds. He had had the foresight to grab the gun, and when he saw the first guard who was trying to stop him, he lifted it and pointed, cocking it as he moved.
"I’ll shoot you, don’t think that I won’t. It’s you bastards that have kept me locked up here for three months and don’t think that I don’t know that it was you that beat me that night. I have no qualms about killing you. You’re less than an animal." Shawn was snarling at the guard, who cowered before him.
Shawn had lain in the dark for ten days, seeing only the voice occasionally and Arnie when he came in to feed him. That night it was different. The manacles that held him to the wall were looser, and as he struggled, it came to him that he might escape. With a mighty effort that nearly killed him because of the pain in his ribs, Shawn ripped away the ring that bound him to the wall. He was free, in a sense. He went to work on the door, and found that they hadn’t locked it properly, probably mislead by his wounded bird act. Shawn had pretended to be very badly hurt when he arrived to avoid the violence that would have been doled out to him otherwise. Now, he opened the door with ease, trying to stop his chains from clanking and found himself in an empty stone corridor, with high bright ceiling lights showing him the way. He was at the end of it, so there was no question where he would go. There was nowhere to hide, so he hurried as quickly as he could, pressing himself against the wall.
He had reached the end of the corridor and suddenly there were four guards standing in front of him. They had happened on him so suddenly that none of them had time to react. Shawn tried to run past them, but the third guard back caught him by the shirt, and with a horrible smile, had dragged him back. The guards were smiling nastily, pleased at their chance for violence. Shawn tried to fight back, but the second guard threw a punch to his ribs that doubled him over in pain.
End of flashback
What had followed was one of the worst beatings the guard had ever given. Arnie had actually taken pity on him when he found the boy curled into a ball in the corner of his cell, a weltering mass of bruises, cuts and suffering from the abuses of his body.
Shawn hit the guard around the back of the head with the butt of the gun. He didn’t want blood on his hands just yet. The gunshot would have brought more guards, anyway. Flying down corridor after corridor, Shawn remembered being dragged through it, memorising every twist an turn of the way. He found himself by the door of the outside world anxious minutes after he left the guard unconscious.
The dark, just before dawn sky had never looked more beautiful to Shawn. Taking a deep breath, he began to run. He found Arnie’s cart and hot wired it. Aiming at the gate, he pressed the accelerator pedal to the floor and felt the cart lurch under him. It was going quite fast when it hit the gate, punching at it heavily. The padlock and chain shook but did not break, but the hinges of the gate did. Bursting through, Shawn leapt out of the cart and made a run for the forest. He reached panting, but didn’t stop. He had to keep going. The further he made it before he collapsed, the better his chances were.
Shawn wasn’t afraid of the dark. The dark can’t harm you, and he had lain in pitch blackness every night for three months. His eyes could see better now in it than ever before. He was afraid of what was in the dark, though. The gun couldn’t have many bullets in it, and he could hear the unmistakable cry of wolves in the woods around him. They were coming closer and closer, so Shawn kept catching glimpses of grey mottled fur in the frosted bushes. Shawn felt the bitter wind bite into his bare skin, and wished he had had the sense to take the guard’s clothes as well as his gun. He couldn’t stop running, his feet pounding against the frozen earth, but with a slow dawning horror, he realised that he wouldn’t live if he didn’t find shelter soon, or unless they dragged him back to the compound to the warmth and security of his cell. It would have made him more determined if there was any sign of hope, but after two hours of running, his cross bouncing heavily across his chest and his feet in their heavy boots ripping into the frozen ground, he knew that wherever he was, friendly people weren’t. He was lost in a place he had no knowledge of. He didn’t even know if he had been running in the right direction.
His breath was coming in shallow pants, his chest heaved and he collapsed against a tree. His only chance was to be found. He couldn’t go any further, not without collapsing from exhaustion, but now he faced death from hypothermia. He decided coldly drifting off might be better, and his tired body agreed. Running was no longer an option. Shawn’s cold body was ignoring him, going blue and numb, but his memory was still working well.
For a day he lay in the hospital bed, recovering and asking after Megan. Again and again he heard the same words, ‘no news, but soon’. It gave him time to think things through. He decided that he wouldn’t return to Salem, but join the Merchant Marines. Once that was done, he would call his parents to tell them he was safe. He was eighteen and they couldn’t drag him back from that. Smiling a little, Shawn climbed out of bed. The doctor hadn’t said he could go, but he thought he might go visit New York to recover. He was missing Rosa and all of his other friends there. It would be his safe haven.
End of flashback
Even as he slowly froze to death, Shawn could still reprimand himself for being so stupid. He shouldn’t have thought that he would get away that easily, that life would be that simple. If he had stayed in the hospital, there would have been people to protect him, keep him safe. He was so idiotic as to think that by leaving Salem he would leave the people of Salem too. The voice had shown him different.
Shawn signed his release papers and walked out of the hospital. He was free. Glancing across the street, he saw the bus station and figured it was his best chance. He looked both ways before he crossed, and was paying attention. That was the part that didn’t make sense later. How could he not have noticed the car? He started to walk across the road, but as he reached the middle, a black car with dark tinted windows came flying out of nowhere. He felt his still aching body be thrown across the hood and fall back down. Two men jumped out, and, as he lay groaning on the ground, pulled a bag over his head and heaved him into the back.
That hurt his ribs, and in his half conscious state, Shawn couldn’t help but give a little groan. Then there had been the sharp stab of a needle in his arm and the world went dark.
End of flashback
That was barely the beginning of the nightmare. He had woken aboard a plane, and after that, he had no idea where he was. Every piece of evidence that could have led his family to him, the police to him, was systematically destroyed. His efforts to leave messages were rewarded with blows and the one time he pulled away from his attackers and succeeded in getting out of the car, they were in a wilderness with no help in sight. Shawn had long since accepted the idea that if he was to escape it would be on his own, and now he was wishing he hadn’t escaped at all.
His breath was shallower than it had been, and he was losing consciousness. He fought to stay awake, alive, but it was hard. The world began to become darker, and Shawn knew he was dying. Kitty’s image appeared behind his eyes, willing him to live, but he could not. The cold was too much. Then another figure joined Kitty, his blonde angel, his beautiful creature beyond compare, and Shawn twisted his body into a standing position. It hurt terribly. He started to walk, staggering through the woods. He didn’t know where he was going, but he thought he saw the wolves in the bushes, and that pushed him on.
It felt like hours of endless toil when he found the clearing. He had only made it because Kitty and the angel had screamed at him, called for him, coaxed and encouraged him to take one more step each time he tried to stop. To stop was to truly die. He saw light, not the dawn light, but man’s light and with a final cry of pain, fell to the ground.
The light in Shawn’s eyes was darkening as the voice’s henchmen dragged him to the truck. They had been searching for hours, and were surprised to find him still alive. The alarm had been raised when the guard had been changed over, and now the voice was desperately looking for the newest subject of the experiment. Shawn didn’t, couldn’t, care any more, and was grateful for the warmth the truck and the blanket gave him. He buried himself in it and forgot everything as the warmth slowly seeped back into his body. He was alive, that was all that mattered, and he was alive thanks to his Kitty and his angel. He would have to thank them one day, if he lived that long. In the darkness of the back of the truck, with the blanket wrapped firmly around his blue tinged shoulders, Shawn was beginning to wonder if he would. There were things he couldn’t control, and that could kill him. Then he thought of his girls, and was strong again.
Chapter 4No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:34 PM |
Shawn woke up hours later, cold to the marrow of his bones and shivering. The manacles around his wrists and ankles were tighter than ever and the chain holding him to the wall allowed him to lie on his bed or use the toilet, but not even come close to the door. Shawn hadn’t known anyone could feel so cold without being dead, and wondered briefly if he was in Hell.
"Ah, Mr Brady, I see you have decided to rejoin us." He certainly had the company of Satan. "Interesting night, wasn’t it? May I advise that next time you try to escape you take some clothing and food with you. It was really quite foolish, brave but foolish, to think you could escape me so easily."
"Could you do a better job?" Shawn had just enough energy to be defiant.
"I think possibly you might, very soon. Arnie, fetch the machine." The voice was smiling evilly. Shawn internally groaned, he didn’t think he could face another session with that tormenting device. He was too tired, too weak, and too far gone to hold on this time. May be the voice had noticed, and that was why he was doing it now, before the boy had a chance to recover the strength to resist. The voice was sadistic enough for that.
The pain grew more intense as the electricity surged through him. Shawn knew that there was only way he would survive with his mind intact. He let go, and slipped into his meadow. He found it as he had left it before, with the yellow flowers in full bloom. There she stood. His beautiful angel, all blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes. She didn’t speak, but she held out her hand to him, waiting for him to come to her. The meadow was huge, but now Shawn could see a wood nearby, not like the forest outside the compound but one full of bluebells. He heard a stream and listened to the birds as they twittered in the trees. He took his angel by the hand, and her touch gave him the sensation of touching something that was at one and the same time, more real than anything else while not actually being there. He could feel things happening in his brain, connections being forged, information pouring in, but he ignored the feeling. He was with his pretty girl, his angel.
They were running playfully, the bright sunlight bouncing off her hair and her smile lighting his heart. The pain that his body underwent could not be felt in their place, it was no more real than the voice’s compassion. She pressed her finger to her lips, and after their laughter there was silence. The world exploded in a flash of blinding light and Shawn felt himself back in his cell, alone, with a killer headache.
He tried to remember what had just happened and found all sorts of new memories flood into his mind. Information that hadn’t been there before filled the empty spaces of his brain. He suddenly had the equivalent of the first three years of medical school training and five years as a Navy Seal in his head. He shook his long brown locks out of his face and stared into the darkness. The chains were tighter, true, but another session like that and he would make it out of the compound without a problem. Shawn smiled to himself. The voice was giving the very means of its destruction to him, and all he had to do was survive to use them. He could do that, he had to do that. The voice would pay, and Shawn would be the one making it.
Belle woke in her room alone, and felt miserable. She was missing Shawn more by the day, and the fact that she had no idea where he was didn’t help. At least when he had been at boarding school, she knew nothing too awful could have happened to him or his parents and the rest of Salem would have known. It was the not knowing that hurt the most. She thought enviously of the past, even of the summer of the last year when she had at least known he was alive and well. Now, sometimes, she doubted even that.
Her sleep had been disturbed that night by dreams of wild forests, wolves and pain. Belle was on her knees praying that Shawn was all right by the end. They weren’t her dreams, she was sure, but visions from him, of what he was going through, and that was terrifying.
Life was bad enough without Shawn, but Henry was making it worse. He didn’t seem able to take no for an answer. Everyday he bombarded her with flowers and gifts, begging her to go out with him. Belle couldn’t even consider going out with any boy while she was unsure of Shawn, much less the odious wretch Henry who had once molested her in a hall way until Shawn had seen fit to punch him.
Dragging her feet out of bed and down into the kitchen, Belle called for her mother and Brady, and was disappointed when neither appeared. Marlena had returned to her psychiatric practice, and Brady was at college probably, but Belle felt even lonelier without them there. The mailman delivered another load of letters and cards from Henry, but Belle didn’t even bother to read them, dumping them straight into the recycling. She had once written a reply, but Henry had just taken it as encouragement and gone around the town boasting that Belle and he were exchanging love tokens. No one had believed him, and Brady had gone after him for that, but it had made no difference. He backed off for perhaps three hours and was then back at it.
Tiredly, Belle flipped through the remaining mail, and found a letter marked Korea. Opening it more excitedly, she briefly wondered if Shawn had made it into the Merchant Marines and been posted there. She was disappointed. The letter was from Megan, who was recuperating at her father’s barracks, at his insistence, after the motorbike accident with Shawn that had left her with three broken ribs and a leg in plaster. She hadn’t heard from Shawn either, and was asking for news.
Belle knew that she wasn’t with him, but she had hoped she would know where he was. Megan had been closer to Shawn than she had recently, even if she didn’t know about JT’s parentage. Fighting back the tears, Belle folded the letter up and stuck it in her bag, before leaving the kitchen to get herself ready for another day at college. She wasn’t moving on emotionally, but she was allowing the rest of her life to carry her into the future. Shawn would be proud, she hoped, and then wept harder.
Shawn’s body was a sweltering mass of bruises. He had long forgotten what it was like not to ache from the last beating of the machine and the voice’s assistants. For once, after months of shivering in the dark, his cell was warm, swelteringly hot even. It felt good to finally be warm, and not feel ice encrusting the tips of his hair. He smiled into the darkness, knowing the voice would be there soon. It had been days since his last escape attempt, when he had run out of the bathroom, and he thought it might be time to shake things up again. Now he had the knowledge of a Navy SEAL, the physical fitness as well, and the medical knowledge of a specialist surgeon. The only thing holding him in his cell was his only determination that he would not become a killer.
Arnie swung the door open tentatively, and seeing Shawn slumped in the corner, he edged inwards. The boy had already displayed an unnerving ability to be able to stretch further out of his chains than most people realised, and he was the only one Arnie had ever known not to be sent mad by the machine. Then again, perhaps the machine had done its work and Shawn was mad, and it was his insanity that kept him alive, hidden beneath a frosty veneer of defiance and indifference. He might be covering, and everyone knew that no one was so strong as a truly mad man. Arnie began to doubt his boss’s orders, and hurried as he put the food down in front of the shaggy creature. He spilt the water, swearing as he did so, and for the first time, Shawn addressed him.
"Leave it. It can only make this pit cleaner." Arnie felt somewhat reassured that he wasn’t mad, but something about the way he said those words struck fear into his heart.
"I’ll fetch you some more." Arnie bustled out of the room, and Shawn watched him leave from under matted locks of brown hair.
Slipping out of his chains, which hung loosely on his wrists and ankles since he had jimmied them open an hour before, Shawn prepared himself to run. The sweltering heat was too much for him. He needed that water. He wouldn’t kill Arnie, he could never face Kitty or his angel with a death on his hands, but he would steal from him. He had stolen before, though he had technically termed it ‘borrowing’ his father’s motorcycle, and this was little different. He was still defying the authority that controlled his life, but this time the authority would do more to him than ground him for it. Shawn doubted he would be killed. He was now too valuable for that, but he might well be beaten to within an inch of his life. He wouldn’t think about that, though. That wasn’t important. What was important was getting out and staying out. Forever.
Arnie came back in to the dark cell, the keys of every door in the compound jangling at his belt, and within a moment he was on the floor. Shawn had struck him on a pressure point, and his inert body was now lying messily on the damp floor. Taking the keys, as much of the warm clothes as he could and Arnie’s thick boots, Shawn ran from the cell that was not so much home as his torture rack. He was nearly there.
Diving down another corridor, he opened a door he knew opened a maintenance closet. It was full of mops and brooms, but more importantly, at the back, there was a ventilation shaft. Unscrewing it hastily with Arnie’s Swiss army knife, Shawn was through in a moment. He pulled himself deeper into it as the door opened and one of the guards crept in for a quiet smoke. Shawn briefly considered knocking him out before he went on his way, but decided against it. Pulling himself along on red raw arms, Shawn knew he didn’t have long. He was nearly there, so close that he could taste the freedom in the air.
"Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose." He sang to himself quietly, realising the truth for himself in the words. There was comfort in listening to his own voice. It was more throaty that it had been, but it still belonged to the boy he had been so long ago, the boy he had almost forgotten as he became the man he was that day.
There was light shining in front of him, and he realised it was the security light flashing around in the yard. It was blissful to him that he was nearly there. Dragging himself for the last few inches, feeling the metal bite into his flesh, Shawn found himself in the open air. It filled his heart with a feeling of joy and his lungs were full of the cleanness of the air and the sweetness of hearing birdsong.
Nearly laughing, Shawn ran for the gate, scrambling over it with surprising ease, and found himself at the edge of the forest. He heard nothing from behind him, knowing that Arnie wouldn’t have been discovered so soon, and under the cover of the blackness of the night, Shawn vanished like a shadow into the forest. He didn’t know where he was, but he guided himself by the stars and thought of his childhood on the Fancy Face, and his return from the ocean to the world of Salem, and Belle. There were painful memories wrapped up with her, but sweet ones too. She was like Megan that way. There were things you shouldn’t think of, not even when you were alone in the forest, and there were things you had to remember no matter what happened because they were too important to forget. Kitty’s face was one of those things, but so was the way JT smiled when you tickled his stomach, his mother’s laugh, his father’s tattoos and stories about the Merchant Marines, the basketball games he, Philip, Brady and Jason had played, Megan’s expression whenever she was really mad and was about to stomp someone, Belle… Pulling himself abruptly out of his reverie, Shawn shook his head. There was no use in thinking about her. Kitty was the girl he was fighting to return to, not Belle. Belle didn’t want him anymore. Kitty would be his friend forever.
Words from a poem he had read drifted through his mind, and Shawn thought about everything that had happened to him and wondered where it had all gone so wrong. It reminded him of Belle, but that didn’t matter. It felt right.
In this darkness that is my life you are my only light
You're the light that shines so brightly in heart and soul
Even when the darkness is so overwhelming you stick by me and shine a light so I can see
I feel as if I'm falling and you're the only one who can save me
All my life I've fought the darkness
It's so hard to fight
The darkness is like quicksand
If you fight alone with no light you get deeper and deeper in and you can't get out
Now the light is fading fast
You've fought so hard for me that I've driven you into the darkness
If only I could be your light then we could fight together
I've realised that I love you and that you love me
Now we are each others light
As we fight we embrace our love
This is our journey
(Poem by the delightful M.)
The smell of the trees was thick in the air, and Shawn thought he could hear a wolf pack howling on the distant mountain. The darkness was a cloak, a cover for his escape, and he had to use it. He hadn’t seen real sunlight in months, his windowless cell had seen to that, and his eyes were as well adjusted to the dark as they had ever been to the world of light. He did not trip or falter as he ran, keeping up a steady pace, but he wouldn’t be able to even walk for much longer. Suddenly, a light gleamed in front of him, and he saw a house. Thanking God and his angel, Shawn threw himself towards it, feeling the last of his fading strength about to fail him. Abrupt pains in his chest told him that he would die if he didn’t reach the house, and it was in agony that he made the last few steps to the door of the wood cabin.
He bashed his fist against the door a few times, and collapsed in the snow. Life or death was no longer up to him, but whoever lived within the cabin. He could do no more, and could only pray it was enough. There was no life left in his body, and it was only by a supreme effort that he had come so far. Closing his eyes, the darkness encompassed his mind and he lost consciousness.
Chapter 5No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:37 PM |
Natalya felt the cold wind bluster around her thickened waist as she heaved at the heavy bolt of the door and stared into the dark, snow laden forest that surrounded her home. Alone in the mountains, she missed her husband, but she knew he would never return. The Boss had killed him three months before for coming too close to the compound. Now his baby kicked in her belly, and she knew it would only be a few more days before she held it in her arms. She was not looking forward to the birth. Without her family, husband or the village wise woman, she was lonely and slowly freezing to death with no one to cut more firewood for her. Now there was a banging at the door, and all she could hope was that it wasn’t the Boss or one of the henchmen from the compound. She was ready to face death, but she didn’t want her child to die. It was the last thing of Alexis’s that she had. Without his child, she didn’t think she could live.
There was a body on her doorstep, and for a moment she wondered if he was dead, a warning from the Boss of what happened to people who got too close. Correcting herself, she knew that she was too unimportant for that. She looked down at the dark haired man and wondered what he was doing in the middle of nowhere. Forgetting her questions, she took his arms and dragged him inside to the side of the fire. His body was colder than she had believed possible in a living human being, but the soft movement of his chest told her he was not yet dead. His dark eyelashes lay heavily against his cheeks, his large eyes were closed, and his near black hair was flattened against his head. He was lovely to look at, his body toned and firm, his face like a Greek god’s, but he was not her Alexis. No one was.
Wiping his forehead down with a cloth she had dampened, and pulling him closer to the fire than ever, she realised he was suffering from more than mere exhaustion and hypothermia. He had been the Boss’s prisoner. The shackle marks were still evident on his wrists and ankles, and she recognised some of the clothes as belonging to the guards from there. She would never forget the night Alexis had been brought home, or rather his body had, by those same guards. They had laughed when she had wept. She hated them.
Shawn didn’t stir, and she knew the drugs that the Boss fed all of the men at the compound to prevent them from leaving. It was partly his search for the antidote that had led to Alexis’s death. Now, she would use it to save the life of another man punished by the Boss. The antidote her husband had lived and died for would save this strange man, and perhaps, finally, his death would be avenged.
"Here," her voice was soft and low as she forced the liquid from the tiny bottle between his lips. He would awake soon, and she would discover who he was. She looked forward to that.
Shawn’s soft brown eyes flickered open, and he stared at the woman who held his head in her lap. No pre-Raphaelite angel painted by a Master had ever looked so beautiful to mortal eyes. The taste in his mouth was bitter, the blood from his bitten lips and the elixir she had poured down his throat mixed together and congealed on his tongue. If his entire heart wasn’t devoted to his faithless Belle, he would have fallen in love with his saviour on the spot. She was beautiful to him, even more beautiful than Kitty or Belle, almost his angel come to life.
"Thank you." He whispered to her through parchment dry, cracked lips.
She gave him a blank look and muttered something under her breath. He stared at her, then realised that she didn’t speak English. He tried French, Spanish and Portuguese, all inserted into his brain by the voice, before he asked her in Russian "Where am I?"
Smiling she responded gently, "The Steppes of Russia. Do you feel cold?"
"A little. Who are you?" Shawn was transfixed by her beauty. She was lovelier than he had ever imagined someone could be. She was perfect.
"You may call me Natalya." She was smiling at him, her gentle face full of warmth and sympathy. "What happened to you?"
Shawn’s breath was sucked in abruptly, he wasn’t sure if this wasn’t a trick of the voice’s to make him break. Then he stared into Natalya’s eyes and knew she could never lie to him. There was more than honesty in them, there was absolute integrity. She wasn’t a pawn of the voice, but a victim. He told her his story, leaving out the bits concerning Belle, since his mad ride out of Salem to the moment he had banged on her door and collapsed. She listened silently, with compassion and interest, always attentive. The words in Russian became poetic and beautiful. The story took on the seeming of an epic saga of an old hero, not a fight for life in the twenty first century by a boy who was barely into manhood.
She nodded her head as he finished, understanding it all better than he could have hoped. "The Boss, the one you call the voice, rules this place. Nothing happens without a guard knowing about it."
Shawn sat up slowly, as she helped him to a chair. "I need to get out of here. I’m American, I don’t belong in Russia."
There was a sadness in her eyes, something distant and cold. "No one belongs here."
"I’m sorry," Shawn whispered as she helped him settle more comfortably, his body still weak from his escape.
Her eyes opened wide, "Why?"
"Because you’ve suffered, and no one should have a broken heart like yours." She wondered how he had known. She hadn’t said a word about Alexis. She was obviously pregnant, but that didn’t mean her heart was broken. Her husband could be in the next room, sleeping, or out hunting, but he had known she was alone in the night.
"How…" She trailed off, unable to finish the question.
"No one would leave such an angel as you. You lost him," Shawn recognised the same signs in her as he had seen in himself and Kitty. The same lonely need. "And now you are alone."
She nodded. "Alexis was murdered by the Boss’s guards months ago. He will never see our baby." She held back the tears. Alexis had always been strong. She needed to be strong too. He would be proud of her that way.
Shawn smiled. To have another strong woman in his life seemed perfect. He needed her, but she needed him too. "When is it due?"
Natalya looked down to her waist and rubbed her stomach lovingly. Alexis’s child stirred within her, as if it knew they were talking about it. "In a few days, I think. There are no doctors for me to ask."
Shawn thought she was beautiful, strong, angelic, and the more lovely because she was independent. He stayed with her that night, with her gently nursing him back to strength, but he was counting the days until he was due to see Belle in Paris again. He wanted to stay in the safety of Natalya’s cottage. Three days later and the desire to stay was even stronger. He had been outside a few times, chopping firewood and mending the roof, but he knew that every moment in the forest was a moment of danger for him. The voice, or the Boss as Natalya always said, would not let him go so easily. He wasn’t ready to go anywhere though. He had no money, few clothes except those that had belonged to Natalya’s beloved Alexis and the ones he had escaped in, and nowhere to go for miles around. Also, though he didn’t want to admit it to himself, he really didn’t want to leave his Natalya, especially before the baby was born. She had told him the story of her and Alexis, of how he had died so bravely, and how she wanted revenge on the Boss, and he knew that he would have to help her.
He was chopping firewood in the snow, heaving the axe into the air and then letting it slam heavily against each piece of wood when he heard the van coming. Racing inside, covering every trace of his presence, he called to Natalya that someone was coming. Without a word, she shoved him down into the cellar where he hid beneath the floor of the house, squeezing himself into a corner and holding his breath, as if his very heartbeat would betray him. Natalya, her baby moving in her belly, looked out of the small window and saw the Boss’s henchmen coming out of the van towards the cabin. Knowing that there would be trouble if they found her alone, and that she couldn’t risk Shawn’s life by bringing him out of the cellar, she opened the cellar door and joined him, locking it behind her. She was suddenly grateful that the passage from the back of the cellar led out of the house, and for all the hours that Alexis had spent away from her, blasting his way through the rock up to the mountains, knowing that one day the Boss would come for him, and that he would never be able to escape straight through the forest. It might just save three lives, though it had not saved his.
Without speaking, afraid that the slightest noise would betray their presence, Natalya took Shawn by the hand and led him under the forest, through the stone corridor that led far out into the mountains. She was in no real shape to leave the cabin, but she was without the choice. The guards might be generous and just beat her a little, or they could beat her so badly that her baby was killed before it had a chance to live. She couldn’t risk losing her darling Alexis’s child.
The stone was rough underfoot, and they would have been in total darkness if Shawn hadn’t taken the dark lantern from the cellar to guide them. He had feared this day, when the voice came to reclaim him. He had prepared for it too. The knapsack of food and water, with the few medical supplies that Natalya owned, was strapped to his back as he cautiously helped her along through the darkness. It felt like they’d been walking for miles, or days, but he knew it had only been a few hours. The time dragged by, and he knew that whatever he was feeling, Natalya had it worse. Nine months pregnant, exhausted, and close to her time of delivery, he doubted she could keep going for much longer.
Leaning heavily against his strong arm, Natalya felt the baby shift inside her and wetness run down her legs.
"Shawn," she gasped in pain and fear, "my water has broken. I am about to have the baby." Then she was smiling, brave in the face of everything, she had waited so long for this moment, but they both knew that it was the worst possible time for her to go into labour. There was little light, no warmth except what they had from their clothes, and no one to help them. Alone together in the corridor of stone, they both knew that the child might not well survive and that even if it did, the birth would be horribly painful and dangerous for Natalya without painkillers or medical supplies to help her. Gripping her hand, Shawn eased her to the floor, placing one of their two blankets under her, wrapping her in the other one. It was going to be a long night.
The blood on his hands was hers, and she was in pain. Shawn felt the guilt of Megan’s hurt on his soul. Natalya screamed as the last of the contractions wracked her body. The baby was eased out by Shawn, a glorious baby girl after six hours of hard labour. Shawn couldn’t help but smile as he gazed down at the little child. She was beautiful, dark eyed and dark haired. She could have been mistaken for his daughter. Her snub little nose and her beautiful tiny hands were so lovely that Shawn nearly wanted to cry. His voice given doctoring skills took over. Quickly cutting the cord with his knife, clipping it down with a rubber band, he cleaned the little girl with some of their precious water, and wrapped her in one of his shirts.
Natalya was still sobbing from the pain as he had laid her in her arms, but then she smiled like an angel. It was Alexis’s face that the child had, only with her soft hair. She was so happy. Her husband might be gone, but the baby they had created was his living image. Shawn put his arm around her, sinking onto the floor next to her, and all three fell into an exhausted sleep on the cold floor.
Belle was still ignoring Henry, but he wouldn’t leave her alone. He kept pestering her, asking for dates, following her around, calling her answering machine and never letting her be. She had gone to Salem University, unable to leave the last place she had seen Shawn until he came back to her, and Henry had followed her there. The combined efforts of Brady, Philip, John, Bo, Roman and the entire SPD police force only kept her safe. She had no doubt that Henry intended on worse things than mere dates he was so persistent. After the third time she had caught him sneaking in to her bedroom, she had taken out a restraining order, but it did nothing. He still came around, asking for her, lying about what they were doing. Half of Salem, the half that didn’t know her, believed him, the half that did knew he was wrong, that Belle would never betray Shawn like that. It was never clear what had happened between the two of them, and though Stefano swore that he had nothing to do with the teenager’s disappearance, more than one person suspected that he knew more than he was telling. Even his faithful daughter Lexie had, once or twice, questioned him about it.
Leaning back in her cinema seat, with Philip on one side and Brady on the other, Belle thanked God that she had good friends to protect her. Henry was sitting three rows back, but Brady had glared at him so fiercely he dared not come closer. He had spread another rumour, that Belle was pregnant with his kid, but no one had believed that the virginal Isabella Black would be pregnant outside of marriage, and his credibility had taken a hit. People were beginning to turn against him, old friends were deserting him, but he wouldn’t stop. He took Shawn’s absence as a sign that Belle was free for him, and Belle doubted that short of Shawn returning, nothing would stop her crazy stalker.
The film was ‘The Princess Bride’, and Belle couldn’t help but hope that Shawn would return to her as Westley returned to Buttercup. She knew true love when it broke her heart, and she felt that Westley and Buttercup were an on screen version of herself and Shawn, with Henry taking the part of the evil Prince Humperdink.
Philip didn’t mind accompanying Belle anywhere she wanted to go when Brady or her father weren’t around, he enjoyed the feeling that she was safe with him. Rose sat on his other side, as protective of Belle as he was. In the months she had been in Salem, she had become firm friends with the blonde, and they were bound together by the bond of Shawn and Philip’s friendships. They all missed him, but no one was as inconsolable as Belle. They didn’t ask her what had happened, though they would love to know, and resigned themselves to waiting for Shawn to come back or for news. They were going with her to see Megan over the weekend, the college term giving them a few days break. Brady, Belle, Rose and Philip together, but without Shawn it seemed painful and pointless.
Brady was nursing a battered heart, feeling lonely without Megan who remained with her father. He hadn’t realised she had been so important to him until she was gone. He could only imagine what his little sister was feeling without Shawn in her life. She had been in love with him for years, her world revolved around him, and he had only loved Megan for a few months, since the Christmas holidays when he had admitted it to himself at last, and he felt that nothing in the world but her would make him happy. Until she returned, or until the day when Shawn came back, his mind was fixed on protecting his little sister and looking after her only. Nothing else mattered.
Shawn stroked the baby’s head as Natalya woke and rocked her in her arms. They were a beautiful pair, as lovely as the paintings in the Louvre. Natalya was smiling at him, glad that she had rescued him from death, and that he had been able to repay her so well. He was caring for them both, being as gentle as she thought only Alexis could be, tenderly looking after them, loving them. She was feeling better after her long sleep, with her child wrapped in her arms and Shawn wrapped around her. The cold from the floor was kept away by the blankets and Shawn’s warm body.
She gazed adoringly at her child, and whispered to Shawn "What shall we call her?" her voice low in awe.
Shawn was surprised by the question. He had not thought of names. Then he said slowly, "Alyssa?"
It was a beautiful name, reflecting Alexis as the father and Natalya as the mother, but he also wanted it because it reminded him of Isabella a little. Not his Belle, but his beautiful aunt, Brady’s mother, who had died so young and so sadly. Natalya liked it. It was a good name for her baby. She nodded her approval and crooned it to the child.
Later, Shawn took the baby in his arms, wrapping her in a blanket that he strapped to his body, and supporting Natalya with the rest of his strength, they finished their walk out of the tunnel, leaving Alyssa’s birth place and the cabin far behind them.
They walked out of the forest and into a large town after days of travelling. Shawn had rigged together a sledge, and dragged Natalya and her beautiful baby behind him for miles. The food had run out after three days, and he had been forced to hunt the animals of the forest. Natalya had helped as much as she could, guiding him to the best places and showing him the signs of the creatures, but Alyssa took up most of her time. Alyssa herself was an angel of a child, hardly crying and spending most of her time giggling or listening enchanted as her mother sang, or one of the adults told stories as if she could really understand everything they said.
Dirty and dishevelled, with little food or water, and a baby that was almost three weeks old, they arrived in the place ready for anything. They had been hunted like dogs, Shawn listening out for the sounds of pursuit at every waking moment, and Natalya keeping watch for the Boss’s guards all the time. The town turned out to be larger and grander than they had expected. A stowaway ride on a passenger train had brought them much further west than they had previously realised, and they stood in the outskirts of St Petersburg, not just a small town in the middle of nowhere.
Shawn’s Russian had improved as the weeks passed. Before the accent had been grammatically correct, but he had sounded foreign, now he spoke like a native, his accent much like Natalya’s, provincial and lovely. Approaching the first respectable seeming person he saw, he asked where the American Embassy was.
Looking at the bedraggled figure, the businessman was inclined to laugh, but resisted, seeing the strength in his body and the foreignness of his face, wondering if he was a lost tourist. He directed Shawn and left, not having seen Natalya with Alyssa cradled in her arms standing a few feet away. They just looked like more of the homeless beggars that infested the streets. Thanking the man, Shawn took Alyssa in his arms and started to walk again.
Mr Graves, a jolly man in a navy pin stripe suit, sat behind his desk and signed endless pieces of paper. His secretary, a Russian girl with good English, sat outside of his office and typed on her computer. She was writing up a draft letter to an American businessman who was hoping to visit the Embassy. They were both surprised by the sudden appearance of the bedraggled threesome, all in rags but the man speaking English with an American accent.
"Excuse me," Shawn thought they would speak English, but he said it in Russian as well, and the girl responded both times by giving him a piercing stare.
"I speak English." She told him brusquely.
"Pardon, ma’am," Shawn started politely, not wanting to get on her bad side, "I was wondering if you could help me. My name is Shawn Brady, of Salem USA, and I’m in some trouble."
The secretary looked at him fiercely, but seeing both youth and honesty in his face, relented a little. "You had better see Mr Graves."
Then she caught sight of the baby nestled in Natalya’s arms. Her eyes lit up. She loved babies, their smell, their tiny hands and feet, everything. She waved Shawn in absentmindedly, offering to keep Alyssa with her while they spoke to her boss. Natalya didn’t want to let her child go, but the girl was so friendly and sweet that she gently passed her over. Miss Nabokov, explaining that she would get the child cleaned up and fed, finding it some clothes as well, bustled off in an ecstasy of delight.
Mr Graves looked up from his desk, welcoming any relief from the endless pieces of paper and stared at the couple. "May I help you?" He asked in faultless Russian.
"Thank you, yes," Shawn replied in his American accented English. Mr Graves smiled. A fellow countryman was always welcome. "My name is Shawn Brady. I’ve been robbed of everything. I have neither my passport nor my money. I was brought to your country against my will, and have no way of getting home."
Shawn didn’t tell him about the voice. Mr Graves was perfectly willing to help, calling the authorities in America, verifying the young man’s existence, name and looks, listening to his story of theft and abduction intrigued. Finally, he was allowed to become the man he had always dreamed. A James Bond figure helping the innocent to escape the clutches of evil, a hero.
Then Shawn explained Natalya’s situation. How he had found her alone in a cabin in the woods, and how her baby was with the secretary. Mr Graves was very helpful, calling for a doctor to see first the baby and then the adults. Shawn asked what was going to happen to them all.
"You will be flown back to America, if that is your wish," Mr Graves said, knowing full well that without a passport the girl would not be allowed to leave. Sadly he added, "but Natalya and her child must stay here. We may arrange something, but I don’t know what."
Shawn nodded his head. He understood. Taking the vial he had kept safe for weeks, since Natalya had first given it to him, he said, "Natalya’s husband, now sadly dead, invented this. It is a drug for combating the withdrawal of class A drugs. She would like to sell the formula to a pharmaceutical company."
Alexis had worked hard to find the answer to so many questions. He had discovered a drug, made by a plant that only grew deep in the Russian forests, that did more than Shawn said. It reversed the addiction, making it no longer necessary for the drugs to be taken at all. With one dose, it could wipe out the world’s drug problems. There would be no withdrawal, merely an end to the drug taking. Cocaine, cannabis, speed, ecstasy, everything was wiped from the system. It would be worth billions, though they did not know it yet.
Mr Graves looked incredibly excited. Jumping out of his seat, he shook Natalya by the hand, "My dear young lady," he said in Russian, "it is an honour to meet you. This is a wonderful thing for us all."
Natalya nodded, too tired to take in the situation, understanding only that Shawn was taking care of everything.
Shawn had been right to go the Embassy. Mr Graves took care of everything. The pharmaceutical companies were falling over themselves to get hold of the drug, but Natalya was a surprisingly hard headed business woman. She wanted the drug to be named in honour of her husband, and she wanted major shares in which ever company she chose to sell the formula to. Alyssa was cleaned up, and pronounced by the doctor to be the healthiest baby he had ever seen. That had surprised Shawn, but he thought it had something to do with her mother’s excellent living habits. She was a beautiful child, advanced for her age, and she never stopped smiling. The money Alexis’s drug brought would provide for them for the rest of their lives. They would live in luxury.
Shawn didn’t want to leave them, but he knew he must. After two weeks in St Petersburg, leaving Natalya and Alyssa in the capable hands of Mr Graves and Miss Nabokov, he boarded a plane to New York. From there, he went on to Salem.
It was good to be home, where, after everything he had endured, he knew the things that mattered. He was still upset with his parents, and he could not think of Belle without sadness, but he was prepared to come home at last. It was late October, nearly Halloween and he wanted to see JT’s reaction to the candy and the dressing up. He wanted to see Philip again, and everyone else. Natalya hadn’t given him money, but she had insisted on giving him some of the shares, and for a little while at least, he was rich. A bath, clean clothes for his scarred body and a hair cut were the first things he had bought in St Petersburg, and his plane tickets had been club class all the way.
He couldn’t sleep at night, though, without having nightmares. He had never told Natalya of all the things that the voice had done to him. It wouldn’t have been fair to burden her, but they still haunted him. At night, he woke sweating, his lips torn and bloody from biting back screams of pain, and his only release was when his angel came to him, and they walked in the meadow together.
Salem would banish it all, he thought to himself as he walked into the airport. Life would be alright, with JT, Philip and his great Grandmother Alice. He looked different to he had when he left on the motorbike that fateful night. His once slender frame had filled out, changing him into a strong young man from a strong young boy, and there was a gleam of greater wisdom and knowledge in his brown eyes. Perhaps he was more solemn too. He could never return to the laughing boy he had once been, and now he had seen too much to want that naivety. As he was, he could take on the voice and win. Perhaps he could even defeat the great Stefano Dimera. He chuckled at that thought. He could use Stefano as practice, before moving onto the greater challenge of the voice.
Still laughing softly, he walked into the lounge of the airport and saw them all. Peculiar things were happening to his heart. Philip, Brady, Rose, Belle… and Henry. Rose was just returning from the bathroom, by the looks of it, her make up perfect and her hair looking great, and Brady and Philip had been collecting airline tickets. Henry had his tongue down Belle’s throat. Sickness rose from Shawn’s stomach, and he turned around, unable to look at them anymore. He had been wrong. He couldn’t cope with Belle and Henry. He never should have thought he could. Returning to Salem had been a mistake. Walking slowly over to the first airline booth he could see, he bought the first one way ticket he could get and made his way back to his international flight. He couldn’t stay, and he had no choice but to leave.
Belle pushed Henry away forcibly, sickened to her soul by his kiss. Rose grabbed the first airport official she could see and demanded a phone to call the police. A hundred witnesses had just seen the guy harass her friend, breaking the restraining order, and she was going to have him arrested. Philip and Brady stalked menacingly towards him, as Belle slapped him across the face, tears welling up in her eyes.
"Leave me the Hell alone you jerk!" She screamed at him, as Henry was hauled away by two strong armed security guards. She would have been devastated if she had seen Shawn watching her, but though she did not know he had stood by and watched, her heart was still sore because Henry had the nerve to kiss her like that. It wasn’t even a good kiss, just a slobbery pressing of lips together.
"Aw, come on baby, you know you love me," Henry cooed to her, licking his lips where he could still taste her strawberry lipstick.
Rose, having finished her call, placed a restraining hand on Philip’s chest, to stop him from pounding Henry into the ground. Belle clutched onto Brady, and within minutes, the police had arrived. Roman Brady read Henry his rights and arrested him for breaking the terms of the restraining order as well as sexual harassment. He told Belle to go on her trip, Henry’s trial would be suspended until she came back. Visibly upset, Belle nodded and made her way with her brother and her friends to their flight. She wasn’t prepared to let Henry ruin her holiday as well.
Leaning deeper into his flight seat, Shawn stared at the world beneath the plane’s wings, the clouds fluttering in and out of view. A single tear ran down his cheek. After everything he had been through to get back to her, she was still with Henry. She might as well have burnt his heart on an altar as fall in love with Henry. He would still wait for her on the bridge in Paris when the time came, but he had lost all hope that she would come. She had Henry now to kiss and hold, why would she ever want him? He was nothing now, a scarred pawn in an evil game, world weary and tired. What did he have to offer her?
Lonelier than he had been in months, Shawn was consumed by self pity and despair. He had lost Belle Black forever, and there was nothing he could do about it.
"Be happy, Belle," he whispered to her, though she could not hear him, "be happy, my love." Then he let the tears flow, silently coursing down his tanned cheeks, while he stared out of the window at the world flowing by, lost in his pain.
Chapter 6No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:38 PM |
Kitty was clearing the tables of the café at closing time, scowling at the customers. She was lonely, and afraid of being lonely for the rest of her life. Shawn hadn’t written to her in weeks, and she was afraid for him. She had been feeling like he was in danger for months, and she was terrified that he was dead. The customers dived out of the way as she came through, banging her tray around and muttering in French under her breath.
The heart that was broken within her breast pulsed softly, reminding her that she could trust no one, perhaps not even Shawn, though he could be her soul mate. Putting a hand to her head, she felt another migraine coming on. She kept having flashes of Shawn in danger, in darkness, and the migraine always came with them. Now she saw something else, Shawn, with tears in his eyes, standing in the doorway of the café. At first she thought it was a vision, then she realised he was really there. Dropping her tray, she ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck in an impassioned welcoming embrace.
"Hey KitKat," Shawn whispered into her hair, hardly able to believe that the beautiful creature wrapped in his arms was really there at all, and not a fleeting fantasy he had between torture sessions with the voice.
"Hey Monsieur Brady." Kitty felt right in his arms, happier than she could ever be without him. Suddenly remembering all of her visions and missing him so badly that her whole body ached, she pulled away, slapping him lightly on the chest, and asked, "Where have you been?"
She saw the haunted look in his eyes, the way he held himself as though standing up was painful to him, and felt her own throat being choked. He had suffered. Turning to her boss, she threw her apron over and walked out, arm in arm with Shawn. She had missed him so, and now all she needed to be happy again was his trust.
"I was kidnapped, Miss Kitty," Shawn kissed the top of her head as they settled on the bench overlooking the Seine. "I was kept against my will by the voice."
"Who?" Kitty was furious, not with Shawn, but with the person that had hurt him. It was more than the voice that made him look like something escaped Hell. Perhaps Belle, perhaps someone else. Her migraine was gone, forgotten in Shawn’s wake.
"It doesn’t matter," Shawn didn’t want to think about the voice when he was with Kitty. "I got away, and when we meet again, I will win."
Kitty nodded, she had expected nothing less. "How’s Belle?"
She felt him stiffen under her arm, and knew that Belle was at fault. "In love, or lust, with someone else." Shawn spoke the words slowly, painfully. He kept reliving the moment when he had seen Henry and Belle kissing. It was horrible, but he couldn’t stop.
"Humph," Kitty wanted to kill Belle for breaking her Shawn’s heart. "The course of true love is more like a white water rafting expedition than a rocky road."
Shawn laughed, but it sounded hollow and bitter even to him, "Where did you hear that?"
"Ivy," Kitty said the name even before she thought of what she was saying. Her ex-best friend was not her favourite person, and it brought up painful memories to speak of her.
Shawn caught her chin in his hand and turned her face to stare into her brilliant green eyes. "Kitty, you’re hurting. Tell me why." It wasn’t a question or a command, but a request for her to let him help her.
Kitty wanted to shake her head, or punch him, or run, or do anything defensive, but looking into the pools of brown warmth, she knew she could tell him. She leaned into him, feeling his heart pounding beneath his shirt and started her story.
"I was fifteen when I fell in love with him. He was my friend, and I thought he was someone I could trust implicitly. I should have known better. Bobby was a good for nothing bastard." Kitty didn’t wipe away the tears that wetted Shawn’s shirt, she barely noticed them. "I just wanted to be his girl, to be Bobby’s girl, and that was all that mattered to me. Ivy, my friend, or I thought she was my friend, helped me to get him. She set us up on dates, told him that I liked him and got him to take me to a dance or three. I was so happy. I thought it was true love. He was so kind to me, so sweet and gentle, that I thought he loved me too. I should have known he was just playing.
"Bobby and I were together through high school, all the way. They used to call us Romeo and Juliet because he was so romantic and neither of our parents agreed with our relationship. He was rich, really rich, and I wasn’t. I wasn’t dirt poor, but I didn’t have three cars and a swimming pool in my back yard, or a penthouse, just an apartment where I lived with my parents. My mother swore he would break my heart, and she was right, he did. My Bobby was so sweet all the time, he used to call me his Candy Girl. I loved him, I really did." Kitty’s eyes were misty as she thought of Bobby, his blonde hair and laughing blue eyes, so unlike Shawn in every way. "I should have seen through him, I should have known."
Shawn rubbed her arm gently, whispering to her gently, "How were you to know, Kitty? He’s the bastard, and you were a sweet and trusting girl. Whatever happened isn’t your fault. Remember that."
Kitty raised her head, and stared into his brown eyes with her green eyes blazing unhappily, "But it was. My parents died because I couldn’t see through him. It was all my fault." Shawn held her tighter, but didn’t try to stop her from finishing her story. "It was after I turned sixteen, Bobby took me out to a bar and got me really, really drunk. I knew I shouldn’t, but I didn’t realise that my coke had vodka in it at first. I was so absorbed in him I couldn’t think of anything else. I never thought he might be trying to do me harm. I took him back to my house, or maybe he took me. I remember going into my bedroom with him, and then, just when he had my shirt off, I screamed and my parents came charging in. They called the police when they saw the state I was in, but I couldn’t press charges against my Bobby. I thought he was just trying to help me. I was so stupid."
Again, Shawn pressed her into his chest, holding her tighter and trying to comfort her as tears made rivers down her cheeks. He couldn’t believe what had happened to his beautiful Kitkat, it was so unfair. He wanted to make it alright, but he didn’t know how. She went on, letting all the pain in her heart out.
"They tried to make me stop seeing Bobby after that. I wouldn’t. I loved him and I thought he loved me. A few months later, I was having a party at my house when my parents went out for the night. Bobby was there, of course, and so was Ivy. At ten o’clock I realised I hadn’t seen either of them in a while, and so I went looking, innocently thinking that they’d just stepped out for air or something. I found them in my bed, and what they were doing was far from innocent. It turned out that Ivy and Bobby had been sleeping together for weeks, they had started soon after he had unsuccessfully tried to get me into bed. I threw them both out, and called my parents, crying down the phone and begging them to come home. They did of course. If they had stayed where they were, they wouldn’t be dead now. They were driving back when Bobby and Ivy, I’ll never know if it was from the alcohol they’d been drinking all night or if was a total accident, crashed their car into their car. Bobby and Ivy survived. My parents didn’t. In school, there was a rumour going around that Bobby had dumped me because I had slept with him and was pregnant. I think Ivy started it. I punched that bitch’s lights out anyway.
"I was so upset. The whole world was against me, none of my family would take me in, no one wanted the girl who had been used and dumped by Bobby, so I ran away. I first ran to the country, but then I couldn’t take it and returned to New York after just a few days. I couldn’t bear it at all. I came here, to Paris, and I’ve been here ever since. I finished my education at a French high school, and now you know everything." Kitty wiped her eyes, feeling a little better for having told her story, and felt Shawn’s warm embrace tighten around her shoulders again.
"Kitty, listen to me. I know you blame yourself for your parents death, for not seeing through Bobby, but you have to understand this: It’s not your fault. It’s his fault and Ivy’s if it’s anyone’s. You can’t let this kill you inside. Then he wins, and you wouldn’t be my brave and bold Kitty, OK?" Kitty smiled at him, her first real smile in a long time. Shawn smiled back. Light shone in her face. He understood. She felt wonderful, free and light for the first time in years.
"Now, are you going to tell me what happened with the voice?" Kitty stared at him hard, and saw traces of pain that was more than physical or emotional that had not been there before. Shawn told her, not everything, but enough for her to understand and pity him. They felt better afterwards, freer and clean from guilt. They still carried broken hearts in their chests, but they were no longer quite so alone.
Belle stared into the distance, looking out over the water of the lake near Megan’s home. The girls were close, each feeling their separation from Shawn harshly. Megan’s wounds were healed, and her bones had mended well, but there was still a gaping crevasse in her life where Shawn had been. She wondered if he was dead, or merely lost in the infinite greatness of the world. They had solidarity and comfort in knowing the other was as desperate for his return as they were, and in both having Brady. He had been a pillar of strength for both of them. Megan now knew that she couldn’t live without Brady Victor Black anymore than Belle could live without Shawn Douglas Brady. They both loved them so much that to be apart caused physical pain.
Brady rested between them, his arms around Megan’s shoulders, holding her tightly in his arms. She was his comfort, his girl. It felt right to be there with her. He only wished his little sister could find Shawn and feel so content. She needed him like flowers needed sunshine and rain. He was her world. Brady was going to kick his ass if he didn’t have a Hell of a brilliant reason for making Belle so unhappy.
The voice was confused. It didn’t like the feeling either. It was never confused. Now it couldn’t decide whether to kidnap Belle to bring Shawn out in the open or merely wait for him to make his move. It decided to wait, at least for a while. Antagonising the entire town of Salem might not be the best move, and, at least for a while, the voice knew that it was safe as Shawn hadn’t returned to his friends and family in Salem. It had agents watching every airport, road and train station. Shawn would not slip through their fingers again. The voice chuckled evilly, snapped its fingers and called Arnie into its presence.
"Begin the next phase of the plan." Arnie cringed. He hated the next stage.
"Can’t we wait for a little while?" Even as he spoke, he knew he was making a mistake.
"Who are you to give me orders?" The Boss was not happy. Arnie immediately begged forgiveness, and hurried out of the room before he lost appendages.
Arnie made the phone call and talked to the other person for brief minutes. Satisfied that the job would be done, he hung up and went back to the Boss, whistling.
"OK, you know my favourite flavour of ice cream is cookie dough, and I know yours is cookies and cream, so who’s your favourite movie actress?" Shawn couldn’t believe he could still feel so relaxed after months of torturous living and a broken heart tormenting him, but something in Kitty brought out the best in him.
"In our time, Claire Danes." Kitty smiled as she thought of watching ‘Romeo & Juliet’ with Shawn. She always cried in that film, it was one of the few that made her soppy. That and ‘Casablanca’. Shawn couldn’t help but laugh. Kitty bridled, "What’s so funny?"
"I know her." He giggled out. "I know her quite well, actually."
Kitty’s jaw dropped. "You know Claire Danes?"
Shawn nodded, still laughing at her reaction. "I saved her from some muggers once and we still talk from time to time. I could ask her, when she’s next in Paris, if she would mind stopping by to meet you."
"Shawn, if you do that, I’ll have to save your life. You’ve saved mine just by listening and now you’re going to make a dream of mine come true." Kitty was dead serious. She had been on a depressed spiral downwards, headed for loneliness and suicide before Shawn had come into her life. Now the world was bright again. "I’m going to save your life, Shawn Douglas Brady."
"Hmm," Shawn believed her, in a way. Not totally, but enough.
"Come on, Shawn, you and I are going out tonight. I’m going to win a game of pool against you, and then you’re going to take me to the movies." Kitty felt happy, carefree, exhilarated and ready for anything. "Then we’re going to save the world."
"What are we waiting for?" Shawn asked her laughing. "If we’re going to save the world, we’d better start now."
"Yeah, or there won’t be much left to save!" Kitty joked, running out of the park and down the road, with Shawn chasing behind her. "After all, we only have the rest of our lives to go, and they will be over before we know it. What will we do then? Moan to each other in heaven, I suppose."
"Or we could become angels with knuckle dusters." Shawn threw back at her.
Kitty nodded appreciatively. "Dead, but not out of the fight!"
"You’re crazy, my lovely Kitkat!" Shawn thought she had never seemed so wonderful to him.
"And don’t you forget it!" Kitty yelled as she jumped on to a subway train, with Shawn skittering on behind her. "That’s why you love me!"
Shawn only muttered under his breath, "Too damn right, Kitty, too damn right. You’ll never break my heart, Kitkat, and I will never break yours. That’s all that matters anymore, without Belle." He couldn’t help but think of Belle when he thought of love. He loved Kitty differently, in a brotherly way, but he still loved her. "Kitty, is it me or are the days of our lives like a soap opera?"
Kitty looked at him, deliberating as the train shuttled them from station to station. "I thought we’d be the Bold and the Beautiful if we were. Who’d ever watch a soap called The Days of Our Lives? Ugh, horrible. Are you coming or what?"
Shawn nodded, but pondered for a moment longer on the question. "Maybe that’s all we are, Belle," he said to her in his thoughts, "trapped in a soap opera about the days of our lives. Salem is certainly one Hell of a town. Maybe that would explain how an angel of a girl could go so wrong, Belle. God, how I love you, and how I wish I didn’t."
Chapter 7No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:39 PM |
He had found her, at last. Kitty had convinced him to do it. She had warned him that she would beat him to within an inch of his life he didn’t, and he had believed her. He might be a Navy SEAL, but he doubted that anyone could beat his Kitkat.
They just stepping off the flight when he saw the guards. He wasn’t sure afterwards how he had recognised them, but something deep with Shawn had known instinctively that he was looking at employees of the voice.
"Kitty," he spoke out of the side of his mouth, and she turned to look at him. "The two men, over there, don’t look at them."
Kitty resisted the impulse to turn her head, and kept her green eyes focused on him. "What about them?" Her voice was normal, as if she was asking where the luggage was.
"They belong to the voice." Kitty didn’t question him. He was too firm. He knew that they represented danger. She smiled slightly, as if he had told her a joke.
"What do you want to do?" She was still kept her natural voice pattern, and could have been asking if he wanted coffee.
"Just follow my lead," Shawn hadn’t a clue what to do. He knew he would be recognised if he walked past them, and he couldn’t stay where he was without looking suspicious. Then he had a brain wave. He only hoped Belle would forgive him for what he was about to do.
Taking Kitty around the waist he put his head down and gave her a long and scintillating kiss as they walked past the guards, hiding both their faces. Her lips were pressed against his, and all of their eyes were closed, but they could hear the guards and feel their eyes on them.
"Aw look," the fattest and oldest of the guards prodded his companion in the ribs, "young love? Do you remember when we were like that?"
His companion stared at the pair for a minute, thinking that the boy looked familiar, for all his blonde hair, and then decided that he looked rather like a young soap star that his teenage daughters adored, Jason something or other.
"When did you ever have a girl as beautiful as that?" He asked as he stared at the gorgeous girl in jeans.
Then they were past them, out of earshot, and Shawn gently moved his lips away from Kitty’s.
"Whoa," Kitty put her hand on Shawn’s chest as he pulled away. The kiss had been good, sweet and tender, but it had meant nothing, stirred no emotions in either of their hearts. It was passionless.
"Sorry, I couldn’t think of anything else to do," Shawn felt a traitor to his love for Belle. He had felt nothing, but it had been wrong to kiss another girl, whatever the circumstances.
"That’s OK," Kitty didn’t know what else to say. The boy could certainly kiss. No wonder Mimi had drooled over him and followed him around for months. For another kiss like that, Kitty might actually consider talking politely to another (not Shawn) member of the human race. Then again, perhaps not.
The weather outside the airport in the town was beautiful, hot but with a cooling breeze. Shawn’s eyes were searching everywhere for the person he had come after. Among the reams of sunbathers, tourists and locals, there she was. Shorts covered only a fraction of her long legs and her skin had a glossy tan of a healthy young woman. After all the time he had spent away from her, Shawn gloried briefly in her sight, the way her hair was tossed over her shoulders and her T-shirt read ‘Mess with me and I won’t die - But you might’. He wanted to scream out loud, to shout her name, but he resisted. Nodding his head in her direction, he and Kitty began to walk towards the girl, unhurried and indifferent to the crowds that swarmed around them and the street urchins that tried to sell them fake Rolexes and other stolen goods.
He touched her arm as they passed, dragging two fingers across her skin in a deliberate way. It had been their sign, before at high school, of eternal friendship that they made whenever they were in public and they couldn’t say it out loud, to comfort each other or to signify that they understood.
She didn’t react at first, but followed them after a minute, moving quickly and quietly after the pair. Stopping at a small and very crowded street café, Shawn ordered drinks for three and waited for the girl to join them at the tiny table for three.
Within a few minutes, his beloved Megan was sitting across from them, a combination of anger and relief mixed with joy in her face. "Where have you been?"
Shawn looked at her and saw the same girl he had driven away from Salem with all those months before. "Long story. Suffice it to say I was, and still am, in big trouble. Are you OK now?"
There was so much guilt in his eyes, Megan noticed. More than that, there was remorse for more than what he had done there too. "Yes."
She was drinking him in, comparing every detail of him to the memory of her friend from before. He was different, more than changed, metamorphosed like a butterfly from its caterpillar state into its glossy winged form. Shawn couldn’t stop staring at her, his beautiful Star Child who he had hurt so badly, but saw fewer differences. She was very nearly the same girl as he had left. Little had happened to change her, while so much had happened to him that sometimes he could barely remember his life from before.
"How did you know I was here?" Megan was trying to get over the shock of seeing Shawn with blond hair. It seemed fundamentally wrong for him not to have dark locks. The universe was completely screwed if the boy had gone blond and dropped the tall, dark, drop dead gorgeous rebel thing.
"I knew you weren’t in Salem." He had known because Kitty, during one of her conversations with Belle, had learned that Megan was with her father. "I needed to see you again. I’ve missed you, Megan."
Sitting in that café, talking in low voices which were drowned out by the blasting music around them, Shawn told Megan everything. Kitty learned a few new things, mostly about Shawn’s life from before, but sometimes about the way he felt at that precise moment in time. He looked on Megan as his best friend, she knew. Each girl he knew had a different and special place in his heart, only Belle had the whole of it. She had been careless with Shawn’s affection, and all that was left were shattered remains of what had once been the finest nature in all of Salem since Tom Horton for those who followed in her wake.
Megan took it all surprisingly well. She accepted everything she heard. It was all too true. Then she told him about her life, how she had left the hospital and gone to stay with her father, how she was in love with Brady (Shawn had known for a long time that she loved Brady, but had never dared say anything unless she became upset and hit him, or worse, stopped talking to him), and how she was having a long distance relationship with him since he had come to her with Belle and Philip a little while before.
"They went home yesterday." Shawn nearly gasped out loud at how close he had come to being face to face with Belle again, but controlled his reaction perfectly. There was one the briefest flicker of pain and surprise across his face before dead calm set in again.
"Why are you here, Shawn?" Megan was blunt, but not impolite.
"Because I want your help." Shawn sipped at the iced coke in front of him, reflecting briefly on how good life’s simple pleasures were. A cold coke on a hot day, a talk with your friends, a gurgle from a baby. With a stiff pain in his heart as he thought of JT, Shawn went on. "I’ve told you about the voice, and what has happened to me. You understand why I want revenge on the monster." Kitty and Megan exchanged looks, wondering what was coming. Shawn wondered briefly at how alike his favourite two of his best friends were. "I want you two to help me get it, please."
Later, they agreed, it was the puppy dog eyes that had convinced them. No one could refuse a boy who could give them such a look. It was as much as they could do not to turn into passionate puddles of molten lava at his feet.
"Well," Megan said with firmness and an up tilted chin that meant Mess With Megan was ready for action and that the world had better watch out, "what are we waiting for?"
Kitty just smiled.
The voice watched Belle Black make her way across the courtyard of Salem Place with interest. She was a beautiful young girl, slim and blonde with a good figure. It could see why Shawn Douglas was so enamoured of her. The personality was perhaps a little too perky, not quite refined enough, but she would grow out of that. One day, she would be as refined and lovely as Princess Gina, though perhaps a little less psychotic.
Belle knew she was being watched, but the feeling was so familiar that she ignored it. Brady sat re-reading the letter that Megan had sent him. They wrote every day. He would race to the post before even her father woke up, and every morning they could hear the gasp of ecstasy as he found another of her letters and began to read it. Belle, from reading the letters Megan used to write to Shawn, knew her handwriting and recognised the scrawled addresses on the envelopes that were kept lovingly in the box in Brady’s bedroom. She wished she had that devotion in her own life. Every day without Shawn that passed was worse than the last one. It was like the very worst kind of homesickness to be without him. It had made her physically ill.
The voice watched as she sat down next to her older half brother Brady, and noted the resemblance. The same blond hair and blue eyes in both, though Brady was much taller and there was a good deal of his mother in him. The voice then left them, calculating the next move to be made, wondering if Shawn could be so easily led astray by a pretty face. It was rather a disappointment that it was so easy. The voice had hoped for more of a challenge.
Shawn wasn’t waiting for the voice to strike. He had seen what those guards could do, and his body still had twinges of the old pain that drove him to work harder, think ahead for every possibility, and to speed him in his mission. Standing in the gym of Megan’s father’s barracks, Shawn showed Kitty and Megan the basics of his training, how to punch without leaving yourself open, how to fall, how to jimmy a lock open and how to fight dirty. It was half navy SEAL training and half the life of a boarding school escape artist rebel. The kickboxing New Yorker and the army brat caught on fast. They could soon match anyone with less expertise than Shawn, and had several times caught even him out when it came to fights. An intensive three days later, with every muscle aching and a strong desire for more than a single night’s sleep, they were as ready as they could be. Shawn was unwilling to wait longer. Every moment while the voice was free in the world was a danger to not only him, but his friends and his family. It was another moment when Alexis remained unavenged.
Megan told her father that she was paying a visit to the Bradys in Salem, and then going on to the Blacks’ house. It was a lie, but if Shawn thought one little lie was going to get in the way of her kicking the arse of the person who had hurt her friend so badly, he didn’t know his Megan.
The night was cold in Russia, with a bitter frost and a heavy snowfall. Natalya’s cabin had been overturned, and looted. There was little enough there at first, but now everything was gone. Shawn didn’t dare leave the fire unlit as the blizzard swirled about their shelter, and could only hope that the guards wouldn’t notice or would simply think that Natalya had returned. He hadn’t seen her, or left her a message, but he knew she wouldn’t mind him using the cabin if it would bring down the Boss, as she called. Her passion for revenge was almost as great as his.
Megan and Kitty watched as he built the fire, not regretting for an instant what they had agreed to do. They were awed by the change in their friend. He moved with assurance, spoke Russian like a native and planned the downfall of world leaders in evil. He wasn’t quite the Shawn Douglas Brady that they had known in Paris.
He lay near the fire, with Megan on one side of him and Kitty on the other side of her. They were talking. He was surprised Kitty was so friendly with Megan, but then she had been a changed person since she had told her story to him. It was as if her heart had been full of poison, and it had been making her ill, and now that she had let the poison out of her heart, she could become the lovely person she was always destined to be, and let others see it.
He passed her the bag of marshmallows, and started toasting one of his own a long stick, half melting it and half burning it in the fire. Tossing it into his mouth, he made a face expressing his pure pleasure. It was exquisite to eat toasted marshmallows again, even under such bizarre circumstances. He had missed the flavour, the way they burned the insides of his mouth, the way they caught fire, as Kitty’s had just done, and turned black from the heat. It was very nearly like his childhood trips with his parents to the Horton family cabin. Very nearly, but not quite. Back then, he wasn’t planning on breaking into a high security compound or planning to overthrow a local dictator, unless you could call John Black in mercenary mode a local dictator. Shawn had always held a healthy respect for Belle’s father, mostly because he had seen him chase Brady around the block seventeen times because he thought Brady (at the tender age of sixteen) had got his girlfriend pregnant and wanted to marry her.
Megan kept trying to make Shawn talk or listen to talk about Belle, but every time she came up in their conversations, he just shook his head and turned away. It was useless to try to make him say a word on the subject, and she had no idea why he didn’t want to think of the only girl in the world he had ever loved. The daft boy, if he had only known, would have been thrilled to hear Megan talk of Belle’s current troubles, to feel his heart relieved by Belle’s continuing fidelity to him, and to be able to forget Henry was ever a threat to them.
It was dark in Salem, and alone in her bedroom, Belle realised what was going wrong with her life. She was waiting for her hero to return, and not taking control herself. There was no reason for her to believe that Shawn would come back to her before their date on the Paris bridge, and she had been waiting for him to do just that. Instead, she decided to do what she wanted, and stop waiting around. It would start with an early morning run, by herself, without any of her personal bodyguards. Philip, Brady, Rose and Pink would just have to cope without her for a while. Between them, she had barely had a moment to herself except when she locked herself into her fortress of a bedroom.
Pulling on her trainers, dressed in sweats, Belle made her way out of her room and out of the front door, seeing the world become pink from the rosy hue of the sunrise. She felt better already. Perhaps she had just spent too long shut away. The depression that had lurked by her side for longer than she cared to think about was lifting. She had felt so unhappy before. Now, as the sun made its way into the sky, her spirits soared with it. Music was blasting in through her personal stereo, and she hummed as she jogged, ready for anything, or so she thought. She was alone in the streets of Salem. No one else was crazy enough to get up so early, and there was freedom in that.
The park wasn’t green, but stuck between the orange of fall and the grey dullness of winter. It was cold, but the heat from her jogging kept Belle warm. She imagined Shawn jogging by her side, cracking jokes and encouraging her as they went along, and felt warmer still. She was so wrapped up in her dreams of Shawn and everything that she would do with him that she didn’t notice the figure coming up behind her, or drawing the cloth out that was soaked in chloroform.
The hand clamped around her face with a frightening urgency, and suddenly the morning was no longer rosy, but red. Belle’s eyes closed against her will, and suddenly it didn’t matter anymore. It was time to go back to sleep. She was so very tired and so very sleepy…
The voice laughed as it watched Belle collapse back into Arnie’s capable and strong arms. No one was watching and the park did not have video cameras to film the Black girl being kidnapped. It finally had the perfect hold on Shawn Douglas Brady: his beloved Belle Black. Once it was broadcast that Belle was gone, the voice knew Shawn would put two and two together and realise that it had her.
"It’s just so much damn fun being evil," the voice chuckled to itself.
Shawn was asleep, but he sat bolt upright and woke himself up at the instant Belle passed out. "Belle’s in trouble." He announced to the sleeping girls, who stirred groggily.
"I have to go to her." He didn’t question his feelings. He just knew his Perfect Girl needed him.
"Kitty," Megan raised her head and stared at her new friend, "do you think we should drug him?"
"Nah," Kitty murmured back from the comfort of her pillow. "Give him a minute and he’ll go back to sleep."
Shawn didn’t go back to sleep, though. He sat awake for the rest of the night, watching his beautiful girls sleep, keeping guard on them. If he couldn’t protect Belle, he could at least protect them. He had heard once that you knew you were in love when you watched the object of your affection sleep. While he wasn’t in love with either one of them, he certainly did love both Megan and Kitty with more than the common affection of friendship. They were the only two in the world he still trusted completely, and other than his angel, he felt safe with no one else, not even Natalya.
Somewhere in the dark time between midnight and dawn, when souls are examined and too often found wanting, Shawn half dreamed and half envisioned his angel returning, this time standing in the badly lit candle and beckoning. He tried to go with her, but every time he moved forwards she moved even farther back, until she took a step forwards and whispered something he could not remember once he heard it in his ear. Then she left, not in a blaze of glory, but quietly slipping out of sight. Only a single daisy chain was left on the floor where she stood, which caught fire and burned to ashes before his eyes. There was a charred ring on the floor, though, and he knew what he had seen was true. He was filled with a silent terror for Belle when he saw the flowers burn. It seemed ominous.
"I’m coming, Belle," Shawn whispered over and over, praying that repeating the words would keep his Belle safe. "I promise you I’m coming. Just hold on."
Waking alone and cold, Belle moved her head slightly, to feel it hit the wall behind her. She shifted, and felt the springs of the bed beneath her poke her in the ribs. Her wrists and ankles ached from the shackles that she wore, and her eyes could see nothing in the pitch black darkness of the room she lay in. "Where am I?" The question fell into the void of silence that surrounded her, and Belle felt hot tears fill her eyes.
It might have been minutes, and it might have been hours later, Belle had no sense of time in that dark place, when the door of the room slid open and a figure was silhouetted against the bright light of the outer world.
"You are awake," Belle froze at the sound of the voice, so cruel and cold. "I am so very pleased. It would have been so very dull to watch your beloved Shawn Douglas attempting to rescue you if you had been asleep and unable to scream for mercy."
Belle wanted to scream, but she resisted the impulse. If she could only hold on, she knew Shawn would come for her. She didn’t know how she knew, but she did. "Shawn?" Her voice was soft, low and filled with longing. She wasn’t really asking the person standing in front of her, cloaked as they were in black from head to foot and with a mask over their face, but calling out to her Tough Boy.
"He’s coming, I wouldn’t worry, Isabella. Shawn Douglas will be here very, very soon." The person in black, Belle realised, was a woman, a tall elegant woman. "Then both of your families will pay for what has happened." The woman put out a long nailed hand and caught Belle’s chin, "Listen to me, little girl, and we will get on very well. You will never leave this place with your precious Shawn Douglas, but if you even attempt to warn him, and I will cut you from your gullet to your gizzard. As for your father," the woman made a gesture with her hand to indicate that he was nothing. "Do you really think that he can save you? Hah, that man couldn’t save the first Isabella, or himself, and he will never be able to find you here. Face it, Isabella, you are here for the rest of your life."
"Stop it!" The voice, as Shawn knew it, yelled at the woman, grabbing her by the hand and dragging her back. "You stupid fool! What do you think you are doing?"
The woman laughed and stalked off. "You know that she is never leaving here with Shawn Douglas. No matter how hard she prays, we will stop her."
"That doesn’t mean you have to tell her!" The voice, taking a firm grip of the woman’s arm and pulling her out of the room. "Belle Black must never realise that…"
The door slammed shut, and Belle was left in the dark once again, more terrified than before, and wondering what she must never realise.
Shawn looked at his two friends, dressed and ready for action, and wondered briefly what he had been thinking of when he had dragged them into this mess. Then he realised that he didn’t have a hope of doing it alone, and the girls would have killed him if he had even tried it.
"Ready?" his eyes flicked from Megan to Kitty, and back again.
"We were born ready!" Megan joked, and Shawn could believe it. In their black cat suits, with the belts of tools around their waists and lengths of rope curled around their arms, they looked like Charlie’s Angels actresses, about to play a big action scene, the only difference being that Megan and Kitty had better hair.
Shawn nodded, accepting them. The cat suits were surprisingly warm, but he made them wear more anyway. Pulling the ski mask over his face, more to stop his nose dropping off from frost bit than to conceal his identity, Shawn led the way through the last part of the forest to the side of the compound.
It occurred to him that he had never seen it by daylight. Once again, he was standing by the wire fence in the moonlight, working out yet another plot against the voice.
Kitty poked him in the ribs, and handed him the blow torch. They didn’t want to risk cutting the fence, in case it was sensitive to pressure, but heat wasn’t pressure. Burning his way through swiftly, it was moments before Shawn had Kitty and Megan running for the vent they had worked out as their entrance point. The guard dogs who roamed the place hadn’t picked up their scent as Megan had, a few hours before, thrown drugged bones over the fence. The marrow had been treated with a sedative, so that the dogs were in a lethargic state and so not caring about their duties.
With feverish haste, Shawn unscrewed the plate that covered it and helped the two girls in before throwing himself after them. The searchlight that was always kept lit swung past them just as Shawn put the plate back, and as the siren didn’t start to scream, they knew they were in. A wicked grin on her face, Kitty led the other two down vent after vent, crawling on their hands and knees. Shawn had intended to take them to the voice’s office, but they had realised that was on a different ventilation system than they were, probably to prevent anyone from being able to fill the place with poison gas, and they had to be satisfied with dropping in to the next door room.
The metal was slippery beneath their gloves, and the cold air whistled around their ears noisily. They didn’t care. They were ready for anything, or so they thought.
The room was small, painted pale brown, and had only basic office furniture. Shawn figured that it was used as Arnie’s office. The smell of his after shave and humbugs, which he habitually chewed, was overpowering.
Glancing around the corner, Shawn brought them at last to the voice’s office. It was dark, a contrast to the neon lights of the hallway they stood in, and Shawn wondered why he was suddenly so apprehensive of being there.
Two guards came by, and seeing the three of them were about to call out a warning, but were cut off as Megan and Kitty tried out their new fighting skills. With fast kicks, the girls had them on the floor, and with even swifter hard punches to their faces, the guards were out cold. Kitty smiled as she imagined Bobby as one of the guards, releasing some of her fury as she pounded the guy. Megan just thought of everything Shawn had been through. It was enough.
Shawn knelt by the door of the voice’s office, and began to pick the lock. It had taken some preparation to get this far, though he wouldn’t admit to Kitty and Megan the lengths he had gone to get everything. The electronic lock with key code that held the door shut was easy to break through. He had bought some equipment from the Russian Mafia and it had worked perfectly. Ex-KGB tools weren’t always reliable, but when they worked, they worked beautifully well. The voice wasn’t stupid, though, and the lock was backed up by a second device, a heavy duty bolt style lock, with a tumbler mechanism. The voice, though, had never met Sergeant Mitchell, nightmare house master of Shawn’s old boarding school, and his series of locks on the dormitory doors and windows. Breaking out of there was like breaking out of Alcatraz. This door was a cinch by comparison. The locked clicked, and Shawn knew they were in.
Easing open the door, Shawn whipped into the dark room, beckoning to the two girls to follow him. Inside, Shawn was flicking on his flashlight, ready for anything, or so he thought.
"Good evening, Shawn Douglas." He knew that voice, but he had never feared it before. The lights flickered on, and there sat his beautiful Belle, tied up and gagged in her chair, her eyes screaming for help, with a gun pressed to her temple. "So glad you could join us."
"Shawn?" Kitty’s eyes were wide with fright. She had not expected this.
"You," Shawn’s voice had never been so cold, so emotionless. "Well, it’s been a while."
"Hasn’t it just?" The person pointing the gun at Belle’s head flicked their head towards a corner, and for the first time Shawn saw that John Black was also in the room. "Oh, did I forget to mention that Johnny darling is here too? Say hello to everyone John. I’m sure they’ve missed you."
"Go to Hell, you bitch!" John snarled at her from his place handcuffed to the wall, his body thin and weak. No longer the mercenary he had once been, John was a shadow of his former self. Only his famous eyebrow looked as it had before. The woman cocked the gun, making it abundantly clear what she thought of John’s outburst.
Belle’s beautiful blue eyes widened as she turned her head to take in her father.
"Hey Izzy-B." John called out to her. "I’ve missed you."
Belle just stared, she didn’t have a clue what as going on and the drugs she had been given were making her feel disconnected and strange.
Shawn raised an eyebrow of his own. "Where is the voice?" His voice was so calm, so cold, that Kitty and Megan felt shivers running up and down their spines. They had never seen him like this, and it was scaring them.
"Oh, around somewhere. What are you going to do I wonder? You can hardly leave your precious Isabella, but I don’t think the pair of you will get out anyway." Shawn smiled, and Megan’s heart went cold. He was about to do something dangerous, reprehensible and frightening. Rebel Shawn had taken control.
"Swop." Shawn’s eyes were nearly black in the neon light. Kitty wasn’t sure she had heard him properly but watching the blonde’s reaction, she thought she must have. Belle was shaking her head furiously, she couldn’t let Shawn do it. He didn’t know what these people were like.
"Belle for what?" As the woman spoke, bargaining with her friend, Megan was trying to work out if she could get the gun from Belle’s head by leaping across the desk in a flying kick. It didn’t seem likely.
"No, Belle and John released and allowed to go back to Salem with Kitty and Megan for me. I will be you mercenary, or whatever else the voice has planned, and I won’t try to escape again," Shawn muttered under his breath, "for three days," then finished more loudly, "I swear."
"Shawn," Kitty started to protest, but Shawn silenced her with a look.
"On your honour as a Brady?" The gun was pressed harder into Belle’s head.
"On my honour as a Brady," Shawn swore solemnly.
"Fine. You were the one we wanted. Arnie," the henchman appeared in the doorway, "unlock Mr Black’s handcuffs. He and the three young ladies will be leaving in just a moment."
Kitty and Megan were distraught, they couldn’t leave Shawn. "Please don’t do this," they begged together. He smiled at them, as if the world no longer mattered to him.
"I have to, there isn’t anything else to be done." He kissed them both on the cheek, and whispered, "I will explain one day. Goodbye, my angels."
Belle was free, and rubbing her wrists, but now there was a blindfold over her eyes and the gag was still firmly in place. When Shawn made a move to remove it, the woman shook her head and shifted the gun onto Kitty, who growled at her. Staggering across, with her father guiding her and being supported by her, Belle passed so close to Shawn that she could smell him in the air, but she couldn’t see him or speak to him to warn him. It was hell to be so close and not be able to run into his arms. Then her knees buckled, and a strong, female pair of arms caught her and John, holding them up. They didn’t want to leave him, alone with the creature who was so ready to kill Belle, but with Belle and John slung between them, and the guards holding guns to their backs, they knew they had no choice.
She was so close to him, so damn close. He wanted to press his face into her hair, kiss her roughly, save her from everything that could ever hurt her, but he had to remain cold, calm and collected. Otherwise, they were all dead. It didn’t stop her perfume wafting through the air to tease his inflamed senses, or his imagination running wild over what could have happened to her, but when he thought of what could happen to her if he made the wrong move now, he was strong again.
Shawn watched them on the video screen as they walked down the corridors of the compound and out of the gate to where a jeep was waiting for them. "I will know if they don’t return to Salem alive. I’ll kill myself, you realise, if they are harmed."
Belle’s ex-captor lit a cigarette. "Why would I want them? You brought the two girls, Johnny is broken and useless, and Belle is hardly a woman. No, dear boy, it has always been you."
Blowing smoke in his face, the woman was going to turn away from him, but Shawn arrested her with his words. "Whatever happens, he will always hate you for this. I’ll be dead in a couple of months. The finest doctors in the world have examined me. I don’t have a hope."
"There you are wrong, darling boy," the woman told him smilingly. "You are going to be alive for a very long time, Shawn Douglas. We have found the only cure for your disease, and if you think you are going to escape us that easily, you are quite, quite wrong."
"Tell me, how did you escape? We all thought you were imprisoned for the rest of your life." Shawn smiled at her with mock sweetness. He wasn’t particularly happy to hear about the cure. It might mean he was bound to the voice’s service for more years than he could count. Then again, for the first time for months, he thought he could see enough of the light of hope to guide him and Belle together. Perhaps he would be alive to see her in Paris after all.
"Oh, I just wanted to destroy Stefano even more than your family did, dear boy. It’s amazing what the lust for revenge will get you through." She smiled again, the cigarette moved to one side of her lipstick red mouth. "Come now, it’s time for your first mission, I think. The Boss is ready for you now."
Shawn followed her sashaying form out of the room, "I’ll kill you one day."
"I think not," she tossed over her shoulder. "Belle means too much to you for that."
Shawn grinned his trademark smile at her, then again, maybe Belle would be lonely in Paris in January. "Want to bet on that, Kristen?"
Chapter 8No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:40 PM |
Kitty was leading the way through the dark city streets. John and Belle, reunited at last but too traumatised and exhausted by their experiences to speak, followed her quietly, supported by Megan. She was worrying about Shawn, about what Kristen was going to do to him, and what had happened to the voice they had gone to destroy. She wanted to know why John Black was in Russia rather than Salem, and why Belle had been kidnapped by the voice at all. Why John had been taken was obvious, he had told her that Kristen and he had become close to having children, had been in a serious relationship, and had even become engaged. She was obsessed with his manly chest, and famous ability to raise his eyebrow and give anyone ‘The Look’. She had wanted revenge on him and Marlena. She hated Marlena because John had always loved her more than he had ever loved Kristen.
Kitty knew where she was going. Shawn had described it over and over again. He had loved the place. It had meant something to him that she could not understand, something that she did not want to try to understand.
"We’re here," she announced to a relieved Megan, tiring of the strain of half carrying the father and daughter along the last block of the street from where they had parked the car.
"Thank God for that," Megan dropped them unceremoniously as Kitty also dropped the few bags they had brought with them. "Are you going to knock, or shall I?"
"I thought we were going to blow the door down," Kitty pouted, feeling her fun had been spoiled. Megan glared at her, and she walked up to the huge oak door and pounded it with the iron knocker in the shape of a lion’s head.
Almost instantly, the door swung open and a gentlemanly butler looked out. "Yes?" he asked in tones half respectful and half inquiring, and a perfect English accent. "May I help you?"
Kitty smiled, showing her white teeth, and her eyes blazed greener than emeralds. "Yes, Mr Shawn Brady sent us. We are looking for Natalya."
The butler smiled gently, his brown eyes lighting up at the mention of Natalya’s name. "Ah yes, we were expecting you. Please, come this way."
He led the way inside, carrying the bags, and showed them into a grand parlour room where Natalya sat, in beautiful designer clothes, with baby Alyssa dandling on her lap. She rose, holding the child closely to her, and Belle, through the haze of drugs and exhaustion, wondered who she was.
"Yes?" Natalya’s English was strongly accented, but the look from her eyes told them that she was nobody’s fool.
Kitty stared at her, tracing features that Shawn had described so lovingly. Megan was less rude, stepping forwards and holding out her hand.
"I’m Megan, a friend of Shawn Douglas Brady’s." Shawn’s name had been known to effect girls strangely, sometimes they just had dopey grins spread over their faces and sometimes they sighed, but no one had ever leapt across a room and hugged Megan just for saying his name before. Releasing her slowly, Natalya held up her baby daughter to show her the nice people who had come to visit.
"That is Megan," she pointed to her, "and Belle," Belle raised her head a little, surprised by Natalya knowing her name, but too groggy and exhausted to respond fully, "and those are some more friends of Super Shawn."
Kitty raised an eyebrow, but remained her usual taciturn self. Megan was less restrained. "‘Super Shawn’?" she repeated.
"He saved my life, and Alyssa’s life. We owe him everything." Natalya pushed back the tears. "Who are you all?"
"That’s John, he’s Belle’s dad and the green eyed girl is Kitty, she’s another of Shawn’s friends," Megan began then stopped short, "how did you know who Belle was?"
"Shawn talks in his sleep." Natalya set Alyssa down carefully, letting her gurgle happily in her cot.
Megan started coughing and Kitty raised another eyebrow. Belle did more. Finally rousing herself out of her stupor by all the talk of her lost beloved, she called out, "He does what?"
"He talks in his sleep." Natalya repeated coolly. "Especially when he’s feverish."
"Or when he’s exhausted," put in Megan, and they laughed.
Belle felt a pang of jealousy. These girls, no women, knew Shawn better than even she did in some ways. She hadn’t known he talked in sleep, or that he had saved this strange Russian girl’s life.
"Why are you here?" Natalya’s eyes narrowed suddenly and Belle felt uncomfortable.
"Shawn sent us." Kitty replied shortly.
"Shawn?" Natalya’s face softened again as the name was repeated. "He is not dead?"
"Dead?" Barked the resuscitated John Black. "That boy’s not dead! Damn it, and that’s a fact!"
"Daddy, I love you, but shut up." Belle watched her father collapse into an easy chair and start snoring in his sleep. Natalya watched him sleep briefly, then rang a long bell rope to summon the servants.
The butler returned, with two footmen, and together they carried John up into one of the guest bedrooms. Natalya turned to the girls, smiling once more. "You must excuse me, I have the worst manners. You will be shown to your rooms and tomorrow we may talk, unless there is something urgent you must tell me?"
Kitty shook her head, hooked one arm around Belle’s waist and strode out of the room with Megan saying goodnight and following shortly behind her.
Natalya picked Alyssa up again, "So Shawn is alive, I am so happy. You will see your father avenged soon, my darling, and then, then, I will show you more of the world and its wonders than Alexis imagined in his wildest dreams."
"It’s just something I imagined in my dreams," the voice was low, growling almost. Shawn was horrified. He had never seen such a monstrosity in his life. It was a game, that was clear, but that wasn’t the monstrous part. It was massive, filling a huge room with what should have been floor but was in fact well kept grass and houses on a miniature scale. Every member of the clans of Brady, Kiriakis, Dimera, Black, Horton, Williams and all of the friends and lovers of each clan were pieces of the game. Like chess pieces, each person had a different symbol. He recognised a gold queen with a tiny crown as having Marlena’s face, a soldier in combat gear resembled John, his mother was there resplendent in green jade with a tiara on her stately head, his father as Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, Kitty represented by an amethyst tiger with emerald green eyes, Megan an oak astronomer, Brady the Lone Ranger complete with horse that seemed to be called ‘Reparations and Regret’, and, among so many others, an ivory piece that was almost as beautiful as the original, his Belle in the dress of a princess with a circlet of diamonds and gold crowning her head. The voice had its own piece, a figure in a cloak made from what looked like coal. It was typical of it to have such a secretive symbol. He was there too, though at first Shawn did not recognise his own piece, a knight in silver upon a gleaming black ebony charger. He had never seen himself in that light, and it was strange to gaze at something that was meant to be you, but was so totally alien to your expected personality.
"What do you think?" The voice had a chilling note to it. The pieces, which would have been beautiful, became objects of disgust when it dawned on him that they were the tools of the voice’s sadistic plans. "I rather like it."
Shawn’s flesh was crawling, and he wanted to be sick. There was a sickness of mind that came with creating such a thing that he did not want to contemplate. The voice leaned forwards and subtly moved one of the figures, shifting Belle from the woods around them to another place in Europe. His own piece, he realised, was in the furthest castle, the largest stronghold with the highest walls. It was a barren place, sending shivers down the spine and fear into the pit of the stomach when the icy roads between it and Salem were contemplated, and in the rough fields, Shawn saw a small figure, a hunchbacked Igor style thing, with Arnie’s name scrawled at the bottom. There was no comfort in that. If the voice wanted absolute knowledge and control, it got it. The court jester that Shawn realised as being his Uncle Jack Deveraux was moved by Kristen across from the Brady castle to the Black Mansion, and inside.
"Shall we play?" Shawn stared at the board, confused and repulsed by what he saw.
"Play what?" His eyes were drawn to the piece of himself again, his image carved and controlled by Kristen and her partner. He had been controlled by them for so long, perhaps since he had returned from boarding school years before, and now it was no different. He was required to think in patterns he could not comprehend and to follow lines his eyes could not see.
"The Game, of course. The reason you are here. I win, and you are mine, body and soul. You win, and I will allow you to leave my service permanently and alive." The voice smiled fleetingly, showing sharp, small white teeth. "I might even tell you what you most desire to know."
"You already have me," Shawn’s eyes narrowed as he turned the proposition over in his mind. He drew his gaze away from the board to meet those icy pools of the voice. "Why would you risk letting me go?"
"You swore on your oath as a Brady," Kristen began, tossing her blonde hair over one slender, pale shoulder and lighting another black Russian cigarette.
There was smugness in the reply of the voice, "But Bo is Victor’s biological son. You are a Kiriakis and Kiriakises allow nothing to stand in their way, not even honour."
Shawn did not bow his head or concede the point. There was more to the Game than the voice was letting on. "I’m a Brady by adoption at least. I would not break my word."
"But the beautiful Isabella might," the words were cold and seemed to create a vacuum in the room that could not be filled.
Shawn took a calculated step forward. "Touch one hair on her head, and I swear to the Almighty Himself you will not live to regret it."
Kristen laughed bitterly. "More of men’s blustering. You all swear to love us forever, but women are forgotten as soon as another, more blonde model comes along."
Shawn looked at her, his brown eyes wide like a startled deer’s, "I have never sworn to love forever - just to love as long as my heart will allow."
"She will be forgotten by dawn, then," Kristen retorted swiftly.
Shawn blinked and stared at her uncomprehendingly, "I can no more forget her by dawn than the ocean can forget the moon by dusk."
"Enough of this bandying of words," the voice barked, clearly bored. "It is time to play."
"What do you want me to do?" The effort cost him, but Shawn kept all emotion out of his voice. It neither shook nor wavered as he stared dead ahead.
The voice’s curled lips into a contortion that could have been called a smile, if there was less cruelty in it. "Kristen, start the machine. It’s time for Mr Brady to experience a little of what is to come…"
The pain was worse than ever. It shot through his body, leaving nothing untouched, scalding his nerves and frying his synapses. There was nothing but the screaming of his soul, and the soft chuckling laughter of the voice. Shawn closed his eyes against the blinding light, and through it all, he could see the meadow. He ran towards it, demons with bloody teeth snapping at his heels. There stood his angel, clothed in gleaming white with her smile of sunshine and her jewellery of flowers. His eyes flickered behind their lids, and Shawn’s body went limp. He was gone.
Leaning forwards, smiling smugly, the voice began whispering in his ear, suggestions full of promise of more than Shawn had ever dreamed could be.
"Is he ready?" Kristen watched the scene dispassionately.
"Why don’t you try him?" The voice spoke smugly too. The leather straps that had held the boy in place were undone, but Shawn merely lolled listlessly in the chair, unconscious.
"Private Brady, attention!" Kristen barked, imitating John.
He snapped up, standing straight and pulling off a salute from an unconscious to a fully conscious state that would have made the toughest drill sergeant weep with joy. "Ma’am, yes, ma’am." The words were rattled off like machine gun fire. Shawn’s brown eyes were fixed dead ahead, and when Kristen punched him in the stomach, he didn’t flinch.
"I guess I owe you dinner. I never thought you’d pull it off." Kristen smiled admiringly at the voice. "Are you sure he can manage it? He’s only eighteen, after all."
The voice bared it’s teeth and snarled at her, "Of course I’m sure. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have spent the past five years planning this. You don’t think that Elvis returned all on his own? I must admire the way you raised the boy, Kristen. Never was there quite such a twisted Dimera. He was a credit to you."
Kristen snorted. "He’d still be here if your plan to get Shawn Douglas hadn’t gone wrong."
The voice shrugged, unsympathetically. "It merely proved that Belle was John’s child, even if JT isn’t."
"I still can’t believe that even Stefano fell for that." Kristen laughed, enjoying the power that they had over Salem’s greatest families.
"Interesting that after so long they are still so without suspicion towards Stefano. It took them so long to find out about Hope being alive, you think they would doubt everything he tells them. Of course, he doesn’t know either." The voice smiled, it had been fun to deceive the master of deception.
Kristen sniffed, evidently unimpressed. "They’re idiots. They didn’t even know I wasn’t dead."
"Of course they’re idiots, otherwise Nicole never would have been able to seduce Eric and Austin wouldn’t be mooned over by at least two women at any one time." The voice was derisive, cruel, thinking of the residents of Salem and their lives, which it had helped to complicate more than once.
Kristen turned to Shawn, her posture perfect. "Now, Private Brady, if you want to rise through the ranks, you must obey me absolutely. Do you understand?"
"Ma’am, yes, ma’am." Shawn barked out.
"Good," Kristen purred. "These are our orders…"
"Wake up," a honeyed voice purred near his ear. "Daddy, wake up!"
Belle shook her father’s arm impatiently. When that failed, she picked up the glass of water on the bed side table and threw it into his face. A now soaked John didn’t stir, and Belle sighed in exasperation. Finally, she resorted to taking the glass of whisky from the bar of the room and preparing to throw that at him as well. She was halfway through the movement when John’s hand shot out and grabbed her wrist.
"Never," he said slowly and deliberately, "waste good whisky." He took the glass from her and knocked it back swiftly. "And that’s a fact."
"Daddy, are you OK?" Belle hugged her father tightly, her small arms encircling his neck in a death grip. "What happened to you?"
"Well, I was kidnapped by Kristen shortly after I found out that JT was my son, and I’ve been locked up in Fort Frankenstein ever since the night Marlena and I went to Green Mountain Lodge for our," he paused while he calculated, "seventh honeymoon, and that’s a fact."
"Oh my God, you’ve been gone since the night Chloe stayed at our place talking to Brady." Belle’s hand flew to her mouth. "Do you think Elvis was in on this the whole time?"
"Elvis? The King is dead, honey," John’s eyebrow shot up, "and, though I’m nothing but a hound dog, that’s a fact."
"Right, Dad," Belle said, a little unsure of him. Her father was acting even more unstable than usual. "No, I meant Chloe. Elvis Dimera was really Chloe, or rather the other way around. Elvis just pretended to be Chloe. The real Chloe never came to Salem. Elvis shot my boyfriend."
"Boyfriend? What boyfriend? Where’s my camouflage gear? Where is this boy, Belle? If he’s laid a finger on you, I’ll rip that Brady kid from gullet to gizzard!" John had leapt out of bed, and was bounding around the room, searching for a weapon.
"No, Dad," Belle answered him slowly, putting a calming hand on his shoulder. "It wasn’t Shawn. His name was Larry, but he was gay and cheating on me with Jason Welles, and Chloe / Elvis shot him already. He’s dead."
"Right, Izzy-B, you know what I want to hear," John stared at his daughter, who rolled her eyes and sighed.
"Do I have to?" The eyebrow went up again. Belle put her hands on her hips and in an exasperated voice said, "OK, OK. I can’t believe you are making me say this, I bet Brady never had to do anything so dumb… Boys are bad. Boys are bad. What are boys? Bad! Happy now?"
"That’s my girl," John clutched her to him in a tight hug. "Now, where’s my harem?"
"Uh," John quickly covered, "my beautifully haired Marlena." Then in a more quiet voice added, "Not my harem, not my harem, just one more of the women who adore me."
"Dad?" Belle pulled back and stared at him.
"Huh?" John came out of his fantasy briefly. "Oh, where am I? What are the tactical defence positions of this place? Will there be more whisky?" Only to enter another one.
"A friend of Shawn’s house in France, this place is built like a fort, and yes, but not until after dinner." The reply came not from Belle, but from Megan, who stood in the doorway, coolly assessing the pair, and desperately trying not to laugh as John ran around half naked looking for escape routes. "How do you feel?"
John beat his bare manly chest, trying to impress the pretty girl in front of him. "Perfect. I’m hungry though."
"Sore," replied Belle. She didn’t just mean physically. She was heart sore. She had been so close to Shawn, and yet it was like ships passing in the night, as she had never seen him, touched him, talked to him properly, just scented him on the air and heard his voice echo in her ears.
"Breakfast is waiting," Megan was staring a little at Belle’s worn look. "I called Brady. He was freaking out because he didn’t know where you were. I told him that you were safe, and we’d tell him everything when we were back in Salem."
"I can’t go back!" Belle nearly stamped her foot. Why did everyone think that she was weak just because she was blonde? She was John Black’s daughter, and the love of her life had been taken prisoner by a pair of lunatics. She refused to return to Salem without him. "I can’t leave Shawn in that…" there were no words to describe what she felt, "…place."
"Belle, honey," John’s voice was softened with the love he felt for his daughter. "There’s nothing we can do. I’ve been there for a long time, and Belle, there is no way that we can do anything to help Shawn. By staying here, we do no good. There is one almighty mess in Salem to fix, and Marlena needs us."
"You know Marlena thinks that you are having a grand time with your European fancy woman, don’t you?" Megan’s question was a little abrupt, but John took it easily.
"Kristen told me," John grimaced, thinking of the mocking look on her face when she had informed him that Marlena’s heart was broken because she believed him to have run off with some other woman, not a part of his harem. "She thought I would stop loving Marlena if I thought she didn’t love me anymore."
Belle sniffed disdainfully, "Like that has ever worked."
"It just strengthened my determination to return. I was working on escape plan 327 when you broke me out of there." John grinned slightly. "I was going to exercise until my muscles were big enough to break me out of the chains that held me to the wall, then knock out the guard, seduce a few," he broke off as he remembered Belle was in the room, "hum, and make my way back to Salem as best I could."
"What were the past 326 plans?" Megan was a little suspicious of Belle’s father. He reminded her of someone else, but she couldn’t think whom.
John muttered something, and catching only half of it, Megan decided to let it go. She was sure the words ‘seduce beautiful women with my manly good looks’ had been uttered, and she didn’t want to embarrass Belle any more.
"Uh huh," she said after a pause. "Belle, I want to talk to you about Shawn, later. Natalya and baby Alyssa are waiting. I think they have a story to tell us. Maybe it will be about Super Shawn."
"Or just Shawn," Belle whispered to herself, feeling the hot tears build behind her eye lids and resisting the temptation to let them pour down her cheeks. She would be strong if it killed her. She was counting the days until she would see him again. She had no doubt that he would keep his promise. All she had to do was wait for January, and for him on their bridge in Paris. She smiled a false bright smile at her father, and prepared to give the performance of a lifetime. How else could she convince her friends that she was truly fine, and not devastated by everything that had happened. There was only one person in the world who could put her back together again, and he was in the clutches of a vicious tyrant and her father’s ex-lover.
Breakfast was interrupted by the sounds of a wild man charging through the house.
"Belle!" The shout echoed around the rafters and bounded around their ears, rattling the chandelier. "Dad! Megan! Tink, where the" the sounds became obscured and obscene "are you?"
Belle’s face whitened briefly, then colour flooded back into it. She whispered the name, and then ran to him. "Brady?"
He grabbed her around the waist, heaving from her chair and twirling her around the room. His beautiful blue eyes were full of unshed tears as he clutched his baby sister to his chest. "Tink, you’re safe! Thank God, you’re safe."
The tears welled up in Belle’s eyes, and she buried her face in the comforting warmth of her brother’s muscular chest. It felt good to be back there, where she was safe. It had been her own fault that she had been kidnapped. If she had stayed in the safety of Brady’s protective arms, she could never have been torn from her family and Shawn would not have exchanged his life for hers with Kristen.
"Oh, Brady." Brady stiffened slightly as he felt the moisture soak through his sweater to the bare skin beneath. Belle was crying. Someone had made Belle cry. Naturally, they would not be allowed to ever do it again through the virtue of being dead. He kissed the top of her blonde head and surveyed the rest of the room with feelings of animosity turning to wonder and delight.
"Dad? Is it really you?" He looked like a little boy on Christmas morning, lit up inside like an angel.
"Yes, son, it’s me, and that’s a fact." Brady smiled. No one but his father would say ‘and that’s a fact’ quite so determinedly. Then his brow creased into the famous Scary Barry look he had permanently adopted while he couldn’t walk.
"Where the Hell have you been?" He growled, thinking of all the pain that his father had caused Belle, Marlena, and he had to admit, himself over the past months.
"Son, I’ve told you before, don’t use that kind of language in front of the ladies." John frowned, then opened his arms to his eldest child. Brady half walked and half carried Belle with him, and the family enjoyed a brief moment of peace together, happy to be reunited at last.
"Belle?" Another voice echoed through the room, and the Blacks broke apart to see a stunned Marlena in the doorway. "John? Are you here?"
"Marlena!" For once in his frantic life, John Black’s voice shook nervously. It had been so long for them to be apart. "Marlena!" He roared, dropping his children and running to her side. "My God, I’ve missed you."
They kissed, as passionately as they had when they had first found their great love, and as soon as they realised they were making their children uncomfortable, Marlena switched to mothering mode. "John, what have you been doing? You’re half starved, in a severe state of shock and dehydrated. You’ve also had a double whisky this morning."
"How does she do that?" Megan whispered to Brady, as he embraced her warmly, and showered kisses on her neck and face.
"Salem school of medicine," he confided, punctuating each word with another of his most divine kisses. "She can diagnose anything anywhere with anyone as the patient instantly. Drs Mike and Tom Horton used to be the same. Have I told you I missed you?"
"Yes," she kissed him firmly on the mouth. "But you haven’t shown me yet."
"Brady!" Belle yelled from her place squashed between her parents, moody and alone. "Get your butt over here for a family hug now, and stop kissing Megan! It’s bad enough when Mom and Dad do it."
"I don’t wanna!" Brady moaned from his comfortable place in Megan’s soft arms.
"Brady!" John shouted. "I’ve been locked in a dungeon for months! The least you can do is hug me!"
"Brady, hug him and you can more than hug me later," Megan whispered in his ear, smiling naughtily.
Grinning like a maniac, Brady squeezed her tighter then let her go, jogging to the family hug in a leisurely manner. "You called?"
"I love you, son," John hugged him to him as if he never wanted to let him go again.
They were happy for a few, brief seconds, but it was enough. They had been apart for so long, longer than Brady and Marlena realised, and it had been such a terrible separation that there was nothing they wanted more than to hold each other like there was no tomorrow.
Natalya picked up baby Alyssa and walked with her over to John, Marlena and Belle. "This is Alyssa," she told them in the strong voice she prided herself on. "Would you tell her about Shawn please?"
Marlena’s brow crinkled in confusion, and her beautifully plucked eyebrows were raised. "Shawn? Is he here?"
The tears that had soaked Brady before now flowed freely down Belle’s cheeks. "No," she sobbed out quietly.
"He’s where John was," Kitty spoke for the first time. "And we don’t think he’s ever coming back."
"Belle," Natalya’s arm went around her shoulders. "He asked me to give this to you, before he went."
It was a letter, written on the same paper he had written to Megan on all those months before, though the words were simple and the meaning clear, it brought Belle’s heart to a stand still.
‘Belle - If you are reading this, I am gone - either as a hostage or a dead man. I’ll keep my promise. Not even death can keep me from you, though it’s trying. Wait for me. Shawn.’
The confirmation of Belle’s worst fears was too much for her. She collapsed at her mother’s feet, weeping bitterly and finding no comfort in her surroundings. She had been wrong to think she could act in front of her family and hold a semblance of happiness together. It was stupid to think that just because Shawn wasn’t with her, she could pretend she was as strong as when he was. She could never be as strong without him, and she was all too aware of everything he had sacrificed for her. She had been wrong, so wrong, to believe that life without the love of her life was worth living. She was nothing without him, and she didn’t know how to live without his light guiding her way. She cried for everything she had lost, and for everything he had lost too. Then she remembered Paris. No matter what happened, she would see him then. She pulled herself up from her mother’s comforting arms and brushed away her tears. He would have been ashamed of her if he could see her weeping like a baby because he wasn’t around. He had to undergo far worse things, and she was crying over nothing. She had made it this far, this long, and she would make it the rest of the way. It would be better now, she had her father back after all. Her family would be together, and if it killed her, she would make Shawn proud. She had to make herself worthy of his love. He had given up everything to save her and her father’s lives. The least she could do was live for him.
Belle’s blue eyes were lit by a new emotion, and Kitty recognised it. She had passed through the fire and had come out purified. Now she only had to wait, and her true love would be returned to her. Kitty smiled, and took Belle by the hand. She leant forward and whispered in her ear, then laughed. Belle laughed too, and the two of the best friends of Shawn Brady found something in each other they found in no other, not even Megan, Brady or Natalya. They found understanding of what they were waiting for, and why they had to wait. It was just a matter of time, and time, as everyone knew, was only an illusion of the mind.
"I will wait," Belle promised Shawn quietly, holding baby Alyssa quietly on her lap as she listened to her father’s story, and heard everything the others knew, slowly piecing together the disjointed story she already half knew, listening in amazement to everything Shawn had seen and done. "I will wait forever and a day, if I have to, but I know you will come for me. You promised, and you would never break your promise."
Chapter 9No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:41 PM |
He was in hell. Not the red hot place of sinners and pokers, with demons dancing around, but the quiet place in the mind where everything becomes a little too clear and you realise that what you are actually worth is less than anyone you have ever met in your entire life, and that quite possibly, you are the most useless person alive, having wasted so much time. He couldn’t move. Shawn’s body was somewhere else, and his mind was his only dominion, but even there he had no control. He had thought when he had seen his angel before that he was going to the meadow where happiness was the monarch and joy the Lord of the manor. Instead, the bloody mouthed snapping demons had caught him by the heels and he had been dragged down by them.
Shawn wished himself somewhere else. He wanted to be almost anywhere but here. He wanted to be hugging his parents, to be watching JT play with the little blonde girl from down the street his mother swore he had a crush on, to be talking to his Star Child Megan, to be walking with Kitty through the streets of Paris, to be playing basketball with Philip, or… There was always the or that he never wanted to think about. The or that told him that no matter what she had done to him, his love for Belle had never died. It couldn’t be killed. He had tried, so hard, to forget her, to hate her or to simply stop loving her. He couldn’t do it. Perhaps he would never stop loving her. He didn’t think he would ever forget her, and to hate her was like hating his own soul, though at that moment he found it possible to hate himself so fiercely that he could almost feel his life force slipping away.
The tears came then, unbidden and freed by his passion not his will. He longed for her in a way that he had not dreamed possible before he had been banished from his own body to this other place where there was nothing but the sharp throbbing pain of knowing what could not be and the dull ache of a missing body.
The plane swept low through the air, and Belle’s sweet sleep was interrupted by the nasal voice of the Captain informing the passengers of the plane’s status. "Good evening, we’re just a few minutes from Salem now, so if you would set your watches to local time that’s eleven twelve p.m. If you would fasten your seat belts and put your seats in the upright position please, ladies and gentleman, we will be landing in a couple of minutes. Thank you for flying We Fly Anyone Anywhere Anytime Airways, and please come back again."
Belle stared out of her window, rubbing her sleepy eyes and running her hand through her silken gold locks before checking her make up in the tiny compact mirror she took everywhere with her. "Home, sweet home," she murmured.
"Glad to be back?" Brady asked, surfacing from one of his marathon kissing sessions with Megan.
Belle turned her whole body to look at her handsome elder brother. "Sort of."
"Missing ‘It Boy’?" Megan asked from over his shoulder. Belle smiled with a sweetness tinged with melancholy.
"Always." Then her smile brightened to a shadow of what it had once been. "Do you remember that song he played the piano to when you and he first came back from New York?"
Brady looked confused, then Megan laughed, and he remembered too. "Janis Joplin - ‘Another Piece of my Heart’." He grinned at his sister. "I think maybe you should tell him to bring it back instead."
Belle couldn’t help her eyes darkening with sadness then, but she kept smiling as the plane made its descent. More to herself than to her brother and his girlfriend, she said softly, "Sometimes I fear he’s never coming back."
There was a light touch on her arm and she saw Kitty, turned completely around in her seat with the same sad look in her eyes that was in Belle’s, grinning at her wickedly. "You don’t think my Monsieur Brady is going to leave us all alone in Salem to the Bobbies of this world?"
"Bobbies?" Belle asked, but before the Kitkat could answer, the plane curved around the airport, and the air stewardess made her sit down properly.
It was dark where he was, dark because light is knowledge and in that place he was forgetting it all, losing everything that belonged to him. He was forgetting his own name. He could remember tiny pieces of a life that could once have been his. There was a tiny boy with dark brown hair. An older girl with green eyes like emeralds at midnight. A sandbox filled with golden sand and two girls sitting near it, one of them was crying. The images that had once been so familiar to him were now nameless, decolourised snapshots of a life that might not even be his own.
Then, he was no longer alone. His bright angel came to him then, her hair as golden as ever and her eyes the colour of meadow bluebells. She held out her hands, cupped together to hold a gleaming light, and showed him something he had longed to see for longer than he had longed for sunlight or fresh air.
He saw her, his Belle. He watched as she climbed down the steps of the plane and walked across the airport, and saw her tearstained face look grim and tired. He did not know anyone but her. His Belle. That name fitted into the centre of his mind, the centre of his being, as if nothing else could ever matter the way she mattered to him.
She was beautiful, tired looking now, but forever beautiful. He remembered nothing but her, knew nothing that was not her, but he knew her intimately. He knew her favourite colour, the way her laughter sounded, who were her favourite music band, the worst night of her life, the best day she had ever had, and her love for a boy he could neither picture nor recognise.
"The children are waiting," the soft voice of his angel said, "you need to be strong, Shawn."
Shawn, the name was his own, though he could not remember who he had once been. Belle he could think of, and with every atom of his being he concentrated upon her.
"She is so beautiful." He said slowly, the words feeling strange and unfamiliar in his mouth, as if this was the first time he had ever spoken. "I love her, don’t I?"
"You always will. She loves you too." Then his angel sighed. "Watch," she said quietly. "she’s about to prove her love for you."
"She doesn’t need to," he smiled at her, for she was the centre of his being, and he would not be contented ever again to be without her even for an instant. "I can see it."
"Here you can," his angel sounded almost sad. Gesturing to the rest of the darkness, she continued, "out there, you don’t believe she can love you. Not anymore."
Belle did not know she was being watched, but she could feel Shawn’s love washing through her. She was doing this for him, to be with him, and if she wanted him back, she would have to be brave. She could be brave, if it was for him. She was weak without him, she could see that, but knowing that every thing she did was for his good made her strong.
Smiling to herself, she marched across the brightly lit Salem airport, past customs, and back onto American soil. She was chased by her family and friends, but paid no heed to their urgent cries as she headed for the Black’s limousine parked outside the airport doors, close by for convenience.
"Belle, where are you going?" Marlena called after her as Belle revved the engine and drove away, leaving them all standing without transport at the airport, not caring that her parents were yelling for her.
Foot pressed down hard on the accelerator pedal, Belle sped through Salem, understanding what she had to do perfectly. The cold silver barrel of the .33 lay heavy against her lap, taken from the locked glove compartment where her father always kept some weaponry, but she savoured the weight, finding it reassuring.
No one would ever suspect that the blue eyed innocent daughter of John Black knew how to wield a gun, but she did know. Experience had taught her to beware. If life was not so hard, she could have remained the naïve girl she had once been, but it was hard, so she had become hard to deal with it. A grim smile parted her lips as she turned into the driveway.
Rolf stared at the security camera screen intently, wondering what Lexie was up to yet again. She was bouncing Isaac on her lap while talking to the John clone. She looked like she was ordering him to baby-sit while she got a haircut yet again. He sighed exasperated by her behaviour. It was bad enough that she thought she could control Commander Abe Carver - or rather the man she thought was Commander Abe Carver - but to think she could order their made-to-order mercenary around as well was intolerable. Perhaps Stefano would finally pack her off to the same insane asylum as he had sent Chloe to, and they would be rid of her at long last.
"Rolf!" Stefano barked across the intercom. "Where’s Alexandra?"
Tiredly, Rolf reached over and pressed the button to respond to his short tempered employer. "In the slightly yellow drawing room, Stefano. Talking to John."
"Tell her to go taunt Hope again. I want to hear the wails all the way underground. She must suffer constantly!" Stefano demanded, banging his fist against a table so the sound resounded down to Rolf’s ears. "She must not know a moment’s peace!"
"Or a second’s repose," Rolf finished wearily. "I know, I know."
He turned away from the intercom, and ordered Lexie to talk to Hope and John to find his mistress for his hourly tune up in bed, except it never seemed to take place in bed. Turning off the screen, he settled down for a nap, oblivious of the drama about to unfold above stairs, right after Lexie, John, his lady friend, and Isaac left the house.
"What’s she going to do?" He thought his name was Shawn, though the word still seemed strange, as if he was speaking another language.
"Hush," his angel answered him softly, "just watch… and learn."
Belle slipped in through the front door of the Dimera mansion, watching carefully for any sign of the occupants. There was none. The place was deserted. Remembering a blueprint in her father’s study, she headed straight for Stefano’s private library, her .33 cocked and ready in her hand. She wasn’t Marlena Evans’s daughter for nothing.
She swung the door open quickly, keeping the element of surprise on her side, and saw the chair behind the large cherry wood desk swing around to give her a full view of Stefano Dimera, for once appearing surprised.
"Belle Black," he said in his smooth voice that reminded her of cheap after-shave and Ferrero Rocher advertisements, "for what reason do I have the honour of this visit?"
Belle smiled again, the grim smile she had displayed before, and Stefano stifled a shiver. "You know why."
Stefano smiled back, refusing to show that he was disturbed. "I presume on another quest for your father. I am right, no?"
"No." Belle aimed the gun carefully at his right shoulder, and Stefano’s surprise grew, but he was not yet afraid. She was only a blonde little girl, she could do nothing to him the great Phoenix.
"Tell me where Shawn Brady is," she was still smiling, and the gun did not waver, in fact nothing about her changed, but Stefano felt the skin on the back of his neck begin to crawl.
"I should think that he is in the Brady Pub, as usual." He tried a smile, but she just stared.
He had yet to realise that blonde little girls can be far more determined and dangerous than rich, fat European men.
"You know who I mean, Stefano." Belle’s eyes were icy, and Stefano’s feeling of apprehension grew. "Shawn Douglas Brady."
"Sadly," he replied, not seeming at all sad, "I have no idea. Perhaps he is with his brother?"
A shot rang out. Blood poured from Stefano’s shoulder, and Belle re-cocked the gun, watching the smoke curl from the end of the barrel with half an eye, always keeping her attention on the notoriously slippery man in front of her.
"Tell me where he is," she said in a voice like an arctic wasteland, "or I will discharge each of these bullets into your body, one by one, saving the last one for your heart, presuming you have one."
"I don’t know," Stefano clutched his shoulder, and kept the pain out of his voice, but he visibly whitened. "I had nothing to do with the boy’s disappearance."
"Belle!" Brady’s voice should have distracted her but didn’t.
Belle fired again, hitting Stefano in the stomach, and though her stomach turned over at the sight of the blood and the knowledge of what she was doing, her demeanour didn’t change.
Alarmed by the sound of the gunshot, Brady raced through the mansion to find Belle pointing a smoking gun at a wounded Stefano Dimera.
"Belle," he said softly, shocked by her actions and the look upon her face, "What are you doing?"
Belle ignored him and walked up close to Stefano, gun carefully still aimed at his chest. She eyeballed him carefully, examining every inch of his face, looking for a telltale twitch or flicker. "Where is he, Stefano? How can I get him back?"
"I don’t know," Stefano gasped. "If I did, don’t you think I would tell you!"
Belle stared into his eyes, not wanting to give up on her brilliant plan for finding Shawn so easily.
She felt a gentle hand being laid on her back, and turned her head just enough to register that it was Brady behind her. "He really doesn’t know, Tink."
She stared once more at Stefano, and gave a small sigh of exasperation. "He doesn’t, does he? Oh well. You’d better call an ambulance."
Stefano grinned through the pain. "You truly are a remarkable girl, Belle Black. If you had not just shot me twice, I would make you heir to my fortune."
Belle didn’t look pleased. "I don’t want it. Anyway, what about Lexie?"
"She is useless, worse than useless with her constant scheming and ridiculous plans to hold onto a baby who isn’t even her own." Stefano sighed, blood still leaking from his wounds, and listened to Brady asking for an ambulance before he went on, "Your father has not been unfaithful to your mother, Belle. Ever."
"What?" Belle’s face became as white as a sheet. She had not expected this.
"Well, you came to me for information, and for the courage you have shown, I will give you some." Stefano looked pleased with himself. "Think of it as my good deed of the year, or possibly the century. JT is not John’s child, or my child, but Bo’s. He was under mind control in Paris in those brief hours when he and Hope when she thought she was Princess Gina were together. How can I put this delicately enough for a young lady’s ears?"
"They had sex," Belle answered curtly, her ears not burning half as red as Brady’s. "So JT isn’t my brother. He’s Shawn’s full brother. My parents were never unfaithful to each other and neither were Shawn’s. This whole mess has been your fault. Tell me why I shouldn’t blow your head off right now?"
"Because the paramedics are in the doorway, Belle," Brady said quietly in her ear. "Quick, hide the gun."
"Aw," said Ali MacIntyre, "I wouldn’t worry about that. No one could be prosecuted for doing the public such a favour. In fact, you might get a medal." She winked, and she and her partner lifted Stefano’s enormous form onto the stretcher and wheeled him out. "I’ll mention it to the mayor. He’s my brother, you know."
Brady looked at Belle and shrugged. "That’s Salem for you."
He seemed to come out of his shock, and grabbed Belle by the arms. "If you ever do that again…"
"Hey," Shawn objected as the light dimmed, feeling the world come back to him in little pieces, and still holding to the knowledge that Belle was his heart with all of his soul. "What happens with Brady and Belle?"
"Nothing important, unless you are particularly interested in his ‘I’m your big brother and I know best talks’." His angel smiled. "It’s time to see the children now, Shawn. Take my hand."
He took her slender hand in his own, and followed her into the blinding light that she created before them, unafraid and undaunted by the unknown. If he had been questioned, he would simply have replied that nothing out there could be worse than anything already with him.
She took him through the darkness, and into the meadow where he had first seen her. The bluebells blossomed around them, welcoming them back.
"I like it here," Shawn said softly, feeling peace and contentment for the first time for what seemed like an eternity. A soft breeze ruffled his hair, and he smelled something that reminded him of his childhood on it.
"Come on," she pulled him gently forwards, and then he heard the laugh. It wasn’t the first time he had heard it. That had been when he was only tiny, barely old enough to remember it, but it was imprinted on his memory indelibly. It was Belle’s laugh.
Walking forwards slowly, feeling his way behind his angel, he found a clearing in the bluebells, where the grass was shorter and daisies grew. There sat four children, as beautiful as any he had ever seen, smiling and laughing with a picnic before them.
"You’re here," the eldest boy smiled as he said the words, his dark brown hair rumpled and his beautiful brown eyes twinkling.
"We knew you would come," answered the elder girl, her blonde hair in braided pigtails and a familiar smile on her rose pink lips.
"You promised," the twins said solemnly. "And you never break a promise."
"Never," Shawn repeated shocked. The girl was the living image of Belle. The twins were younger, one girl, one boy, both with startling blue eyes beneath mops of brown hair, both lovely and with his cheeky smile.
"These are the children," his angel told him. "They’ve been waiting for you."
"Who are they?" Shawn kneeled on the ground with them, helping them with the picnic, already accepted as one of them.
"Why," his angel laughed, and again he was reminded of Belle, "yours and Belle’s. Only they haven’t been born yet."
"They’re the children we should have had," Shawn said slowly, feeling his way through his destiny. "The ones who would be ours if only…"
"Will be yours," the angel corrected him sweetly. "I told you. They’re waiting for you. They’re being patient, but there is a limit. You have to heal. Now."
"Heal?" Shawn lifted his head from their games. "I’m not wounded."
His angel shook her blonde head and smiled that radiant smile again. "Not physically, emotionally. You’re so scared of living, trusting people, that you’re stuck. If you don’t move forwards then…" She clicked her fingers. "Then this happens."
The meadow vanished, the children went with it, and Shawn and his angel were standing in a graveyard, the rain pouring down around them. A burial had just taken place, and a group of mourners were gathered around the new grave. The scene was grim and barren. It looked like Shawn imagined his heart to look after he found out he had been betrayed so many nights ago.
"It broke her heart," Megan was sobbing into Brady’s chest. "After he never came back, that was it."
"I know, I know," Brady stroked her hair gently. "We’re all going to miss her."
"Poor girl," Hope said, holding onto Bo for dear life.
"She just gave up." Philip said quietly.
"I don’t think she had anything to live for after he went," Rose said softly.
"Or anyone," Shorty added bitterly.
"Who are they talking about?" Shawn whispered, not realising that none of them could hear him.
"Look." Suddenly his angel was a beloved figure, but a mocking one. Death had come, and He had taken someone away with him. Instead of a beautiful blonde standing next to him, there was a shrouded figure, dark and dangerous.
Shawn stepped forwards, past the dark clothed strangers and stared at the new gravestone.
"It was Belle’s death that finished her off," Pink said slowly, managing to control her tears just barely. "If she hadn’t blamed herself about it, this never would have happened."
The gravestone had one word on it, and the knowledge of Belle’s death and hers, broke through the last of the walls that Shawn had laid around his heart.
"No, please God, not her." He was praying, nearly falling to his knees in grief and despair. "Kitty."
His angel, or whatever she had temporarily become, snapped bony fingers, and they were back in the meadow with the children, but Shawn’s tears followed them from one place to the next, and he could not forget what he had seen.
"If I don’t go back," he asked slowly, as the little ones hugged him tightly, trying to comfort their father to be, "Kitty and Belle both die?"
"Yes," his angel had tried to think of another way to put it, but it was that simple. They died, miserably, and without Shawn there to change events, they were doomed to a fate no one could desire.
"So heal me and send me back," Shawn begged.
His angel shook her head. "I can’t heal you. You have to learn to trust, and you can’t do that here."
Shawn stood up slowly, kissing each child on the top of their head as he gently put them onto the ground. "I’ve seen the children, I’ve seen both futures, now show me how to make this one true."
She looked like she was going to cry. "I can’t!"
"Then take me to someone who can!" He yelled, and then the meadow was gone, the children and his angel disappearing with it, and he was back in his body, in pain and once again in the physical world, but completely unable to control his own actions. His ability to move was gone from him, and he was a watcher of his own life.
His memory of what was to come burned bright, and then faded as suddenly as a bursting firework. Everything was lost in the darkness afterwards, memory new and old alike, and then Shawn Douglas Brady was lost again.
It was almost as if he died, but if Shawn Douglas Brady died, then Angelo Salvatore was born in his place, and the world had better beware because he had no room for trust, faith or charity…
Chapter 10No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:41 PM |
His hair was of the darkest, richest brown colour, just like his eyes, but his eyes were cold and forbidding. There was no warmth in them, and if they truly were windows to the soul, no one wanted to think what his soul was like. He was thought to be a heartbreaker, not because he wooed the women but because he didn’t. He was devastatingly good looking, obviously appreciated the female form, but never took it farther than the most innocent of flirtations. Yet there was something to him that made every woman in the room believe that, though he might not act as if it was true, a heart more full of passion and love burned there than in any man they had yet encountered. He was on fire inside, which might be why he was glacier cold outwardly.
He was also one mean son of a bitch when riled.
Harry knew he was playing with fire. He knew that he shouldn’t taunt the dark haired man who stood before him, but he couldn’t resist attempting to puncture his self importance.
"So," he drawled easily, "I heard Miss Storms will be here tonight. What happened to your date? Did she leave you for the valet?"
Miss Storms had been stormy by nature as well as by name. It was universally believed that she had once thrown a Ming vase at society’s most eligible bachelor’s head after he refused to say he loved her. It was also thought to be a sore point with him.
The smile he was given was full of teeth and had absolutely no trace of humour to it. "I didn’t intend on bringing a date. I find the company of a single woman on such an occasion as this a little… wearing. I see Miss Guylian is still here. If you’ll excuse me, I believe I’ll begin a conversation with an intellectual."
Harry felt cheated. It was a well aimed barb, but somehow it had gone astray. Perhaps there was nothing in the rumours about Mr Salvatore and Miss Storms after all. He would have to try a different tack. He longed to know what was behind Angelo’s self assurance and calm. Everyone did, only with Harry, it was an obsession. He needed to know so he could sleep at night. Before the appearance of Angelo Salvatore a few weeks back, he had been the most eligible and sought after man in New York. He had been quickly supplanted by this young upstart, and it irked him. He had expected Kirsten to show better taste, but apparently his blonde firecracker had preferred throwing Ming vases at Salvatore to kisses to him.
He watched, envious of the intimacy, as Angelo spoke with Maria Guylian, her soft chocolate coloured eyes fascinated by his movements and her hand resting lightly on his arm. Maria was beautiful, than was undeniably, but even more importantly she was heir to the Guylian fortune, and the necklace gracing her lovely neck was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"Jealous?" The tone was silken, the voice accented with the perfect modulations of an expensive education, and the girl who had spoken was young and even lovelier than Maria. Normally Harry would have been entranced, but recognising the voice as that of his cousin Nikki, he didn’t even turn around.
"As if I would be jealous of that prancing idiot," he retorted, angry at himself for being so obvious.
"Harry," Nikki laid a calming hand on his arm, but the action only infuriated him more, "you need to stop obsessing. You can’t help it if you’re not a devastatingly good looking, tall, dark stranger with a mysterious past. You’ll just have to cope with being an OK looking, medium height blond from New York that everyone’s known forever."
"Is that really what everyone thinks of me?" Harry was startled. He had thought himself very handsome, golden haired and of the perfect height. Up until the arrival of Angelo, what was more, everyone else had agreed with him.
‘Everyone’ was naturally all the rich, elegant, old money select group he belonged to. The fact that he was a millionaire playboy with stocks in his father’s internet, banking and clothing companies had only made him more desirable. It had been a severe shock to Harry’s self assured system that a mere nobody - for who had heard of the Salvatore family? - could so easily displace him from what he had always considered to be his rightful place in society: the top.
"Absolutely, darling," replied Nikki’s bosom friend Simone, in her mocking accent. She had not been born into their set, but had married a multimillionaire, and had taken to mocking the very people to whom she had once longed to belong. Her marriage had been one of love, not of mercenary greed, and it was with a wit and spirit that had entranced Gerry that she now charmed Harry. "Anyone who is anyone knows that you are the dispossessed prince. As soon as dearest Angelo," here she could not resist heaving a sigh in his direction, "returns to the place from whence he came, we will all be under your spell once more."
"Simone," Nikki began, but was interrupted by the sound of a laugh rarely heard even at one of their most prodigious parties. "Good heavens, that’s not her Ladyship, is it?"
"And look who she’s with," Simone’s beautiful brown eyes were fixed upon the elegant Lady Hamilton, the Queen of Society if there ever was one, who’s delicate and long fingered hand was not resting gently on the arm of Angelo Salvatore. He was evidently charming her as no other man had ever done, for she gave him a look less of the haughty disdain as was her usual wont and more of the casual liking she felt for her oldest and dearest friends.
"Give up now, Harry," Nikki warned from behind the blond man. "If Angelo can charm Lady Hamilton, then you’re so far out of his league that you’ll have to buy the Hubble satellite to see him."
Harry sighed, realising she was right, but continued staring at Angelo and Sarah as if his life depended on it.
"Young man, don’t lie to me," but Sarah didn’t mind the compliments that he laid at her feet. They were less obviously untrue than those that came from her more fervent admirers. He told her she was the finest looking woman over thirty he had seen in New York. She knew herself to be both further over thirty than any lady would care to admit to and more beautiful for her age than she probably had a right to expect. She accepted his praise, and found his honesty attractive. So many of the men who courted her told her she was the most beautiful creature they had ever laid eyes on. She knew that to be a lie when Maria Guylian was in the room, or even, now that age had begun to press its hands into her temples and stroke her skin to less than that perfection she was accustomed to, Kirsten Storms. She hated toad eaters. Her late husband, in one of his fits of perversity, had warned her never to believe that which she could not attribute truth to herself. She was not vain enough to believe herself the equal of even young Nikki, whose cousin Harry had so recently been a favourite of the lovely Miss Storms, but it did her good to hear that she was not quite beyond the age of grace yet.
"My lady," Angelo bowed deeply, and with more than common civility. "If a lie should ever pass my lips, bestow upon me your coldest glance, and as a liar, I will be slain by it, but you must admit the truth - you are as lovely as any man could wish you to be, and the envy of many women."
"There you go again with your ridiculous flattery," Sarah was still smiling at him. Perhaps not the best turned compliment she had ever heard, but he had delivered it with such a manner that she felt softened towards the dark haired young man before her, and he did look so very dashing.
Without meaning to, she sent a look to the carriage clock on the mantelpiece, and noticed with a slight feeling of regret that it was too late to request her butler to record her favourite TV show currently airing.
"I perceive your ladyship is also a fan of Buffy," Angelo said smoothly, and watched as Sarah turned a startled glance on him.
"How on earth…" She trailed off, remembering that ‘ladies never display emotion’.
There was a low, deep chuckle. "What else would you be thinking of at this hour when you have clearly dined, rested and are finding the conversation not without amusement. I have always preferred Cordelia to Buffy herself. She is a little too dainty for my taste."
The laugh that had so surprised Nikki and her two companions earlier resounded once more.
"You are the most unusual gentleman I have met in some time," Sarah patted the boy’s cheek, and smiled up at him. She was a tall woman, so she did not have far to look, but a man, she had found, always enjoyed the feeling of being looked up to rather that feeling of equality.
"I believe I should take that as a compliment," his white teeth shone brilliantly in the candlelit room. "Lady Sarah, I wonder if you would care to take a stroll in the moonlight out onto the balcony? I have something I would like to talk to you about."
Lady Sarah Hamilton smiled, a lady never grins, and took the proffered arm with more than her customary satisfaction. She wondered, briefly, of what he wanted to speak to her, but decided that perhaps he felt their flirtation would blossom more easily in the open air than the admittedly slightly claustrophobic room they were in.
The night air in New York was cool and pleasant. Her shimmering gown was only just warm enough, but Lady Sarah was rather more entranced by her companion than was her wont. "Dear boy," she used the words with more familiarity than their short acquaintance probably warranted, but he did not look irritated so she went on, "you wanted to ask me something, ask and if it is in my power, I will answer you."
Her smile was as beautiful as a rainbow, but it left Angelo cold. He felt no pleasure in women’s company, or anyone’s company, and the slight gifts of beauty, wit and intelligence were of only superficial importance to him. The coating of ice that glazed him could not be broken so easily, but he smiled back artificially and said, "Lady Sarah, you have lived in New York for a long time, but there was a time when you lived in England."
Her smile widened. "How else do you imagine I became Lady Sarah Hamilton?"
If she had known how coldly he felt towards her, she would have been astonished. It was with the warmest tone and the most heavenly smile that he answered, "Quite. While you were living in England, you met, I think, a man who called himself Comte de la Fere? You were quite intimate with him, I believe."
A strong blush covered Lady Sarah’s usually pale rose cheeks. Even with her breeding, she could not ignore the beating of her heart at the sound of the once treasured name. "How do you know la Comte?"
"I met him in Paris last year." Again that treacherously warm smile. "He spoke of you highly."
"Truly?" Her breath was coming in quick pants now, and she fought to keep control of herself. Le Comte de la Fere had been handsome, witty, and so charming when she had met him all those years ago. She had been young, very, young and foolish, as she knew now, but she had also been madly in love with him. Their affair had been kept a secret so her husband would never discover it and it had ended when he came too close once too often, but even now the remembrance of her lover made the blood beat in her cheeks and her mind become dizzy with the fantasies of her youth.
"Yes," Angelo took a little breath and walked further into the darkness with his companion hanging on his every word. "He says your child is quite well, grown beautiful too."
Lady Sarah turned from blushing to palest white. Her secret sorrow, the child she had given up for adoption all those years ago, had come back. She knew it could not be this handsome young man, for he seemed too old, but perhaps he knew where her baby was.
"You know where she is?" Her breath caught in her throat. She would not believe it until he gave her proof. His single nod of the head told her more than volumes of words. Lady Sarah threw back her shoulders and looked straight at him, calling on all the good breeding, manners, courtesy and above all strength of her ancestors. "You return my daughter to me, Angelo Salvatore, and anything you want will be yours."
His brown eyes seemed to burn through her. "I may name my price?"
"I will give anything for my daughter." Lady Hamilton resembled a Queen of old, majestic, regal, beautiful and dignified. Her child was to her more than life itself. Angelo, perhaps, knew that, and he had touched her at her weakest spot, possibly her only weak spot since her husband had died.
"Meet me tomorrow at the top of the Empire State Building at five o’clock." His eyes were searching her face for something. She did not know whether he found it because he simply looked past her. "Children are very important, aren’t they?"
She wasn’t sure if it was a rhetorical question, but answered it anyway. "They are our future, our hope, she was my everything."
He didn’t answer her then, but stared past her as if seeing into another world. "I will return your daughter to you, but when I ask my price, it must be paid."
Lady Sarah closed her eyes, and laid a gentle hand to her forehead. "I’ve told you," she opened them again and stopped speaking. He was gone, like a ghost into the night.
"Lady Sarah, is Angelo out there with you?" It was young Nikki, with Harry and the ever lovely Simone with her. Lady Sarah turned slowly, and smiled the smile that had left Angelo cold as all shows of emotion left him.
"Not Angelo," she let a little sigh escape her lips, a rare show of emotion, "but an angel may still linger here."
"Lady Sarah," Simone laid a gentle hand on the older woman’s slender arm, "are you all right?"
"Darling girl," and for once Lady Sarah’s manner was neither rigidly cold nor condescending, "I may be just fine for the first time in years."
Harry twirled a finger by his temple to indicate that he believe her Ladyship was a little unbalanced, but his cousin hushed him. It would not do to appear to believe that anyone of her Ladyship’s status was crazy. At worst, she was merely eccentric.
"Lady Hamilton, are you sure nothing’s wrong?" Simone was looking at her and thought she could see the signs of some recent emotional upheaval.
Her Ladyship was in too good a mood to let her whip like tongue have full reign, but she let it bite sufficiently for Simone to feel chastised, "If there was anything wrong, I would have said so the first time you asked. No, Angelo is not here, and if you spent more time reading and less time chasing after anything in a tuxedo, perhaps you would not need to ask me where the most eligible bachelor in New York, possibly in America, has gone."
She flounced back into the party, leaving the three young rich kids stunned.
"Anyone else want a Martini?" Kirsten Storms arrived on the balcony with a glass in her hand. "Justin is making them up and they are just divine. Do you know where dear Angelo is? I swear I quite despair of him sometimes. He’s disappeared, just when I was to ask him if he wanted to dance. Have you noticed that he’s never around when you expect him to be and always when you don’t? It’s almost supernatural."
The others had to agree with her, and her next comment, though making Harry a beautiful shade of emerald with jealousy, was equally accepted as true. "It gives him the most seductive air of mystery, and there is no man with quite as much mystery to him as Angelo Salvatore. God, even his name is beautiful…"
"Even your name is beautiful," he whispered into her hair, feeling the soft strands slip between his fingers.
Her mouth, that beautiful perfect rosebud pink mouth, pouted up towards his and it was with an effort that he pulled away and looked down at her. She was more lovely than he could have imagined. Her hair, her skin, her eyes were all to female beauty what a Da Vinci was to art. She touched his jaw, tracing her way along the rough stubble with fingers delicate and soft. He trembled beneath her touch, awed by her power over him. Never had he met such a woman as this, and he knew he never would again.
"My darling," she whispered back to him, her eyes turned to his and locked, looking not at the chocolate coloured irises or the black pupils, but the soul that shone through those eyes and bathed her heart in warmth. "I love you so much, my dearest, darling…"
Angelo Salvatore, colder of heart than any man in New York, more cynical of mind and chilly of manner than any boy of his age had a right to be, awoke sweating with passion and, worse than mere bodily lust, with the memory of a love that would traverse oceans, spread to reach across continents, stay with him through death, and…
He stopped the idea before it drove him mad. He was not made for love. He was made for work, for hardship, and as the pawn of his master.
Still the dream lingered in his mind, as it had done every night for as long as he could remember. Perhaps it was a memory. He wouldn’t know. He knew nothing of his former life, before the Boss had taken him and trained him to make him an elite soldier. His first memory was only months old. What had come before that was a blank, but the occasional terrible pain in his heart made him wish it would remain that way.
She had begun to say a name, but the word was lost. He was glad. He knew, from the few flashes of memory he had that his life before had been full of pain. Heartache, that would have been familiar to him then, as well as the bodily aches he now experienced. Angelo had not seen much of life, or rather he had, but could not remember it, but he had come to the conclusion that life was another word for pain, and he didn’t want to remember more pain if that was true. The wall of his amnesia was protection from what lay in his subconscious. Perhaps he had known a girl who really was that beautiful, he would never be sure because he would never remember. He refused to remember.
Tossing aside the blanket, knowing he would sleep no more that night, Angelo reached down the side of the bed and found his book. With cold hands, he turned on the light and opened the novel to the last page he had read.
The sprawl of Thornfield filled his mind and made him forget the dream, as he had forgotten so many other things. He pushed thoughts of the morning, the night before and even the sounds of the city beneath him out of his mind. He let the cold of the English weather in any season seep into him and let go of everything but the world of Charlotte Bronte and her England. With tremulous haste, he read as Mr Rochester courted the lovely Miss Ingram and felt Jane Eyre’s jealousy pump through his own veins. He pushed away the world surrounding him, making a bubble large enough to encompass both Jane, Charlotte and himself, and did not feel the tug of pain there, nor the warm light of dawn as the sun rose high over the sky scrapers.
To this lonely individual, for lonely he was though he might not ever admit to it, few pleasures existed, and this alone untainted. He needed no human companionship, wanted none, and like the recluse Rochester was to become, he locked himself away from the world, half crippled and blind to its beauties and its pleasures equally. He was, as yet, without a Jane to rescue him but perhaps it was just a matter of time…
Chapter 11No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:42 PM |
Isabella Marie Black was furious. She had spent the night in the cells of Salem police headquarters because they wanted to ‘keep her safe from Dimera’s henchmen’, as if she could not look after herself. She had done what no one else, except her father, had dared to do and confronted Stefano in his mansion. She had won from him the truth that JT was neither her father’s child, nor her half brother, but Bo Brady’s son. She had shot the Phoenix himself. All in the name of love. What she had done to deserve the treatment she had had at Abe Carver’s hands, she could not imagine. The fact that she kept going back just showed she was determined.
Moodily, she kicked at the bars, arms crossed, face twisted into a most unladylike scowl.
John Black stared at his daughter, memorising the image of her face that had so long been denied to him. After his first night back in Salem, when he had been slightly drunk from the effects of the six whiskies he had drunk when he had found out that his baby girl had taken the limousine straight from the airport to Dimera’s lair and turned a gun on the most feared man in Salem, he had begun to resume control of his life. The clone of him that had operated for more than two years, taking over his life and systematically destroying everything that had meant something to him, was being deprogrammed and destroyed by Belle’s school friend Kevin even as he watched his little girl pout. Marlena, that goddess of psychiatry and sex kitten extraordinaire, had been talking about therapy for him after all of his terrible experiences, but John Black knew the best kind of therapy would be making his darling daughter happy again, and if it took him a lifetime, he would do it.
"Daddy, when can I go home?" Belle kept kicking the bars, and John felt pity for her. She had done what no one had expected her to do that first time, done better than they could have known she was capable of - though perhaps they should have guessed after the fifth time she had broken into Stefano’s and started searching the secret rooms for any sign of Shawn - and because of the possibility that Dimera, the mysterious European woman who had mysteriously disappeared or even his hench-doctor Rolf could come after her, she had to be locked away like a common criminal. The fact that Joey ‘Call me Spanner Joe’ Corleone was in the next cell did not help. "I’m sick of this damn place."
"Belle!" Father John barked, "language! You know you’re only in here for your own protection. I want you safe, and I know you’re safe while you’re here."
"Sorry Dad," Belle hung her head briefly then looked up sharply. "Where are Dimera’s headquarters other than in Salem, Daddy darling?"
"Belle," John sighed, and rested one mighty arm against the bars of her cell. "I just can’t tell you that. If I did, the next thing would be that you would be gallivanting off to Maison Blanche, New Orleans, New York and the mansion house in Paris, and that’s a fact."
Belle didn’t blink an eye, but she could hear Spanner Joe stifling a laugh near her. "Are you sure, Dad? I promise not to do anything dangerous." On a man other than her father, she would have used a seductive tone, but to him she sounded like the little girl she had been years before, all innocence and sweetness. He didn’t realise he’d just told her exactly what she wanted to know.
"Isabella," John said sternly, "I want you to promise me and your mother that you won’t do anything like storming Stefano’s Salem mansion again. It’s the third time this month, Belle. Will you do that for me, Belle?"
"I promise not to storm Stefano’s Salem mansion again, Dad," Belle swore faithfully, but with a twinkle in her eye.
"Good girl. I’ll see if I can find you some dinner," with a final glare to Spanner Joe, John walked out of the jail and into the Salem police station, one eyebrow dangerously hiked. "This damn police station had better have something more than doughnuts and twinkies for my little girl, and that’s a fact."
"Is he gone?" Spanner Joe jerked his head towards the closed door with an amused look on his face.
"For now," Belle put her hand to her head and withdrew a couple of hair grips.
"What are you doing, girl?" Spanner Joe couldn’t believe that she was trying the oldest trick in the book to get out of jail - picking the lock with a hair grip. "That only works in the movies."
"What?" Belle glanced down at the three hair grips in her hand. "Oh, I’m not going to pick the lock with these." She grinned wickedly, "That’s what the wire is for."
Out of the twisted hairstyle, she withdrew a stiff piece of copper wire and showed it proudly to her companion.
"My friend taught me how to do this right after he came back from boarding school from hell," she explained, fiddling with the wire until she heard the lock click, and then slowly pushing the door open. "He says just be careful that you never show the wire afterwards, or they work out where you’ve been."
"Hey," Spanner Joe thrust a mighty arm through the bars, tattooed and heavily muscled. "Can you get me out too?"
"What are you in for?" Belle was in too much of a hurry to deal with him. Any minute now her father would be back, and then this jail break would break her right back to her room. She’d be grounded for a month, and she couldn’t live without Shawn for that long.
Spanner Joe blushed, and suddenly looked embarrassed. "Indecent exposure."
"You flashed someone?" Belle took the man’s figure in once again, reassessing the strong and very prominent muscles, the slight beer belly, the grey moustache, heavy featured face and sparkling eyes in the light of this new information.
"Nah," he responded even more coyly. "It’s my tattoo you see. Officer Brady said it wasn’t to be shown in public, and that a night in the cells would teach me a lesson."
The big man looked both friendly and rather bashful.
Belle eyed him critically. "Can I see it?"
"I don’t know if it’s suitable for such young eyes," Spanner Joe looked even more bashful than before, but Belle was intrigued and in a bad mood as she had been unable to find even one of Shawn’s brown hairs at the Dimera mansion.
"Show it to me or I leave you there to rot," Belle threatened, and he took the blonde girl seriously. He had found that to mess with any woman was dangerous, but blue eyed blondes who looked like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths were the worst.
Raising the sleeve of his flannel shirt, he flexed his muscles.
"Oh my," murmured Belle, awed, "I didn’t know anyone could do that."
Quickly she picked the lock of his cell door, and together they escaped Salem Police station, past the dimmest cops in the world, and out into the improbably light night of Salem.
Angelo Salvatore stared at the morning clouds over New York, feeling the warmth of the world of the novel leave him.
He was still alone, but he was getting used to that. It was time to go to work, and no faint feeling of loneliness was damn well going to stop him from doing his job.
He ate breakfast swiftly, not bothering with flavour or texture, just desiring the essential vitamins and metabolic substrates that would keep him alive until he could eat again. He drank no coffee, finding that it did not heighten his perceptions, and only made him jittery if he drank too much. Instead, he drank three glasses of water, dressed, and walked swiftly out of his hotel room, down the stairs three at a time, and into the busy New York street below.
The doorman offered to call him a cab, but Angelo ignored him and headed for the subway. He preferred the anonymity of riding the system to the hot interior of New York yellow taxi cabs. Later he would take the limousine his Boss supplied him with from his destination to the Empire State Building, but for now he took the slight pleasure of unnerving everyone else in his carriage with his blank stare.
He changed trains twice, and walked from the last half mile into the more gentrified residential area of Manhattan island to an exclusive apartment building. He did not bother with the doorman who watched him with passive interest, but charged up the grey stone steps into the red brick building and up in the antique elevator to the ninth floor. Somehow, it all felt a little familiar to him. He wondered if this was a clue to his past, and then prayed it was not.
He rang the doorbell of apartment 17a, and waited patiently for the door to swing open.
"Yes? May I help you?" The woman was older than he had expected, a grey haired housekeeper in a blue floral print dress and pink frilly apron.
Without the slightest doubt in his mind to whether this was the right place, Angelo smiled, "I’m looking for the mistress of the house. Is she at home?"
"If you’re selling something, we’re not interested," the woman moved to close the door, but he caught it easily, pushing it back with one strong hand.
"I’m not selling anything. I just want to see Mlle le Vicomtesse de la Fere." The smile that Angelo had begun on was sticking to his face, but it showed no warmth or politeness, it had become like that of a predator with its prey in sight.
There was a sudden movement as the woman slammed her hand upwards with surprising speed and agility, but even faster Angelo caught the hand headed for the vulnerable spot between him diaphragm and rib cage and twisted her arm neatly behind her back.
"I don’t want to hurt you," he said in that same pleasant voice. "but I really do need to see your mistress. Now."
"I do wish you’d drop poor Arabella’s arm," the accent was as well modulated and as good an example of an expensive private school education’s effect as Simone’s, but the tone was colder, more indifferent, and Angelo took an instant dislike to the girl who had spoken.
Twisting neatly around so that he retained his grip on Arabella, he saw the woman he had come for, beautiful and slender as her mother, but with a terrible coldness in her eyes that he recognised as being like his Boss’s.
"Mlle le Vicomtesse, I presume?" He asked coolly, and carefully making sure he did not lose his hold on Arabella. "I want to talk to you about your mother."
She did not react to his words but nodded towards his hostage, "I’ll talk to you once you let my bodyguard go and tell me who you are." He did so. She walked further into the light apartment and he noted long legs, high cheekbones, a mass of blonde hair and wide red lips. "Really, I am quite surprised you managed that. Usually Arabella can deal with anyone."
Angelo took the compliment as it was intended, as a half insult, but shrugged it off quickly. He had no room for antagonism when he would know this girl for the few brief hours it would take him to complete his assignment. "I have come to take you to your mother."
She lit a cigarette, and waved it in the air theatrically. "That tramp? Why would I want to see her?"
Angelo liked the girl no more for her remarks, but it was not his place to like or dislike her as he chose. He was merely to take the girl to her mother. "Because she’s rich, and your father won’t support you once he finds out what you did with the money he gave you for clothes last month."
The girl, who had been so cool and casual, choked on her cigarette smoke. "You know about Houston?"
"And the times in Texas, Las Vegas and where was it?" Angelo pretended to search his memory, "Oh yes, Wyoming."
"Oh, God," le Vicomtesse sank into an expensive looking white chair. "Wyoming too?"
"Now," Angelo placed his hands on the back of another chair. "Are you coming with me to meet your mother?"
"What if I say no?" she attempted to look defiant, but Angelo could see the intense fear in her eyes.
"Then I tell a few select people about your extra-curricular activities, and show them the photos of just what you were doing when your father believed you to be in finishing school in Switzerland." It wasn’t a threat. It wasn’t a promise. It was a prophecy. He pulled an envelope out from an interior coat pocket. "You may see them if you do not believe me."
She shook her lovely head. She believed him only too well. Her father must not discover what had happened in those places, Wyoming especially.
A sudden thought crossed his mind. "You are aware of your mother’s identity?"
"Of course. You cannot imagine that I am some unfortunate without birth, rank or fortune." The Vicomtesse threw back her head in a gesture that, if her mother had performed it, would have been regal, as she did it, it seemed merely conceited. "I shall come."
"You have no choice," Arabella murmured just loud enough for Angelo to hear and feel a flash of companionship with the older woman that was quickly suppressed. If he could not feel antagonism he equally could not feel liking. Neither emotion was appropriate.
"Now." Angelo held out his hand to the Vicomtesse, not as a friendly gesture but with the intention of gripping her too tightly for her to escape before he manoeuvred her into the waiting limousine.
"I’m not dressed!" She looked down at her white silk robe and matching slippers with gold brocade.
"We are to buy your clothes on the way. Your mother will pay." Angelo did not even smile at the shocked expression on the Vicomtesse’s face, though it was amusing.
He took her in the limousine with its dark tinted windows to the most prestigious fashionable clothing store he could find quickly in New York. Black’s, the name that would give him a start every time he heard it, carefully covered naturally, was expensive, but it was the best. Even the Vicomtesse was somewhat pacified by being allowed to chose an outfit of stunning beauty and price from the reams of clothes within the store.
Angelo could not believe that any woman could take so long to chose a simple set of clothes. They had arrived just as Black’s had opened, at half past eight, and it was now two o’clock and she had yet to find an outfit that she deemed sufficiently beautiful, special and above all expensive. Worn out from watching the girl shop, Angelo took her gently by the arm and stared her full in the face with the most frighteningly intent look she had ever seen on his face.
"Chose now," he told her softly, and for once the spoilt society princess obeyed.
She was dressed in a green silk dress, a little too slight for the weather, and bought matching everything to go with it. Emeralds hung around her shapely neck, upon her wrists bracelets sparkled and on her fingers, rings caught the light and threw it back in a thousand different shades.
Angelo felt distaste for her. She was showy, not the elegant creature her mother was.
"We leave now," he announced, paying with the credit card his Boss had given to him for such eventualities and striding out of the store, unaware of the fascinated gazes that the shop girls all fixed upon him. More aware of her own charms, slighter though they were, the Vicomtesse trailed after him, feeling regal in her new outfit.
They ate an elegant if light lunch at one of New York’s more exclusive restaurants, the Vicomtesse chattering happily as Angelo tried to block out the sound of her voice, and at four fifty nine precisely they were rising in one of the elevators to the top of the Empire State Building.
Stepping out, Angelo thought he remembered a film set at the top of this mighty building, all about misunderstandings and accidents. It had featured Cary Grant.
Filing the memory away for his later attention, Angelo turned to stare across to the horizon. The sunlight around them was still bright, and Angelo could see across miles of that great city, but he could feel the Vicomtesse twitch nervously at his side.
"Hold still, Vicomtesse," he whispered to her. "It will not be long now."
"Where is she?" The girl patted her blonde hair back into place. "If I must meet my wretched mother, who, may I add, abandoned me at birth, she could at least be punctual."
Angelo caught sight of the beautiful Lady Hamilton and walked swiftly towards her, half dragging the Vicomtesse after him in his impatience to be rid of her.
He bowed a little to the girl’s exquisite mother, "Your ladyship, may I present your daughter, Mlle le Vicomtesse de la Fere. Mlle Vicomtesse, your mother, Lady Sarah Hamilton."
"Mother?" For once, the Vicomtesse looked unnerved, neither coolly disconnected nor fashionably bored.
"Yes, my darling," Lady Sarah’s cold heart was melted at the sight of her beautiful, if slightly over dressed, child. Stepping towards her, she hugged her gently to her breast, tears standing in her lovely eyes, and her daughter’s tears spilling onto her own cream suit.
Angelo waited for the touching reunion to come to a satisfactory pause, then coughed politely, drawing the woman’s attention away from her child.
Lady Hamilton lifted her head and stared straight into his chocolate brown eyes, as if to pour the ebullient warmth from her own heart into his. "Darling boy, you have done for me a favour that I will never be able to repay in full. You told me, though, that you had a price for this. What is it?"
"I want an introduction to Babe Corleone." The air around him seemed to freeze as he spoke the name feared and dreaded by so many.
Lady Sarah looked first shocked and then distraught, her elegant features moulding themselves into an unusual expression of fear. "I can not give it to you, dear boy. It is not in my power to introduce anyone to Babe Corleone, though I wish I could."
He took one stride forwards, and spoke, his voice low and intent, "You promised, Lady Hamilton, anything I asked you would grant me for your child. You cannot refuse me."
"I cannot do otherwise," Lady Sarah was openly crying now, and they were beginning to attract attention from the milling crowds of tourists that surrounded them. "I am sorry, Angelo, but I can’t do it."
"Lady Sarah," Angelo sounded dangerous, more dangerous than Lady Hamilton had heard anyone sound since she had said goodbye to her lover, the Vicomtesse’s father, the Comte de la Fere. She forced herself not to quiver with the fear he inspired in her. "If you cannot fulfil your promise, you will have double crossed me."
She shook as she looked into his eyes, but her voice remained steady. "Do not take my child away from me, I beg of you. Anything but that."
Angelo cast a scornful glance at the quivering Vicomtesse, who was now, far from being the bold, brash being of before, hiding herself behind her mother. "Why would I want her? No, Lady Sarah, you have double crossed me and you will pay, but your child is yours now. I will not betray you as you have done me. I am not a faithless traitor." He spoke with more vehemence than he intended, something he could not remember was making him bitter, and he spat the words at Lady Sarah furiously. She flinched, but he did not back away. He would have to explain this to the Boss. He did not savour the thought of that interview. A dim remembrance of pain, torment, flickered through his mind, and Angelo Salvatore for a moment became Shawn Douglas Brady, chained to that terrible machine, with pain of two different sorts firing through him. The pain in his body was nothing to the pain in his heart, caused by a faithless woman.
"That’s two first class tickets on We Fly Anyone Anywhere Anytime Airlines," the receptionist repeated. "You’re boarding at Gate 13 at 21:03. Have a nice flight."
"Thank you," Belle flashed her a charming smile and took Spanner Joe by the arm. "Come on, Joe," she said. "I’ll buy you a drink and we can talk about what we’re going to do in New Orleans."
"OK, Miss Belle," Joe smiled down at the ‘little lady’ as he thought of her now, though he knew that she was capable of more than any ‘little lady’ he had ever met.
"Isabella!" She turned instinctively to the familiar voice, but Belle’s tiny frame shook in revulsion. "Isabella!" Henry repeated, coming closer to her. "My darling, you really shouldn’t run off like that."
"Henry," Belle growled furiously. "Leave me alone!"
"But Isabella, you know that we had dinner plans for tonight. Just you and I," Henry smiled sickeningly, "at the Blue Note. I even ordered your favourite flowers for the table."
"Miss Belle," Spanner Joe looked down at Belle with concern in his kind old eyes. In a few short hours she had won his heart, and with it, his muscles. "Is this person bothering you?"
"Yes, Joe," Belle looked up gratefully, suddenly aware that though a restraining order can do wonders, a really big guy with tattoos, an earring and biker boots can do even more. "Would you ask him to go away please?"
"Sure thing, Miss Belle," Spanner Joe was tougher than he looked, and that was so damn tough that a young Marlon Brando would have had second thoughts about taking him on. "Now you listen here, punk!" He picked Henry up by his collar, and stared into his face. "Miss Belle doesn’t want you around, so you’re going to leave and you ain’t gonna bother her no more, you hear?"
In fear, desperation, and a lingering taste for life, Henry nodded and felt the big man put him down.
"That’s good," Spanner Joe dusted Henry’s coat off and linked his arm back through Belle’s. "Now you have a nice day."
Together they walked off, and Henry was left with a feeling that, just perhaps, Belle wanted a little time to herself.
"Joe," Belle kissed him tenderly on the cheek. "That was wonderful."
The big man blushed, and said, "We’d better hurry up, Miss Belle, or we’ll be late for our plane."
Belle smiled, a real, happy smile, the first she had smiled in what felt like years. "Yes, New Orleans, here we come!"
"Angelo," Lady Sarah took his hand in hers, not noticing the blink that banished Shawn Douglas Brady to his unconscious and reinstated Angelo Salvatore as the dominant personality. "Please, I will do anything. I will give you money, information, stocks, anything."
He shook her away easily. "It’s too late for that, Lady Hamilton." The coldness in his eyes intensified, and he finally felt heat, but not the warmth of compassion and love, it was the red hot fire of anger. "You will have to pay for this. You can’t have something for nothing."
He bowed to her, colder than ever, clicked his heels together, and added, "Lady Sarah, goodbye. Take care of your daughter. No, don’t look like that. We will do nothing to harm her." He glanced at the blonde girl with distaste and contempt clear in his expression. "She manages perfectly well by herself. Goodbye, Mlle le Vicomtesse de la Fere."
"My friends have another name for me," she simpered, falling under the spell of those beautiful eyes.
"I know." The brown eyes fixed on her remained cold and he turned away, striding back across to the elevators and considering his Boss’s reaction to this unexpected news. "Goodbye, Ivy."
Chapter 12No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:42 PM |
Shawn Douglas Brady, brainwashed to believe himself to be and act as Angelo Salvatore, the most eligible and handsome bachelor in the upper echelons of New York society, crawled through the claustrophobically small air vent on his hands and knees, feeling the metal scrape the skin off of his legs and palms as he did so. He bit back a swearword, knowing the slightest sound could compromise his position. The sounds of human beings drinking, gambling, dancing, and, he suspected, whoring, came clearly up from below.
He swung his entire body left in one easy movement, and threw himself against the grating at the end. He looked down into a brightly lit, well furnished office with chrome fittings and black leather chairs. ‘Typical modernist junk that won’t outlast the year,’ he thought rather bitterly, remembering the Spartan appearance of his own base.
The room was empty of people, so Angelo started unscrewing the grate in front of him, calculating both the size and the security aspects of the room. It was large, roomy and very badly guarded. It was also unfrequented at a quarter past three a.m., the time he was visiting it. With the only the slightest hint of a grin on his very handsome face, he dropped silently into the room and waited for an alarm bell to sound. When it didn’t, he reached up for his briefcase and slipped from the room, running along the corridor, with its grey carpet and soft cream wallpaper, into the safe room.
He snapped on the light, and glanced around him. The room itself was small, a mere cupboard to the palatial rooms downstairs, but it was important. The low cost décor was merely to make it look like an unused office, but it was far more than that. This was where the jewels that the officials gave to their favourite girls were kept, and the jewels were what had brought Angelo here. He hungered for money with a surprisingly rapacious appetite, for with them he might be able to buy his freedom and go into his business for himself. He had always - though it was the always of the months he remembered - to go to sea, and a sufficiently large cache of rare stones would win him away not only from the Boss but also from New York.
The smile on his lips, as he moved the Picasso painting from its place on the wall and flicked the switch that it had hidden, was just slightly devilish, and if someone else had been watching him, they would have said he appeared like a mischievous small boy. Angelo had yet to realise how young he appeared to all those who did not see that fathomless coldness in his eyes or hear the biting sarcasm in her voice.
The second panel on the other side of the room, covered by the picture of the Tahitian flower girl in red, slid back exposing the safe. With a ‘Samson safe cracker - no where is safe with us’, he spun the combination and heard the click that told him the door would now swing open safely. Perhaps he was being over cautious, but before he opened it, he stepped behind the door, making sure that, when it flew across the room, none of the trick paint would splatter him.
Fingering the diamonds, rubies, emerald and sapphires as he loaded them into his briefcase and closed it with a snap. Replacing the paintings, he felt a different smile stretch his lips, one of artistic appreciation.
"The lady in red," he murmured, and started valuing the picture at current auction prices.
He stopped abruptly at the sound of the cry. The scream that rent the air as he replaced the picture made his blood run colder. His head snapped around and in an instant he was behind the door, light switched off and briefcase firmly held under one arm. Screams like that meant only one thing: trouble, and lots of it.
He wanted to simply slip down the corridor again, leave them to whatever the hell it was they were doing, but something in him refused to let him do so. The chevalier of olden times that dwelt in his heart dug his heels in and yanked on the reins of Angelo’s will power.
Not even daring to curse silently, Angelo Salvatore went to earn his name.
"Miss Belle, my feet hurt," Spanner Joe complained plaintively, trailing after the petite blonde with a mission, hours before Angelo left his apartment for his night’s work.
"Spanner," Belle called over her shoulder without slowing down, "it’s only another four blocks and then we’ll be able to rest at the hotel. I promise, we can take a cab back."
Cursing in Italian under his breath, Spanner Joe followed her to the fifteenth white mansion they had visited that day. None of them had been the Maison Blanche, and his shoulders, legs, ankles and knees were all protesting at the unjust treatment.
Belle knocked at the door with what Joe had already termed her ‘let me in or there’ll be trouble’ face on. He hoped they would let her in, and quickly. His boots were still wet from the blood that had gushed the last snooty butler’s nose.
The door swung open slowly, the hinges creaking slightly, and an old man in blue overalls was revealed.
"Can I help you?" He asked in a quavering voice, evidently surprised by the appearance of this tiny blonde and her enormous bodyguard. He thought he recognised her as Miss Kirsten Storms, that famous New York socialite and gave her a little bow. "I beg your pardon, Miss Storms, I didn’t recognise you at first. I’m afraid Mr Dimera isn’t here right now, but Ms Dimera is."
With a triumphant smile, Belle walked into the mansion with Spanner Joe walking slowly behind her.
"Through here please, Miss Storms," the man in overalls conducted them through to a half painted sitting room, complete with pictures under sheets and an oriental rug rolled up against one wall. "Ms Dimera will be along immediately. Forgive the mess, please, we were just redecorating."
Belle nodded and smiled, and Spanner Joe gazed around him in open amazement. "These are some nice digs, Miss Belle!"
"Call me Miss Storms for as long as we’re here, Joe," Belle answered, flashing a smile. "He said Ms Dimera was here. I wonder which Dimera he meant? I thought Lexie was still in Salem."
"Hello, Miss Storms," the voice came from behind them, and they both turned to see a tall, beautiful blonde woman standing in the doorway. There was a quick intake of breath.
The blonde woman started forwards. "Isabella?"
Belle gasped, "Mom?"
Angelo slipped the pick into the lock, and twisted gently. From inside the room he could hear the sounds of someone being hit, and biting back their cries. The ice packed around his heart shivered with each blow, and a little compassion leaked out. He squashed it down into the back of his mind, but it stayed there, waiting, not to be dismissed so easily as Angelo had dismissed all of his other feelings.
He had to stop himself humming as he jimmied the lock open and crept inside the darkened room, the plush carpet sinking beneath his feet.
"Tell us where it is," a man’s voice barked, and Angelo felt the bile rise in his throat.
He could see the person being hit now, and it was a girl as young as she was beautiful, and she was very young and very beautiful. Blonde, wind ruffled hair spread in a halo around an angel’s face. He recognised her at once, Miss Kirsten Storms, the woman who had once thrown a coffee pot at his head.
With a calculating gaze, Angelo took in the contents of the room. It was almost bare, except for the chair she was strapped too, and the lamp hanging above her head, but it looked to be richly furnished usually. The walls were a dull grey, the carpet beneath their feet likewise, meant to be undistinguished, but the carpet was deep pile and there were chrome fittings. Angelo realised the room had been stripped bare so the girl could be held here in safety, and wondered that the lock had been so cheap. Then he remembered the security outside the building was so tough that they expected no one to get in.
Well he had, and if they thought he was going to leave that poor girl to her fate, they had another thing coming. He assessed the situation, noting only two men, the one who was hitting her every time she refused to answer the question and the other who asked the questions. The first was a tall, thick set man with black hair and a cruelly shaped mouth, too hard lines of red, dressed in an expensive looking Italian suit. The second was shorter, thinner, with iron grey hair and glasses. His suit also looked Italian, tailor made with it, and his mouth wasn’t cruel. His eyes were though. Angelo could see from ten feet away that, though they were fixed on the girl in front of him, the man’s eyes were small and cold, like grey marbles.
Suppressing a shudder, Angelo slipped forwards, knowing they hadn’t seen his stealthy entrance and pressed a finger to his lips as the girl’s attention became fixed on him. Her eyes were already wide with fear, and now they widened still further with shock. ‘Of all the places,’ she seemed to be saying, ‘I expected to see you next, here was not even on the list.’
"Where is it?" the second man repeated, and when Kirsten simply lifted her chin a little higher and spat into his face, the first man hit her hard across the cheek and she reeled backwards.
Something in Angelo snapped, something he didn’t even know existed, but it set off a chain reaction both in him and events that he had never foreseen came into the realms or probability as he reacted.
In a single bound he had his hands around the neck of the second man and he was squeezing at a pressure point. The man fell to the floor with a dull thud, and the first man, recovering from his shock, charged forwards like an ugly bull.
Angelo quickly side stepped out of the way, bringing his doubled fists down onto the back of the man’s neck and his knee into his groin. Another dull thud sounded as the man hit the floor. Kneeling beside him, Angelo whipped out a long cord he had brought with him, and quickly tied him up. Then he hit him hard twice, first to knock him out and then to break his jaw so he wouldn’t be able to call out for help when he woke up. He tied the second man up too, but didn’t to hit him again. He needed to get Kirsten out and fast.
"Kirsten?" he grabbed her bruised chin, and then, more gently, turned her terrified face towards his own. "I am going to get you out of here, but you need to do exactly what I say."
Unable to speak, she nodded.
"First," he went on as coolly as if they were talking about a picnic in the park, "I’m going to cut you loose. Then you’re going to follow me down the hall into another room. Silently. I’ll tell you what to do next when we get there, OK?"
Angelo busied himself with his Swiss army knife, cutting the ropes that bound her and wondering how the hell he had got himself into this.
"Come on," unthinkingly he took her by the hand, and slowly she stood up. She staggered then, and he caught her as she fell, hoisting her up across his shoulder before she could protest into a fireman’s lift. Then he ran like every demon in hell was at his heels, forgetting caution in favour of speed.
She looked terrible. Her skin was bruised black and blue, her lips were chapped and dry, her hair was rumpled and her clothes were torn. She looked, in fact, the complete reverse of her usual primped and preened immaculate self.
When he put her down again, leaning her gently against the wall in the room he had first lowered himself into, he realised she had fainted.
"Salvatore, what the hell are you doing with her?"
Another man would have started, or looked slightly surprised at least to see Harry walk out of the shadows, but Angelo took it in his stride.
"Rescuing her," he said with the shadow of a grin on his handsome face. "What the hell are you doing here?" he echoed.
"Following you," Harry was the more surprised of the pair. He had not expected this. Actually, he couldn’t say what he had expected, but it certainly wasn’t an unconscious Kirsten and a wicked grin.
"Why?" Angelo’s smile vanished instantly. He needed to know how much Harry had seen. "No, tell me later," he said as Harry began what Angelo realised was going to be a long explanation. "We need to get her out of here."
Harry, overwhelmed and confused, simply nodded and watched as Angelo swung himself easily up into the vent shaft, handing Kirsten up to him as soon as he was ready for her and tossing the briefcase in before he too followed.
Between them, they managed to manoeuvre her through the shaft and out onto the roof. From there, Angelo pushed Harry into the harness, and sent him skidding erratically along the drop line into the enormous apple tree that grew fifty feet away. Then, he strapped Kirsten in and hung on for dear life as they both went flying to join Harry. She would never remember the trip that brought the shots of the guards whistling around their ears, but he would forever, especially in the middle of the night when he slept in his cold lonely bed.
Shimmying down the tree with Kirsten over one shoulder and the briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, Angelo glanced around to check for more guards, and then whispered, "Run for it!" to Harry, who needed no encouragement.
The three of them moved through the trees, and Kirsten woke with staring at Angelo’s back side. Confused though not completely unwilling to maintain her position, she cried, "What the hell is going on?" before being silenced by a slap on the rear from Harry as Angelo had his hands full already.
"Shut up!" he whispered fiercely in a tone that sent ripples of excitement down Kirsten’s back. "You’re being rescued, so unless you want to go back there, be quiet!"
After what seemed an hour of staring at Angelo’s posterior and being jiggled around, Kirsten was lain down on the cold ground of Central Park at night and felt Angelo force a bottle between her teeth. Drinking gratefully before she realised what it was, she downed the whisky and spluttered at the burn.
"What the hell is going on?" She repeated once the stinging sensation had ceased. "Who are you really? Where am I?" Then as an afterthought she said, "Thank you for rescuing me."
"You’re welcome," Harry grinned at her. Angelo just looked moodily down at his briefcase, wondering at the night’s events with stoic calm.
"To answer your questions," he said, having caught his breath, "I found you in a room at the Belgravia Mansion being beaten up by a thug and a man who seemed to think you knew something. I’m Angelo Salvatore, I think. You know Harry."
"I know you," she broke in. "I just couldn’t believe it was really the same guy as caught the coffee pot I threw at him and downed the lot in one go."
A flicker of a smile crossed Angelo’s lips, but he went on as cold and precise as before. "You’re in Central Park, but not for long." He took the flask from Harry who had just imbibed half the contents and sipped from it slowly. "We need to get you back to my apartment. Can you walk?"
The beaten girl stood up slowly, "I think so."
"Good," Angelo turned to Harry. "Call a cab. Get in it and go home. Tonight never happened. You never saw any of this and as far as you know, Miss Storms is in bed right now. OK?"
"Nope," Harry said blithely. "You’re forgetting something."
"What?" Angelo was tired, and his mood was worsening by the moment, but his usual sangfroid didn’t slip.
"I know what’s in that briefcase," he grinned.
"No, you don’t." Angelo took another sip of whisky.
"Yes, I do," Harry argued. "It’s jewels and I know to whom they belong."
Too tired to argue, Angelo gave in. "Come on. Call a cab. Miss Storms, I’m sure," his good manners flooded back over them like a warm blanket, "would like to get warm and change her clothes I believe. I also have a rather nice dinner waiting at my apartment she may like to eat."
"A turkey sandwich?" she asked, grasping onto this one strand of sanity in an insane world.
Angelo nodded. "With lettuce and mayonnaise, but no tomato."
Kirsten sighed, content. If he was offering her turkey sandwiches, with lettuce and mayonnaise but no tomato, at this moment she would follow him to the ends of the earth.
She was too tired to fully appreciate the feel of his gentle, strong arms around her as he carried her into the cab, her head resting against his shoulder and Harry carrying her shoes for her, but she felt peace there a wonder relief to her after the last few terrible hours of her life.
Back in Angelo’s Spartan New York apartment, Harry watched with unmatched interest as the girl he had spent years flirting with over elegantly made delicacies ploughed her way through the thickest sandwich he had ever seen, with a bowl of French fries on the side. When she was done, she fastidiously wiped her fingers clean with a paper napkin and handed an amused Angelo the empty plate. "Thank you," she said politely, reaching for a proffered red apple.
"Now I have a question of my own: what did those men want you to tell them?" Angelo’s eyes were less cold than usual, a hint of compassion sparked in their brown depths, but his voice was as coolly controlled as ever.
"Where a painting is," she replied, just as coolly, between ravenous bites of her apple.
"What painting?" Harry sat next to the blonde and took her in slowly. She had an ice pack clamped to her face, bandages on her arms and torso, and a split lip. She looked like she had been through hell, but here she was, calmly, if hungrily, munching an apple, and keeping both men guessing.
"Just a painting," she had finished her apple now and was gazing longingly at the freezer.
"Ice cream?" Angelo asked, reading her mind. She nodded, still hungry. "You can have some if you tell me what painting and where."
She stared at him for a minute, calculating the chance of getting ice cream without telling him anything against the chance of getting hurt if she told him which painting and where. She decided quickly. "It’s a Rembrandt. One of his lesser known pieces. ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’. Now gimme."
He knew the picture. He had thought it was in St. Petersburg, that was where he’d last seen it.
Angelo took the ice cream out of the freezer and picked up a large silver spoon from the side. She could read the flavour: Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, her favourite. "Where is it?"
They had beaten her black and blue, tortured her with metal strips and kept her without food or drink all day long. Through out it all, she stayed strong. If they had only known, they could have touched her on her weak spot and she would have told them everything. Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream was Kirsten’s greatest weakness, and without a second thought she answered all of Angelo’s questions.
"It’s in the International National Dancers Building." His eyebrow flickered, so she went on, rather more quickly as he moved the ice cream closer to her. "Where the dancers from every country in the UN stay while the UN is in session in New York."
The eyebrow flickered again.
Kirsten sighed. It was typical of men not to know anything about dancers, whereas if they had been sport stars he could have told her everything from their best ever performance to their shoe size. "They all like having their dancing girls in New York so they can compare them to the girls in the Roxy. Each country has a girl who can do their national dance, and they all stay together at this building." She took another napkin and searched for a pen before scribbling down a street number. "That’s what it’s supposed to be about anyway, but it’s basically run by the Corleone family, and the fact that they have the Rembrandt is really pi-" Kirsten stopped short and then corrected herself, "making the Fettuccini family mad. They want it badly."
Angelo spooned more ice cream into her bowl, and she ate it ravenously. "Why?"
"It’s not the picture they want," she confided, "it’s the frame. In code under the gold leaf, there’s the safe number for Old Joe’s fortune. The Corleone family, well, Babe actually, knows what the number is but can’t get at the safe, and the Fettuccini family can get at the safe, but don’t know the number and can’t crack it on account of Old Joe rigging it to explode if they use any number but the right one straight off, within a time limit. Do you have any apple pie?"
Angelo shook his head and she looked disappointed.
Though unwilling to leave them just when things were getting interesting, Harry leapt up before Angelo could stop him and ran outside to buy a pie from the all night baker’s across the street, hoping his act of generosity and kindness would be looked on with favour by the beautiful Miss Storms. When she saw he brought vanilla ice cream too, she smiled sweetly at him and set about devouring the pie.
"You know Babe Corleone?" For the first time, there was feeling in Angelo’s voice, hope in fact.
"I should do," Kirsten replied between mouthfuls. "We are related."
Angelo looked like he had just been told that he was the recipient of a million dollar jackpot prize. "Can you introduce me?"
"Sure, why not?" She grinned at him, split lip and all, over her bowl of apple pie and ice cream. "Got any more ice cream?"
With a slight sigh, Harry opened the freezer door to show her the empty shelves inside. "You cleaned him out."
She shrugged, licking her spoon clean through pink, moist lips. Her immediate hunger pangs satisfied, her curiosity was reawakened. "Why do you want to know this stuff?"
Angelo smiled. "Because I’m curious."
She tried to glower at him, but with that megawatt smile turned on, found it impossible.
"No, really, why do you want to know?" Kirsten laid down her spoon, a sure sign she meant business.
"Why are the Fettuccini family so desperate to get their hands on Old Joe’s fortune?" Angelo asked, quickly changing the subject.
Harry answered instead of Kirsten, "Since Natalya K…"
"I know who you mean," Angelo quickly interposed as Harry stuttered out the Russian name, not realising that he knew the woman personally, and that she was searching for her Super Shawn at that very moment.
"Well, since Natalya K’s new wonder drug came out, every addict’s been forced to come off drugs in a hurry, and no one is getting hooked any more, so a major source of income has been lost to them. Unlike the Corleones, they dealt mostly in cocaine, heroin and opium, some speed, acid and ecstasy, but basically anything that will fricassee your brain real fast. The Corleone family never had anything to do with drugs, just bootlegging liquor and a few…" Harry trailed off as he looked at Kirsten’s expression. He was not going to mention the Corleone dance clubs, renowned throughout New York, in front of her. Then he went on, hoping she hadn’t noticed the pause. "…Other things. The Fettuccini family aren’t going to survive if they don’t get some cash and soon. South America is falling to pieces because the drug barons are losing their wealth and can’t pay their thugs anymore. The whole deal’s shot. So they need Old Joe’s money. Without it…"
"They’re geography ," Kirsten replied with a wicked grin and through a mouthful of pie.
"You mean history," Harry corrected her gently.
"I know what I mean," she snapped back. The smile, tinged with a light of mania, returned. "The Fettuccinis are going to be floating slowly down the river in no time."
She gazed around the room, evidently searching for more food, her hunger pains no longer sated. Angelo sighed, and reached into the cupboard for the packet of cereal he had bought two days before when pretending to shop but actually following the bodyguard of the French ambassador as he searched for mangoes. He grimaced at the name: ‘Captain Courage’s Crunchie Crisp Crackle Snaps’. He handed the carton silently over to Kirsten who took it gratefully and began crunching it dry.
"When can we pay a visit to Mrs Corleone?" He asked, re-crossing his arms.
For a moment the crunching stopped. "Can I sleep here?" He shrugged. He’d give up his bed to her and sleep on the floor. "Good," Kirsten announced between mouthfuls, "then we’ll go in the morning."
"I think I’d better sit down," Harry murmured, sinking into a chair. He glanced at Kirsten who was just beginning to practise her flirting techniques on their host and asked quickly, "Can I stay here too?"
Another shrug. He’d have to find more blankets and pillows, but to let Harry or Kirsten go home only an hour after he’d rescued her with him as an accomplice from the Fettuccini stronghold was to risk their safety and his own. Kirsten would be looked for, so would the jewels, and Angelo, in more than his usual calculating style, decided that Harry could not be trusted to keep his mouth shut about either.
"Do you have any tea?" The faintest smile crossed Angelo’s lips as Kirsten sent another searching gaze searing through the room, ducking her head back and forth to see past either side of her host. The girl was insatiable.
"No, only milk, coffee, hot chocolate, or," he paused and watched Kirsten’s eyebrow flicker up with amusement, "Scotch whisky."
"Not Irish?" Harry asked jokingly.
For a moment, Angelo Salvatore was subdued by Shawn Douglas Brady. He said in wonder, "Irish…"
The door of the apartment flew open as a man in a grey Armani suit kicked it in. Angelo took back control of the mind as his skills became vital.
"Get down," he bit out sharply. He did not lower himself, instead calculating how difficult it would be to get past the man they would have posted on the fire escape, down the three men barging into the room and the two he believed would stand in the hallway. He believed the three of them would live as long as there was no sniper posted on the roof of the opposite building.
"Angelo," the first man said confidently, snidely dusting his cuffs, "still living, I see."
Angelo recognised the man’s voice immediately as that of the right hand thug of the Fettuccini family, Nicholas ‘the knife’. He was undoubtedly here to reclaim Kirsten and take revenge on the man who had rescued her. Angelo showed a feral grin. A straight forward revenge raid he could fight.
Silently, he waited for Nicholas to throw a punch, then blocked it, swept a hand under the other man’s defence, ripped the knife out of his foe’s grip and pushed two fingers under his ribs, knocking the wind out of him and sending him reeling backwards. The two henchmen disturbed by their boss’s swift defeat did not attack immediately, and Angelo took advantage of their hesitation by stabbing both in quick barehanded jabs and knocking both unconscious.
Without a word, Angelo signalled to his stunned companions to follow him, turned the knife in his hand and leaned around the window. The unsuspecting guard only knew of Angelo’s presence when the knife blade pricked against his neck.
"Do you want to die?" Angelo’s voice was as calm as it had been when offering drinks to his guests.
The man began to shake his head, then felt the knife scratch him and choked out, "No!"
"Then tell your boss this," Angelo could have been ordering coffee, but the Mediterranean man’s dark face had turned ash grey. "Miss Storms is under my protection now and my employer’s. Hurt her, and I will personally maim ten of your Mob. Kill her," and at last his voice dropped to a chilling whisper, "and there won’t be a soul to remember the night I came after you." He dropped the knife to above the man’s clavicle, "And the name’s Mr. Salvatore."
He banged the man’s head against the wall, knocking the man unconscious.
He let the body drop and moved Kirsten and Harry out onto the fire escape, bringing the precious briefcase with them. He climbed into the darkness first, wary of attack from below, and let himself drop down.
A sniper’s bullet from the opposite roof whistled two millimetres above his head, ruffling his dark hair, and lodging in the wall behind him. Kirsten, her foot hovering inches above where Angelo’s head had been gasped, Harry stifled a cry of fear, and for the first time that night, Angelo Salvatore felt afraid.
Chapter 13No score for this post
|March 16 2003, 8:44 PM |
"Mom?" Belle repeated, shaking golden blonde hair out of her eyes and staring in disbelief at the beautiful woman before her. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Her hostess sighed, and put a hand to her head in a gesture that reminded Belle exactly of her mother.
"Belle, I know who you think I am, but I swear, I’m not your mother." The woman who resembled Marlena so exactly watched as tears started in Belle’s eyes, as the girl believe that her own mother was denying her. "No, Belle, don’t cry."
"I’m not," said Belle furiously, feeling the pain be submerged by the fury.
"Belle, I’m not you mom." The woman repeated more firmly. "I’m your Aunt Samantha."
Belle’s head flew up, and her blue eyes turned as hard as diamonds and as beautiful. "That’s not possible. Mom’s sister died before I was born."
"Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated," Samantha said with a smile. "In Salem, they usually are."
Belle did not return the smile. She was staring at a woman who looked exactly like her mother, but wasn’t. "The butler called you Miss Dimera. You’re not. You’re Miss Evans."
"Hush," Samantha took a step forwards, causing Belle to recoil and Spanner Joe to silently flex his muscles in a threatening way. Samantha sighed and ran a hand through her perfectly coiffured hair. "As far as the household knows, I’m Miss Dimera, the grown up niece of Stefano Dimera."
"Why do they think that?" Samantha was forcibly reminded of her twin sister as Belle’s beautiful blue eyes narrowed and she crinkled her nose.
She sighed. "That’s a long story."
Samantha watched as her niece chose a sofa to sit on and plunked herself down.
"I’m not going anywhere." Belle settled herself down, and signalled to Spanner Joe to relax, not noticing the smitten expression on his face. She knew that her aunt was a beautiful woman, as beautiful as her mother, but she did not realise Joe’s susceptibility to a pretty face.
"Well, it all began when the Salem Strangler stalked the streets all those years ago…"
The second bullet sped past Angelo’s cheek, just missing him by millimetres. He could hear Kirsten murmuring a Hail Mary above him, and the slight whimper that Harry could not hold inside, but ignored both. He was as silent as the grave, though he was hoping desperately that he wouldn’t be in a position to find out exactly how silent it was from the inside anytime soon.
The sniper, he decided, was deliberately missing. No one who had been chosen as an assassin by the Fettuccinis would be such a bad shot. However, that left the question: why miss?
"So you’re telling me that your death was faked?" Belle looked horrified, remembering the pain her mother had expressed at the loss of a twin sister. "It was all a lie?"
"Get down, now!" Angelo barked, putting his feet either side of the ladder and allowing himself to slide down faster than he could run, hitting the next landing with a thud, and reaching up to catch Kirsten as she slipped down the rungs and fell into his arms.
Belle’s Aunt Samantha sighed, "A necessary one. You don’t understand, Belle."
"No, I don’t," Belle’s expression was determined, resembling her father’s trademark scowl, "so explain it to me."
Spanner Joe sighed to himself, and found a comfortable seat. It was going to be a long night, and a very confusing one.
"My hero," Kirsten breathed as Angelo caught her slender body and lowered her to the next level of the fire escape. He did not respond to the words, perhaps did not even hear them, as yet another bullet darted past him and slammed into the wall.
He didn’t even grunt as Harry’s feet hit him in the back and Kirsten’s nails dug into his wrists as he dropped her down.
"Sorry," Harry muttered, as Kirsten gave him a dirty look.
Angelo didn’t reply. He didn’t know if they would make it down alive, let alone uninjured, and a slight pressure on his back wasn’t going to worry him while there were bullets whistling past his skull.
"So you’re telling me that your death was faked as you were part of a secret government agency that was set on destroying the Dimera clan from the inside, and you had to go undercover as Stefano’s long lost niece, the daughter of the sister he lost years ago, and you’ve stayed undercover working to bring him down until now?" Belle’s head was spinning. She glanced over at Spanner Joe, but he had fallen asleep, unable, after all the walking they had done, to stay alert enough to follow the intricacies of Salem relationships.
"Yes," Samantha replied shortly. "I’ve been Miss Dimera for longer than you’ve been alive."
The dizziness wasn’t going away. "But you know you’re really Samantha, my Mom’s twin sister, right?"
"Of course, Stefano’s brain washing techniques aren’t that good!" Samantha gave her niece a bright smile. Then it faded as quickly as it had begun as her gaze shifted from Belle’s face to the long windows looking out onto the garden. "I think you’d better go soon, Belle. My ‘Uncle’ will be back before it gets dark."
She considered this briefly, then crossed her arms and stared hard at her aunt. "I’m not leaving until you tell me where Shawn is."
"Oh dear," Samantha had stood up but quickly sat back down again. "I see you’ve inherited your father’s stubbornness."
"And my mother’s heart," Belle added swiftly. "So, where is he? What have you all done with the love of my life?"
The door behind Belle opened smoothly, and Stefano Dimera, in full Opera dress, strode in with a magnificence few could rival. He took one look at the small blonde girl sitting on his couch, and sighed, not noticing as Samantha slipped out another door or that Spanner Joe jerked awake at his post. "How did you find me this time, Isabella?"
Completely undaunted by the arrival of her family’s arch-nemesis, Belle stood up and stared him down, looking up to his eyes with a gaze of blue steel. "Where is he, Stefi?"
"Please don’t call me that!" Stefano was actually afraid of her. No one in Salem would believe it, but Belle Black of all people was the one Stefano knew would not hesitate to harm him, all because she thought that he knew where her precious Shawn Douglas was. Not that he did. "I don’t know."
Belle twitched a finger at Spanner Joe, and he rose slowly to tower over Stefano. "Are you sure?"
Stefano did not cringe, but only because his self restraint was masterful. He could barely keep the fear from his voice. "I swear on my children’s lives, I don’t know!"
Belle stared at him for long seconds. She believed him. She knew he could lie well enough to convince her parents, but there was no sign of lying in his eyes now. She doubted she could trust him, but she believed him all the same. "Have you seen him since the time when your John clone was revealed?"
"What John clone? I haven’t seen Shawn Douglas for months. I’ve been out of Salem. I hadn’t seen him when you shot me, and I haven’t seen him since." Stefano had to control a steady tremor that wanted to overrule his stiffness. He had faced many enemies, but none could scare him the way Belle could. "Isabella Black, I promise, I do not know where Shawn Douglas Brady is, where he has been or where he may be in the future."
Belle stared harder.
"Except that someone closely resembling him abducted Vicomtesse de la Fere in New York," he added quickly.
Belle scrunched up her nose and narrowed her eyes at him. He trembled. "Who?"
"My least pleasant and most spoiled daughter, Ivy; her mother is Lady Sarah Hamilton." Stefano sighed again, but elicited no sympathy from either Spanner Joe or Belle. "I am, in fact, quite grateful to Shawn Douglas for his abduction of her, if it was him. She really was a tiresome girl. Always getting into financial difficulties and begging me to save her from the big bad world…"
He jerked his head a little, and felt his heart surge with adrenaline. He was trained for this in every way possible. He would not fail on the eve of his triumph. If he did, and survived the sniper’s bullets, his Boss would make life so unendurable for him that he would pray to have died here on the fire escape with a beautiful woman in his arms and a friend by his side.
Even as he thought it, Angelo knew that he could not afford to lose that friend or this woman. If he died doing so, he would save Harry and Kirsten. He owed them that much. He could not explain what they had done to him that night, but Harry with his simple faith in mankind and Kirsten with her willingness to trust him after a horrific ordeal had changed something in him. He had told himself that he was not made for love, but perhaps he could die for friendship. The coldness that had encased his heart was melting even as his body cooled in the frosty night air.
It was rather a shame therefore that he might not live long enough for his heart to beat freely once again.
The next bullet found it’s mark, and though he emitted no sound, the impact sent him stumbling backwards, blood gushing from the wound in his arm.
"Angelo!" Harry half yelled, unable to stop himself, but though the sound should have drawn the sniper’s mark upon him, Harry was not targeted by the man on the roof.
"Shut up," Angelo bit out, keeping his voice level though the pain was bad. "It doesn’t matter."
"So he’s in New York?" Belle moved to leave. "Why didn’t you just tell me that in the first place?"
"Isabella," there was something in the Stef’s tone that stopped her dead in her tracks. "I don’t think you’re going to find what you expect."
Belle stared hard at him, waiting for him to continue.
The threat of Spanner Joe still lurked.
"He’s changed, Belle," Stefano had softened suddenly. He respected this girl, was a little afraid of her, but also admired her. She had guts, brains, a heart, and knew how to use them all. "And maybe not for the better."
A smile brightened Belle’s face. "Then I’ll just have to change him back then, won’t I?"
They were nearly at the bottom of the fire escape.
"When you hit the ground," Angelo started, clamping a hand down over his wounded arm as he watched the two lower themselves. His heart began to race faster. ‘Please, God,’ he thought, ‘not now.’ He fought back the pain, forcing out his final instructions past the sea of red that threatened to obscure his vision and envelop his mind and finished his sentence, "run for the street. Catch a cab if you can. If you can’t, just run like hell."
"What are you going to do?" Kirsten was only feet from the ground, and her worried blue eyes stared up at him with an emotion he didn’t want to explore.
Angelo drove back the pain with a mental thrust. He couldn’t fall apart, not now. "Keep you two alive by any means necessary."
"I don’t think I like the sound of that," Harry couldn’t say more as the ground knocked the wind out of him. He had missed his footing, and for a moment lay sprawled on the cold cement. Then Kirsten was by his side, and they scrambled up together.
She cast a glance back to where Angelo had last been, and saw nothing but darkness.
His voice came out of the night from above them, hot and fierce like a lion’s pant. "I said run!"
They ran as if every demon in hell had been unleashed onto their heels.
No more bullets sounded through the night air. There were no more terrifying breezes across their skin as they narrowly missed being shot. Only the sound of running feet on cold concrete and snatched panting breaths came to their ears.
"Are we safe?" Harry asked as he and Kirsten drew frantic breaths, six blocks later. Footsteps came lurching from behind them. "Run!"
"You know," the footsteps stopped, "some people would say that running from friends was a little rude, and that running from the sound of a stranger’s footsteps was more than a little paranoid."
Kirsten flung herself into the man’s arms. "Angelo! You’re safe!"
"Not until we get to Ms. Corleone’s," Angelo would never admit how comfortable and enjoyably it was to be hugged. Wild horses wouldn’t drag that out of him, but it was. His arm ached, he knew he was losing blood, and his heart was still beating erratically, but the world seemed a better place when he was being embraced.
Unthinkingly, Harry slapped a hand to his saviour’s arm, missing the wince of pain that flickered across his face in the darkness. "We owe you."
The grimace, like the wince, went unnoticed. "Then you can repay me by taking me to Ms. Corleone."
"Whatever you want." Harry did not like the way Kirsten was staring at Angelo. It was a bit too adoring for his taste. He would have preferred a look along the lines of tender friendship, not hero worship. Hers had too much of the latter and not enough of the former.
"How far is it?" Kirsten was marvelling at the warmth of the arm Angelo embraced her with as he spoke, barely paying attention.
"Kir?" Harry tried to think of a way that would not seem insanely jealous and possessive to remove Kirsten from Angelo’s arms, and failed.
"Oh," she started coming out of her trance, thanking God and all of his angels that the street lights were not bright enough to show the blush on her cheeks. "We’ll need a cab."
"I’ll hail one," Harry offered, but Angelo was already employing a faster method by stepping directly into the path of one the of New York’s famous yellow taxi cabs that frequented the half empty street, and refusing to budge so it had to stop or hit him.
It stopped with half an inch to go before colliding with his legs.
Kirsten never knew how much money Angelo had given the cab driver, a small Sikh man with a turban covering his dark head, but it had been enough for him to break every traffic law in existence, avoid any patrol cars and land them in Upper Manhattan in a matter of minutes. He never stopped smiling. Kirsten couldn’t have guessed that the wad of bank-bills now lining his pockets were enough to allow him to buy his own taxi, even his own company of taxis. All she knew was that in less time than it would have taken on the subway, Babe Corleone’s New York mansion lay sprawled before them.
Babe had never been one for simplicity, but she was elegant, and so was her home. In the best of New York styles, it was grand, elegant and precisely to the fashion of its day. Angelo, no student of architecture, only knew it was a beautiful building.
"I can’t believe we made it," Harry murmured, staring up at the house.
"Oh ye of little faith," Kirsten chided. "I," she added, turning to Angelo who was looking rather pale, "always knew we’d get here safely."
"Was that why you kept twisting around in the cab and muttering ‘we’re being followed, I just know it’?" He asked, with a grin.
Kirsten muttered something unrepeatable at him as the ‘butler’ opened the door before them.
"Where’s Mario?" With her head tossed back, hands on slender hips, blue eyes narrowed, Angelo had a sudden flash of remembrance as he stared at Kirsten that passed again as quickly as it had come.
"Where has she gone?" John stormed, pacing through the SPD hallway and marching into Bo Brady’s office with a scowl on his handsome face. "Where’s my baby girl?"
"John, please," Marlena laid a gentle hand on her husband’s shoulder, "you were the one that put in her jail. You can’t expect her to stay there. She is an Evans after all. She’ll do anything for the man she loves."
"She does love him, then," John murmured to himself, peaceful for a brief moment, thinking almost with regret of the days lost when he could wrap Belle up in his arms and keep her safe from the world, and her only interest in her Shawn Douglas was to do with playing doctor, or house, or tea party, or, John remembered fondly, one memorable afternoon, storming the Dimera mansion and rescuing her favourite kite with him.
Bo sighed. "We don’t know exactly where Belle is, John. I have every man out looking for her."
"I left her in your care, Bo!" John was agonised. His daughter had been on a mission to find her best friend ever since their return from Europe, and with her genetics nothing short of imprisonment was going to stop her, and she’d just proved that not even jail would hold an Evans-Black with a Horton-Brady-Kiriakis soul mate to rescue from danger.
"I know." The younger man had aged visibly in the months since Shawn’s disappearance. His still handsome face was more lined than it had been in July, and his dark hair was beginning to show the first silver hairs of his life. He was sagging under the weight of both his own grief and his wife’s, and though they knew Shawn had been alive recently, reports of him were not promising. He could be anywhere, doing anything, suffering the worst torments imaginable to man, and they were impotent. Not even Shane with all of his ISA connections had found him, and with each passing day, Bo and Hope found their belief in his return fading and with it, their own will to carry on. They could only imagine what was happening to their first born child, and shiver in fear for what might be.
"We’ll find her, John." Bo needed to find Belle for his own sake as well as theirs. He could not lose the girl who, in the months following Shawn’s disappearance, had begun to call him Papa Bo, blood not withstanding, as well as his own child.
John Black knew that, and felt comfort. Bo, like a true Brady, would let nothing stand in his way any more than Shawn would when it came to the women they loved.
The radio on his desk crackled, and Officer Perez’s voice came over clear and distinct. "Captain Brady? This is Delta Alpha Zulu Echo, we have a possible ID of Belle Black…"
A woman’s scream echoed through the house, and acting on pure instinct, Angelo’s hand shot out in a fierce punch to the butler’s face that sent the man reeling backwards.
Angelo ran past him into the house throwing the briefcase back into Harry’s arms.
Another scream echoed, and he turned to see a slender dark haired woman standing at the top of the stairs, and a short Italian man raising his fist to hit her across her already swollen face. Her long body trembled with fear and she shied away from the man who held her.
"Don’t." That word alone from Angelo’s lips could have frozen hell over.
The stocky man turned and saw a handsome dark haired youth, who could hardly have been twenty, but with the oldest eyes he had ever seen, staring up at him from beneath the ornate staircase.
"You gonna stop me, kid?" He snarled in his New York accent, broken yellow teeth showing through twisted lips, "You and what army?"
"I need an army?" Angelo’s eyebrow went up, the only non-speaking part of his body that moved.
Another scream, and then a fourth, a fifth and a sixth rang through the air around them. Angelo realised that the dark haired woman at the top of the stairs was not the only one under attack.
Without there seeming to be seconds intervening while he moved, Angelo leaped up the stairs and knocked the Italian backwards. He didn’t speak, just went to work pummelling the man down and out.
"Angelo!" Kirsten yelled from the floor below. "If you’ve knocked him out, move onto the next one!"
Harry was shocked, but then he saw Kirsten’s wicked grin. She was enjoying this. She knew those men, and she knew that they were the ones who had kidnapped her and hurt her. She wanted revenge for the physical and mental injuries done to her, but also for the insult to her family. Angelo was simply the instrument of the total destruction that would tell them all a simple message: Mess with the Corleones, or any of their clan, and expect to die. Brutally, painfully, and, above all, with merciless violence.
Angelo moved quickly, searching each room and time and again finding men assaulting women, hurting them, in some cases coming close to killing them, and in each case he returned their violence doubled. Though he could not know it, the Horton honourable habit of protecting and respecting women at any price was rising in his blood and his mind. He could not bear their abuse of these women. It wasn’t inhuman, it was all to human when he thought of all the venal, cruel, barbaric humans he had met.
With an expression so stiff it could have been set in stone, Angelo pounded his way through the members of the Fettuccini mob, Kirsten and Harry following in his bloody wake with all of the women he rescued behind them.
"Someone’s seen my daughter?" John barked, moving quickly forwards to the radio and watching intently as Bo answered the call.
"Perez, this is Brady," he responded impatiently, "is the ID reliable?"
"Saw her passport," the answer came back. "Definitely Belle Black, according to the airline stewardess."
"Airline?" Marlena had gone pale.
"Where the hell was my daughter going?" John’s face had gone purple. It was as if all the colour was transferring itself from Marlena’s face to John’s.
"She bought two tickets to New Orleans, round trip," Perez went on.
Bo’s expression became as intent as John’s. "When does she leave?"
"You don’t understand, sir," Perez sounded apologetic. "She’s gone. The flight took off this morning."
Squashing the feeling of impotence that rose in him and the sudden hope that came too, Bo asked, "Who was her travelling companion? Can the woman remember what he looked like?"
"Pretty unforgettable, she’d say," Perez’s battery was running down, and the sounds from the radio were weakening. "A big older guy, covered in tattoos, helped Miss Black out with some trouble she was having with a younger boy. She didn’t catch their names."
"Thank you, officer," Bo remembered to say, "good work. Over and out."
He turned to John. "The big guy was probably Spanner Joe. He broke out of prison with Belle last night. As far as I can tell, he’s harmless."
"But he was in jail!" Marlena shrieked.
"So was Belle," Bo pointed out rationally, "and he was only in for indecent exposure, not attempted justifiable homicide."
"She didn’t try to shoot Stefano again, did she?" Brady asked from the doorway, mildly amused by the situation, and not, as his parents were, terrified for his younger sister’s safety. "Tut tut, and after she promised me just now on the phone that she wouldn’t."
Marlena lunged towards him. "You heard from Belle?"
"She called Megan in case there was any news of Shawn," Brady moved inside easily, followed by his brunette girlfriend. "She said not to worry. She’s safe, and she’ll be home by late this morning at the latest."
John and Marlena settled back, relieved. "Thank God."
Bo’s eyebrow lifted. "What’s up with this afternoon?"
"Beats me," Brady answered, casually leaning back against the door.
Megan grimaced. "I know what’s today and she can’t be looking forwards to it anymore than me…"
"Time for us to go, Joe," Belle rose from her seat slowly, not noticing the relieved expression that spread slowly over her unwilling host’s face at her impending departure. She turned a bright smile on Stefano, one that forced him to stop himself from cringing back. "Mr Dimera, thank you for all of your help."
Belle took a slow step forwards, proving that Shawn was not the only one who could hide the iron hand beneath the velvet glove. "It’s been a pleasure, and, Stefi," he did cringe then at the nickname and at Belle’s cold expression as she moved forwards again, "if I find out you’ve been lying to me, I’m going to hunt you down and win myself another of those lovely gold medals the Mayor gives me every time I shoot you. Only this time," a final step bringing Belle eye to eye with her family’s arch nemesis, "it’s going to be extra big because of all the damage I will have done to you."
Striding past the startled butler with Spanner Joe trailing in her wake, Belle turned and threw back to him, "You better pray he is in New York, Stefano, and that’s my final warning."
"Where is she?" Angelo turned from his latest punching bag to the young red head that he had just saved. "Where’s Babe?"
"She’s in the Winter Room," she managed to say as his dark gaze seared her, as if he saw not her body but her inner thoughts and feelings, and judged her, "in the West Wing."
"Show me." His knuckles were cracked and bleeding, but he didn’t notice. The bullet wound was throbbing blood steadily out of his body, but he didn’t care. They would be the least of his worries if he had to tell his Boss that Babe Corleone had died at the hands of the Fettuccini mob, when he had been a hair’s breadth from saving her. The images that filled his mind of what his employer’s fury would be were enough to force his ‘fight or flight’ adrenaline hormone levels as high as any physical threat near him.
He followed the swaying form of the woman out of the room, and down a series of hallways, their floors lined with deep plush purple carpets, his features as he walked softly lit by antique wall lamps.
They stopped for him to rescue more of the attacked women, some of whom were fighting back by themselves and being beaten harder for it, others who curled up into balls and prayed for it to end soon, and steadily the entourage of followers behind him grew.
"She’s in there," the red head pointed, and Angelo stared along the way.
The room she had led him to was one which could have been described as a drawing room, but was more like an abattoir as Angelo looked into it.
Guns were being fired, but the bangs were censored by silencers on their barrels. Bullets whistled from one side to the other, and Angelo realised that far from abandoning the rest of the house to marauders, Babe had been attempting to save them all by holding off the worst of the attack herself with her most loyal bodyguards surrounding her.
He had seen pictures, naturally, of the tall, elegant, high cheek boned blonde Amazonian who fired bullet after bullet at the men who were trying to take her dignity, her life, and most importantly of all, her power away from her, but no picture could ever do justice to the expressive nature of her face.
It was with awe that Angelo glimpsed her features across the room and from behind her barricade, marred as they were by blood and the expression of complete ferocity that she showed as men fell around her and no more came forward, and with a strange need in his heart. He had seen strong women before, he had seen fierce women before, but they had been nothing to the reality of Babe Corleone, one time representative of the USA for the UND and now Capa of her own mob, fighting like a tigress with threatened cubs.
He was on the wrong side of the room, he realised. He was facing Babe, not looking at her back, which meant that the Fettuccinni mob members were directly in front of him. Realising that obtaining and using one of their guns against them would be no problem, Angelo smiled.
Ignoring the women behind him, he moved as silently as a stalking cat and quietly executed one of Babe’s enemies. Taking the gun, a heavy Magnum revolver, into his hand, removing the silencer that made its aim inaccurate and checking its ammunition, Angelo knew that with his next actions, he was making Babe’s fight his.
"Turn to face me, real slow," he hissed, watching as the surprised men swung around to find their lines infiltrated and a man with an anger as cold and dangerous as the North Atlantic staring down the barrel of a .44 at them.
Behind him, with more than a dozen furious women, Kirsten and Harry stood waiting with smiles of expectation on their faces.
"Now I don’t know what you think you’re doing here," Angelo was perfectly still, his eyes narrowed, his lip curled, unconsciously doing his best ever ‘Dirty Harry’ impression, and scaring the hell out of the mob before him, "but if you don’t leave immediately, there’s going to be trouble."
Babe fired another shot, and one of the distracted men hit the floor with a bullet in his head.
The sound of the falling body brought the others round again and then Angelo was facing off with only three of the nine strong gang. Thirteen others lay on the floor, dead or dying.
One fired at Angelo, and he dived out of the way, followed by the women and Harry.
Reaching around the corner of his grand piano barricade, wishing that bullets weren’t damaging its antique finish in a brief moment of aestheticism, Angelo fired at the mobsters, each the force of each shot recoiling and forcing back his arm.
With his assistance, Babe and her men were finally gaining the upper hand after their previous stalemate.
The number of breathing Fettuccini mobsters fell from nine to two.
Angelo stood up slowly, and watched as their guns emptied themselves at Babe’s end of the room, finally falling ineffectually on empty barrels. They scrambled for ammunition, but not before Angelo levelled his gun at them.
"Stop." Icicles had been hotter than his voice when he spoke. "You sons of bitches."
Having seen the effect that his unconsciously affected Clint Eastwood impression had had on the hardened criminals before him, Angelo took the impression further, only then becoming aware of repeating lines from a movie he could knew but could not remember ever watching. "Ah, ah, I know what you’re thinking." He glanced down at the gun and back up to men, a sardonic smile on his lips. "Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off," he looked down again at one of the men he had shot before, noting the damage done to the body, watching the two others’ faces blanch as they too registered its mutilation, "you've got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punks?"
If anyone had looked more scared that night, or praying harder to be lucky, it had been Kirsten tied to a chair and beaten by their fellow gang members. The remembrance turned Angelo’s heart to stone.
He didn’t want to fire in cold blood. That wasn’t his way, but his decision was made for him when one of them reached for the pistol of a dead colleague, and Angelo fired to save them all.
"Guess he was just too stupid to be lucky," he murmured, watching the beaten women take hostage the last mobster and Babe stalk her way over the battlefield like an Amazon queen walking through the jungle.
Babe, at six feet tall and with golden blonde hair falling down her back in bloodied waves, looked an older, taller, more worldly wise version of Belle, he thought. Then he thought, ‘Who the hell is Belle?’ and the memory slipped from his grasp again.
The survivors of the gang battle were all blood spattered, battle weary, exhausted and still wary of one another.
"Thank you," Babe nodded her acknowledgement of his part in her war. "Now, who the hell are you?"
"Aunt B!" Kirsten squealed, and threw herself at her aunt’s warm figure, not caring about the blood. "This is my angel. He saved me."
"Ma’am," Angelo stood perfectly still while Babe took him in: his expensive black clothes torn, bloodied and ruined by the night’s activities, his mussed dark hair, the gold earring that doubled as an identity marker and a fashion statement, the flat, lithe muscled tall body, and the dark eyes that a woman could drown her soul and her sins in.
The blood rushed from his head and his heart beat became erratic as his adrenaline levels fell.
‘Please, God, not now,’ he prayed as the world turned red for all the wrong reasons.
"And you are?" Babe repeated, blue eyes meeting brown, failing to recognise his face, but seeing in those eyes a look that was all too familiar to her. It was a look she saw every time she gazed at herself in a mirror.
Angelo managed one of his devastatingly wonderful smiles that turned even Babe’s bones to hot jelly. "Angelo Salvatore at your service, Mrs Corleone."
Then he passed out backwards in spectacular fashion, hitting the floor with a thud.
Shawn Brady sat bolt up right on the silk lined chaise lounge, head pounding and hands shaking. "What the hell happened?"
"Angelo, are you OK?" Kirsten was sitting near him, a wet cloth in her hand with which she had been gently dabbing his forehead, and holding his hand. She smiled tenderly. He looked so young, younger even than her, and the cold mercenary look in his eyes had gone, leaving only confusion, sadness and pain, so much pain. "You passed out."
"No, before that," Shawn lifted a hand to his head. He felt so confused, as if the whole world was in a fog, and he was standing in the middle of a labyrinth completely lost.
"Well," Kirsten said slowly, thinking over the night before, "you’ve been shot, hit, punched, kicked, chased off the side of a building, nearly run over by a taxi, and that was before you’d started the fight downstairs, which we won, by the way."
"Oh, God," Shawn murmured, slumping back and wishing he hadn’t asked, or, more simply, that he hadn’t woken up yet.
"That’s what Harry said when you hit the floor," a gentle smile spread over her lovely features. "Are you feeling better now?"
Shawn did a mental inventory of his body, quietly testing the feeling in each of his limbs and finding no irreparable damage. Even as he began to speak, however, he felt his jaw stiffen, his arm throb, and a dozen other injuries beg for his attention. "I don’t remember how I was feeling before, so I can’t really answer the question."
A little pause followed. Shawn still lost in the fog, lay back and was fussed over by an anxious Kirsten. Too tired to speak, Shawn was hit by a sudden remembrance of his life before the voice’s interference.
"No word about your friend, James," Shawn’s nurse Maggie shoved a thermometer into his mouth so that he couldn’t reply, "But your doing better. Are you sure there’s no one I can contact for you? The doctor says we can let you out tomorrow."
She would miss him, but she smiled down at him. She removed the thermometer as he shook his dark head. "No, no-one."
But he thought of a brown haired teenage boy lying naked in a bed with a beautiful blonde girl, who had betrayed him. The boy had been called Henry and the girl was…"
End of flashback
"Belle?" the name came to him suddenly.
Kirsten raised her head from her nursing of him. "What?"
The door opened abruptly, and a woman with golden hair and an ageing Italian bodyguard glided in. She wore a tailored black suit and a blank smile. He wore an Armani grey suit, a gun in a holster beneath his shoulder and a grim expression.
Danger signals shot through Shawn’s nervous system, and in a conditioned response to keep his body from harm, Shawn’s persona was subdued again by Angelo’s. Kristen’s machine had done its work well. Angelo won through though Shawn fought every step of the way. His Boss would have been pleased.
With eyes as cold as they were wise and brown, Angelo turned slowly, his body aching and complaining with every minute movement, and stared at his visitors.
"Where are we, Miss Belle?" Spanner Joe was tired. He felt that the flight had robbed his big body of its last trace of strength.
"Home," Belle returned happily, marching out of the airport, pushing their luggage cart before her, loaded with suitcases from New Orleans.
"Not Salem, Miss Belle!" Spanner Joe begged, not having paid attention to any part of their flight on We Fly Anyone Anywhere Anytime Airlines. "You forget that we escaped from jail the last time we were here!"
"That was ages ago," Belle dismissed his fears casually, signalling for a taxi.
"It was two days ago!" Spanner Joe glanced at Belle’s resolute face and sighed.
"Joe," the way she said his name was wonderful, and he was immediately half won over by her. "Time moves differently here in Salem. The cops will already have forgotten we escaped, were imprisoned, or even did anything wrong." She briefly considered the reason for her father’s unreasonable imprisonment of her. "Not that I did."
"And if they haven’t?" Spanner Joe wasn’t willing to return to jail. He had a report to make to his employer the next day, and he didn’t want to make her mad.
"Then my future uncle-in-law and father-in-law are senior detectives," Belle answered breezily. "They’ll get us out."
Worn out, Spanner Joe scratched his head. "You getting married, Miss Belle?"
"Ask me again in February, Joe," Belle answered him with a pleasant smile.
"Does that mean I can set a date for the wedding to be in April?" Henry asked from behind them, making Belle jump and Spanner Joe growl out something unprintable.
"What the hell are you doing here, Henry?" Belle’s eyes narrowed and her fists clenched as he came closer.
"I was picking up some brochures for our Winter Break together at the Travel Agents’ next door." He showed her a handful of glossy magazines displaying vacation destinations in bright colours. "Would you prefer Hawaii or the Rocky mountains? We could visit Eric in Colorado, but I’m not sure how he would feel about us sleeping in the same bed."
Spanner Joe shifted forwards and rippled his muscles. "You want me to break his jaw, Miss Belle?"
"No." Spanner Joe looked disappointed at her answer. He was just in the mood to break Henry’s jaw. "Henry, I have no idea where you’ve come up with this," Belle was too well bred to say what she meant, but Spanner Joe’s muttering made it abundantly clear, "but I have never and will never sleep in the same bed as you!"
"But, darling," Henry looked at her with a mixture of pity and amusement. "You already have."
Babe rained kisses down on Angelo’s upturned handsome face, noting his coldness and his blood matted hair. "Darling, darling boy…" Babe repeated again and again.
Angelo didn’t resist her affectionate assault on his form. He glanced over at Kirsten, who was lying on the floor giggling helpless and kicking the ground whenever Babe slipped into Italian. "Caro, Caro mia."
"Signora," Angelo choked out at last when Babe’s fingers had patted his head, her arms embraced him and her lips been pressed to his skin so often that no end appeared in sight.
Babe stepped back far enough to let her caresses cease to inhibit his breathing.
"Grazie, Signora," he added.
"No, no," Babe insisted, "thank you, dear boy."
"Aunt B.," Kirsten begged as she slowly rose from the floor, still giggling at times but recovering at a steady rate. "I think you’re worrying him."
Babe turned on her niece, "I’m still angry with you for ignoring my warnings and running away from your bodyguard!"
She muttered something about kidnap trauma, but before it could escalate into a full scale fight, a shout from outside interrupted them.
"I don’t care! I must go!" The yelled words were followed by a string of Italian curses, most of which Angelo could understand and a few of which were so obscene that he almost blushed.
"What in the Virgin Mother’s name is that?" Babe shouted in exasperation.
"Mrs Corleone," one of the two heavily armed men she had left outside of Angelo’s room came in meekly. "We’re real sorry, Mrs Corleone, but…"
He was shoved out of the way by a series of beautiful women, all bruised and battered, who sauntered into the room.
"There he is, girls!" One at the front called back to her companions, and the flood became a tidal wave.
"Uh oh," Kirsten muttered with false sincerity, "you’re in trouble now."
Angelo didn’t flinch, didn’t move a single muscle, didn’t even blink. The mercenary in his brain calculated the odds. He had taken in the room as he had lain there, and knew that if attacked, his one hope would be to leap through the window and run. Of course, the point was academic. He doubted he could walk, let alone run.
Babe straightened her back and glared over the mass of women. Dignity flowed through her as they gave her the slight nod of acceptance of her authority. She was Queen here, they her subjects. As such, she ruled with a stainless steel rod, a will of titanium and a heart of gold - if you could touch it. Angelo had. He didn’t know it, but he was in no danger. He had saved Kirsten, had rescued the women and had helped Babe to win out against the siege that had threatened her home.
He had won her eternal gratitude, her loyalty, and best of all, her love. He had nothing to fear, but Angelo didn’t know that and every instinct in his body told him to run like hell.
"What da hell are you talking about?" Belle nearly shrieked, unconsciously quoting her ex-step father, Roman.
"You and I," Henry, feeling bolder than he had ever since he’d glimpsed Spanner Joe’s muscles behind Belle, took a small step forwards and pointed at Belle, "have shared the same bed before. The night of Philip’s party."
"What?" Belle couldn’t remember anything about that party except missing Shawn, and then wondering where he had gone. No other memory flickered even dimly through her mind.
"You heard me," Henry was smirking now. "You don’t believe me?" Henry put a hand to her hip bone. "You have a small birthmark here - in the shape of a heart."
No one except her parents, her brother and Shawn knew that she had a birthmark there, and he only knew because he had seen her swimming suit ride up once. What had happened that night?
Spanner Joe watched as Belle’s expression became harder. She was going to blow her top.
"You know what, Henry?" She sounded sweet then, like butter wouldn’t melt between those lovely lips.
"What?" Another smirk, this time with more self satisfaction than before.
Belle smiled prettily. "You’re a disgusting, dirty minded, egotistical psychotic with delusions of sex appeal, but right now I don’t have time to deal with you. Joe," she took her bodyguard by the arm and turned on Henry, "let’s go. Henry - if you’re lying to me, you’re a dead man. If you’re not lying, you’re jail bait. Capiche." She walked away from him then, letting Spanner Joe bring the luggage.
Henry quivered as Spanner Joe stared him down, but as the man broke his stare and hurried after Belle, Henry shouted eagerly, "I’ll call you!"
"What’s today?" John looked like he wanted to shake Megan until she told him what he wanted to know. "What?"
"Our last final. It was postponed from yesterday." Megan shifted uncomfortably, disliking the level of intentness that John’s gaze fixed upon her. "Someone stole the exam paper and they had to rewrite it."
"And Belle is taking this final?" Marlena was trying to calm her husband down, but his words came out spoken in an accent so staccato that it could have been the stuttering of a machine gun.
"Taking it?" Megan almost laughed. "It’s in fashion design. She’s going to ace it." Another thought passed through her mind. "That is, if she turns up."
Brady had noticeably relaxed, and now a wide smile spread across his lips. "Tink miss an opportunity to write about clothes? Dad would sooner miss a drink." Then he remembered his father was still in the room, and he quickly corrected himself. "I didn’t mean it like that."
John muttered something and then said more distinctly, "And that’s a fact."
Belle brushed her blonde hair out and glanced over at her companion. Spanner Joe was nursing his swollen feet. She felt wonderful. All she had to do was max out her credit card buying herself another round trip plane ticket, ace her fashion design final, find and rescue her kidnapped best friend, evade the Salem police, Bo, her brother and her father, avoid the Dimera clan who would surely be out for revenge, prevent everyone from killing Henry until she found out what he had meant before about their going to bed together, and convince Spanner Joe that another trip was going to be worthwhile so that she could have a little backup when she stormed whatever stronghold Shawn was being held in. All in a day’s work for a Black, really.
In the grand room where a roaring fire crackled in the enormous fireplace casting devilish shadows onto the walls, the women crowded Angelo, and he had the uncomfortable sensation of budding claustrophobia, but no danger signals quickened his pulse and his pupils failed to dilate. As they came closer, a peculiar sense of safety filled him, which was ridiculous. He was in unfamiliar territory, besieged by possible enemies, weaponless, wounded and if a fight ensued, without a hope, but for the first time in months, he felt safe.
He must be getting old - he was clearly losing whatever small sense of self preservation he had salvaged from the night before.
Then, as if to prove that his instincts could be utterly wrong, a slim blonde pulled a gun and pointed it directly at his head. "Bang."
Babe nearly ripped the gun out of her hand. "Do that again, and I’ll use this on you." It was no idle threat, and Kirsten, her customary joke with new members to the clan having failed, bowed her head in shame. "Fool." Babe spat, and turned back to Angelo with an apology on her lips.
The people surrounding him ignored this little drama, fascinated by his reaction. This is not strictly true, however, as he hadn’t had one. He had stared along the barrel of the gun with the complete indifference to it that only madmen and the perfect poker player could master.
"Congratulations," a tall brunette stepped forwards smiling and a flicker of recognition passed through Angelo’s eyes, he had seen her before, he thought. "Kirsten’s tried that on every bodyguard she’s ever had, and you’re the first not to flinch."
He accepted the compliment gracefully, his eyes fixed on Babe’s face.
"I owe you," she said after a pause that seemed to last forever.
Kirsten shifted uneasily. "We all do."
There were emphatic nods from the women, and even Babe’s bodyguards appeared to believe themselves in his debt.
Angelo said nothing. A dismissal would be insulting, a demand rude, and anything else unacceptable. He didn’t move a single muscle. As if his life depended on it, he remained perfectly still.
Babe went on, her voice a little roughened by emotion. "My niece," she waved a hand at a blushing Kirsten, "she’s very foolish, headstrong and stubborn, but we love her. Dearly. She’s one of our own." A gentle smile graced Babe’s features. "Blood of our blood. For bringing her back to us, we thank you."
More nods from around the room, and that uncomfortable sensation of claustrophobia began to return. Kirsten was loved by, and belonged to, so many people, and he had no one. Slamming it back down with a powerful mental parry, Angelo forced himself to believe that alone was better, safer, made him stronger, and at the same time realised he was lying to himself. ‘No man is an island’ - he could not exist without others, even if he spent most of his time pretending that he could.
Perhaps that was why he ignored everything that he should have been doing to further his Boss’s plans, and instead said in a voice broken, low and hoarse the words that twenty four hours before he wouldn’t have even thought: "I need your help."
"Miss Black?" The final had been easy. Belle had known all the right answers, had worked her way through the paper, had remembered to turn over the last page and had seen that the question carrying the most marks was one she could answer confidently. She felt wonderful. Now it was time to rescue Shawn. So it was with irritation rather than pleasure that she turned to face her lecturer.
"Yes, Miss Dee?" her tone was sweet, but Shawn would have been able to see the tension in her finely made limbs.
"I noticed that you’ve been a little distracted in class recently," the very well dressed teacher assessed the girl’s clothes, "And quite frankly, last week your shoes simply did not go with your purse."
Belle blushed, to be faulted be Miss Dee was to know that you had fallen far below the fashion standards set by the well dressed. "I know, and I’m really sorry, Miss Dee, but-"
"No excuses, Belle," Miss Dee’s face broke into a wide smile. "I realise that Megan brought it in for you. I believe you’d spent the previous night in circumstances less than conducive to fashion excellence."
"You mean I was in jail," Belle replied brightly. Miss Dee blushed a little. She was young, beautiful and not quite in control of the tastes of her class. "Don’t worry, Miss Dee, it won’t happen again."
Belle’s teacher obviously had no idea what to reply to that so changed the subject. "Belle, what I really wanted to tell you was that in January there’s a trip to Paris for a fashion show - we only have limited tickets, one to be precise, but as you are our best student and work on the Salem Young Herald newspaper for the college, we thought you might like to cover it for us. It would mean having to make up your classes for that week, but you have an A average, and none of your teachers feel that you will suffer particularly from missing that week. We would pay for your ticket, and your hotel, but unfortunately we couldn’t afford the plane tickets for transatlantic flights…"
"Not going to be a problem," Belle was smiling broadly now. "When will I be going?"
Miss Dee smiled back. Belle was going to have a marvellous time. "Last week of January."
Fifteen minutes later as Miss Dee sat in the staff room gripping the mug of coffee tightly between her clenched fists, she still felt the shock of the surprise of having Belle Black, daughter of John Black one of the richest men in Salem, fling her arms around her and hug her tightly, crying ‘Thank you!’ again and again before almost skipping out of the door, losing her high heeled Gucci shoes on the way and not caring.
She had thought that Belle would have had more respect for fashion than that.
"You want our help?" Kirsten felt shocked. Angelo was always so in control, so calm and cool, how on earth could he need anyone’s help? It was as if an immortal had descended from their pedestal to beg the aid of a mere human.
Angelo nodded in reply, turning his gaze from Babe to Kirsten at last. She flushed a little, despairing of ever finding the poise in herself that her aunt was famed for, and turned her face from his.
"Anything," Babe promised rashly, "we can do to help, we will do."
"Find my past," Angelo was staring through her, not at her. "Tell me who I am."
"That’s two tickets round trip to New York," the airline hostess had been a little surprised at Belle’s reappearance, but rather enjoyed the sight of her unmanageable manager flinching away from Spanner Joe.
"Thank you," Belle smiled brightly. She was going to find Shawn. She was sure of it.
"Where the hell do you think you’re going?" Brady sounded furious, standing directly behind her as he was.
She turned around and faced her brother with a pleasant smile. "To find Shawn."
A thing never before happened then: Babe was stunned into silence. Famous for her quick wit and quicker temper, she found her mind blank for a reply.
"You don’t know your family?" Kirsten was shocked. Angelo Salvatore not knowing something? It seemed so unlikely as to be impossible.
He waited to answer her as the rest of the occupants of the room, in obedience to Babe’s peremptory click of her fingers, filed out with many backward glances at Angelo’s prostrate form on the chaise-lounge.
"No." The word came slowly at last, almost as if it pained him, which perhaps it did.
"Angelo…" Babe spoke with hesitation. He seemed to have deprived her of speech. "I…"
Whatever she was going to say next was interrupted by the ringing of Angelo’s cellphone.
Harry, having been forgotten in the crowd, tossed it across the room and with the grace of a jungle cat, marred only by a wince of discomfort at the end, Angelo caught it.
"Yes?" The word was neither barked nor purred. It was as without passion as if he was ordering pizza, less, for hunger brings needy eagerness to the voice.
Kirsten was left wondering who was calling.
A subtle change came over Angelo’s whole body, a stiffening that spoke of tension and even, perhaps, fear. "Yes, of course. Two hours, and I’ll bring the Roses."
‘Roses?’ Everyone else thought simultaneously.
Angelo ended the call and began to pull himself up, a mask as pale as marble settling over his handsome face. No flicker of expression betrayed the pain he felt as the pieces of broken bones rub against each other.
"Where are you going?" Harry moved from his place leaning against the wall and rushed across the room, preparing to catch his new friend if he fell.
A sudden, fascinating, brilliant smile broke through Angelo’s mask. "To church."
"You’re not going alone," Brady re-crossed his arms and stared at Belle hard.
"You’re right," Belle smiled up at him, then she pointed to Spanner Joe who was standing behind Brady watching Belle quietly for any sign of distress, ready to spring to her defence, "I’m taking him with me."
Brady turned around slowly, and looked straight at her bodyguard, "Hi."
"Hi," Joe replied, as Belle grinned happily over at him.
"Joe, I presume?" Megan asked politely, walking past her astounded boyfriend and offering ‘Spanner’ her hand.
"Yeah," Spanner Joe moved uncomfortable unconsciously twitching the muscle under his favourite - non-obscene - tattoo. "Sorry, I don’t know your name; Miss Belle hasn’t introduced us properly."
Brady’s eyebrow flickered in his father’s best mercenary style at the words ‘Miss Belle’.
Megan smiled prettily, catching Brady’s hand and pulling him over to them. "I’m Megan and this is my boyfriend and Belle’s brother Brady."
Belle moved to the front again, "Look, it’s nice to know you care, but we have a plane to catch."
"Belle," Brady’s tone was not one to be disobeyed, "you’re not going anywhere by yourself or with only Joe here - no offence, Joe, but she’s my sister."
"No worries," Joe flashed a gold toothed grin, "got six sisters myself, each more headstrong than the last."
Brady winced in sympathy.
"Brady," Belle interrupted their brother to brother bonding session, "tempus fugit!"
"What have I told you about swearing, Belle?" John barked as he ran up behind Brady, panting slightly.
"It means ‘time flies’, Dad," Belle replied with a roll of her pretty eyes, "not," her next words were lost in a mumble as Brady clamped a hand over his sister’s mouth before she could finish.
"Anyway," Philip’s slow drawl was heard as he and Rose walked slowly through the airport, Pink and Kitty swapping notes on Shawn and their flight tickets behind them, "we’re all coming with you."
"New York, baby," Pink yelped excitedly, having regained the more sensible portion of her vivacity.
Kitty slid her sunglasses down her nose slowly, peering over the top of them. "Shawn would never forgive us if we let you go only to be kidnapped again." The smile that always foretold trouble to come spread over her face. "Besides, I’d like to take a little tour of my old stomping grounds."
For a moment Belle thought she saw Kitty’s eyes flash, but then the look was gone and their flight was being called.
Thus it was so that Belle, her bodyguard, her brother, his girlfriend, her brother’s uncle, his girlfriend, Belle’s best friend’s wild girl friend, and his pink haired protégéé set off a plane to New York to rescue Shawn from whatever dread fate had befallen him, unaware of the near unbelievable consequences of their actions that day.
"We’re coming with you," Harry moved forwards. Kirsten was by his side. They weren’t leaving Angelo when he was in such a vulnerable state.
"No," Angelo reached for the edge of the chaise-lounge and pulled himself off it. "You can’t come."
"Why not?" Kirsten had crossed her arms and was staring at him hard.
"Because if you do, you’ll get hurt." The pain in his chest was worsening again. He needed his medication, but he didn’t know where it was anymore. He’d have to brave it out. He couldn’t show the agony, or Kirsten and Babe would never let him out of the room, and if he didn’t get to the church within two hours, the pain would be far worse than a few twinges in his chest.
Sitting on the plane, with Spanner Joe in the seat behind her and Kitty sitting in the aisle seat next to her, trapping her next to the window so she couldn’t run the moment the plane touched down, Belle clenched and unclenched her hands repeatedly. Shawn, she kept thinking, she was going to Shawn, and then everything would be OK. The terrible ache inside of her would go, the guilt of being so stupid as to be kidnapped would fade the moment she held him in her arms once more, and everything would come right. She needed her best friend back, not with a whining, self pitying greed of ungrounded feelings of selfish lust but with the low down powerful urge of her soul and her gut and her blood all screaming out in unison for him. She loved him. She admitted it to herself freely. She needed him too. He was the only one to know her ugliest sides, her petty jealousies and spites, and still see her whole and beautiful despite them.
The plane’s flight path curved as they approached the runway. They were nearly there. Belle’s heart quickened in anticipation. Now all she had to do was find him, one man in a city of millions, and save him from a fate as bad as being a pawn of Stefano Dimera.
Or rather, that was what she thought. In fact his fate was about to become a lot worse than that of a mere foot soldier caught in the crossfire of an intertribal war. Much, much worse.
Kristen paced restlessly through the vestry, waiting impatiently for the priest’s arrival, cursing under her breath. Stopping as the door opened, she stared over at her ally.
"This isn’t going to work." She worried at her lower scarlet lip.
"Of course, it will work," Angelo’s Boss replied. "Smoke a cigarette or drink some Communion wine. The priest will suspect something if you continue to pace like that."
She lit a cigarette, took a long drag and relaxed a little. "He’ll just think I’m an anxious in-law."
The slightest smile crossed the Boss’s cold face. "Somehow, I imagine not."
A shadow fell into the room. "You called?" Angelo asked from his position leaning against the doorjamb, the briefcase he had carried the night before clenched in one hand, the tightness of his grip the only indicator of his fear.
"Yes," his Boss replied. "Did you get the papers?"
"Yes," Angelo’s expression was cool and pragmatic. "Also the rubies, and I found Babe Corleone."
A simple nod from his master sufficed as acceptance and praise.
Kristen spent a few moments admiring Angelo’s face, tracing his ancestry in it and marvelling at his fineness of feature, but at Babe’s name she started forwards. "You found her? Really?"
The Boss twitched the slightest frown at her, easily subduing her into silence. Kristen flinched back, took another long drag on the cigarette, and brooded.
"These are your new orders," he stopped however, at the entrance of Lady Sarah Hamilton and her illegitimate daughter, la Vicomtesse de la Fere, known to her friends as Ivy. He sank into the shadows unnoticed as the two women walked forwards.
Lady Sarah’s hand had a slight tremble to it, Angelo noticed, as she extended it to him. Doubtless she was remembering his last words to her and feared the consequential events which were about to befall her.
"Angelo," Lady Sarah took his hand in hers, not noticing the blink that banished Shawn Douglas Brady to his unconscious and reinstated Angelo Salvatore as the dominant personality. "Please, I will do anything. I will give you money, information, stocks, anything."
He shook her away easily. "It’s too late for that, Lady Hamilton." The coldness in his eyes intensified, and he finally felt heat, but not the warmth of compassion and love, it was the red hot fire of anger. "You will have to pay for this. You can’t have something for nothing."
End of Flashback
He took her hand in his and kissed her fingers gently. "Lady Sarah."
She gave him a slight nod in response. "Mr Salvatore."
His Boss gave a hint of a smile as Ivy offered her hand to Angelo and he took it with perfectly masked distaste.
"Vicomtesse," Angelo managed not to drop her hand in undue haste. "You’re looking well."
"Thank you, Mr Salvatore," Ivy’s manner had none of her mother’s grace. "I wish I could say the same to you."
His bruises darkened as a slightly flush came to his cheeks.
Ignoring her remark, he went on, "May I introduce Miss Kristen Dimera?" Angelo brought Kristen forward, and with a ladylike grace, she was introduced to both mother and daughter.
"Forgive me, Mr Salvatore," there was no tremble of fear in Lady Sarah’s voice, but still her hand was not quite steady, "but why have we been asked here?"
"Because," for the first time the Boss took a step forwards and was noticed by the noblewomen, "there is to be a wedding."
"Really? And who is to be married?" The trembling of Lady Sarah’s hand had ceased. The fear flowed out of her. This was not the moment of her downfall after all, apparently. Her worries had been unfounded. Colour returned to her Ladyship’s cheeks.
For the first time, Kristen smiled as the Boss spoke the devastating words: "Why, Ivy and Angelo of course."
Belle picked up her luggage and almost ran to the exit, her friends trailing behind her. Something bad was going to happen, she thought. Not something catastrophic, but something bad nonetheless. She didn’t just feel it in her bones, but in every cell in her body. What she had been determined to do before became even more urgent now. She had to get to him. He needed her, and she could not fail him now. If she did, she might never be able to be with him again.
She ran faster, and the tug of her soul told her that she was coming closer to him with every step. Nothing could stop her now. She dropped her bags into Rose’s waiting trolley and leapt into a cab. Shawn was waiting for her. He had to be. Forget moonlit bridges in Paris, crazy kidnapping European psychopaths and compounds in freezing Russian forests, there reunion had to be here and now.
"Mama?" JT Brady, having readjusted once more to the facts of his paternity with the ease and serenity of mind of small children, reached out his arms to his beautiful parent. Hope swept him up, and wished that Shawn was still as small, as easy to protect from harm, and most of all, was still in her arms.
"Yes, sweetie?" She pressed the child’s cheek against her own. He smelled so sweet, and when she looked down, she saw the deep brown eyes of his father and his brother in miniature staring out of his chubby cute little face.
"When Shawn coming home?" JT was playing with the strands of his mother’s hair, his face was full of hope.
"Soon, sweetie," Hope promised, knowing that with every passing day the probability of ever seeing Shawn again grew more and more distant, "soon."
"But I want him now!" JT screwed up his face, and started to cry. He wanted his big brother, the only one who could make just the right kind of aeroplane noises, whose pretty girl gave him cookies, who tucked him up in bed, who was the only one who could read ‘It Could Be Worse’ in just the right tone of voice and who loved him more than life itself, whoever’s child he was.
"Oh sweetie, it will be OK. I promise." Hope clutched the child closer to her. He needed his Mama, but he needed his big brother too, and nothing they had done had brought his lost brother back to him. Knowing that no other comfort would work, she began to sing softly to her youngest son, her heart longing for her eldest to walk through the door and join their hug, and her head knowing that it wasn’t going to happen, not now, perhaps not ever. "Love, Love, Love…
Love, Love, Love.
Love, Love, Love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
Nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.
All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.
Nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need."
JT’s young voice joined in at last, softly singing the words as his mother cried and he drifted into sleep.
"All you need is love
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need (love is all you need).
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah.
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah."
"Belle, slow down!" Megan panted as the petite blonde dodged between the barely moving cars with the courage and ease of a native New Yorker and ran downtown. "We lost Pink and Philip two blocks back, Rose is stranded outside of Tiffany’s with the luggage, Kitty’s a block behind us, and I’ve no idea where Brady and Spanner Joe are except I think I saw a traffic cop chasing them!"
Belle stopped for long enough to let Megan catch up, adjusting her grip on her handbag and calculating how much further it would be to Shawn. Not far now, her heart told her. She prayed she would get to him in time, but understood the basic physics of fairy tale endings: the heroine will always get to the hero in time, but only if she doesn’t stop. Fairy tales don’t happen to the lazy. You could count on finding him in the nick of time only if you didn’t stop for a coffee along the way. A million to one chance, but it might just work…
"She’s on her way to New York, Bo," John said with unaccustomed softness. "She thinks Shawn is there."
"I know," Bo brought his fist down on his desk hard in frustration. It hit with a dull sound. "Shane keeps saying it’s not ready, though. For God’s sake, after all we’ve been through, surely now is the moment to act!"
John expelled a slow breath in exasperation. "Bo, I know how you feel, but we have to wait. We all agreed on the plan."
"That was before Dimera stole my son, damn it!" Bo started pacing, much as Kristen had in New York.
"Shawn’s abduction can’t alter our plan, Bo," John leaned forwards on the desk. "You know that as well as I do."
"He’s my son, John," Bo stopped pacing. "I have to do something."
"And we will," Shane’s English accented voice came to them from the doorway. "But we have to follow the plan. If we’re to bring Dimera down, we need the full of co-operation and support of the ISA."
"But my son…" Bo was thinking not only of Shawn, but also of his wife and little JT, missing Shawn as badly as his parents did, crying out in the night for his big brother.
"I know, Bo," Shane laid a comforting hand on his distraught friend’s shoulder, "but we’ll bring him home by Christmas, I promise."
Bo stared into Shane’s eyes, giving emphasis to his words, "By Christmas, Donovan, or I’ll go after him myself, plan or no plan."
The word burst from three mouths at once, Angelo’s the softest spoken, Lady Sarah’s and Ivy’s more angrily barked.
The Boss heard Angelo’s word, and it decided him. The boy was getting above himself, his total obedience to his, the Boss’s, will was wavering.
"Lady Sarah," the cold dark eyes of the Boss settled their gaze on the pale, furious, trembling woman, "you said once that you would give anything to have your daughter returned to you." Those terrible eyes narrowed and he rapped on the wooden bookcase with each syllable uttered. "Anything."
"But…" Lady Sarah shook badly, her very lips tinged blue against the white parchment of her skin. She could say nothing. It was only too true that she had promised anything, but to see her only child married to a man she neither loved nor even knew! She rebelled against the thought.
"I know what you’re thinking, Lady Sarah," the Boss went on cool as Steve McQueen and as nasty as if playing a Robert Mitchum role, "You’re thinking that I am asking you to sacrifice your daughter, but I do not ask you for her life, only her hand. Refuse me and it will be your reputation, even your life, that is sacrificed."
"Don’t I get a say in this?" Ivy stood as straight as a poker, eyes blazing with fury.
The Boss turned on her the full weight of his stare. "You will be given an income for as long as you remain married, for life if Angelo dies first, a lump sum if you divorce far less than the income, but substantial enough. Angelo has good looks, position in society, an intelligent mind, wealth…"
"A body to kill for, generosity and sweetness when he cares to show it," Kristen finished helpfully.
"And if you marry him now," the Boss was as seductive as the devil and just as tempting, "these will be your wedding present from Angelo. A larger, more public wedding will follow, but only today can these become yours." He opened the briefcase his pet soldier had brought, showing the rubies referred to as ‘the Roses’. Large, well cut, with flawless centres in beautiful gold settings, they were enough to temp Ivy’s mercenary heart and make her eyes flash with greed rather than anger.
"I’ll do it," she murmured, fascinated by their glister.
"Ivy!" Lady Sarah cried, hurt and shocked.
"Father Michael will officiate," Angelo wasn’t really listening to his employer even as the words were begun. He was thinking of his future life, chained to Ivy.
A Catholic priest, straight backed, grey haired, looking venerable and scared, was led into the room by an anxious Kristen.
"This is most irregular," he murmured, but was pushed out of the vestry into the main part of the church to stand before the altar, with Angelo reluctantly walking arm in arm with Ivy after them, a pale Lady Sarah and a narrow eyed Boss bringing up the rear. "Most irregular."
"Not so irregular that the marriage will be invalid," the Boss reminded him with the slightest hint of threat in his voice. With a voice like that, ostentatiously displayed weapons were unnecessary.
"No, not that irregular," the priest hurriedly corrected himself, drawing himself up and beginning the service.
They sang the responses to the Mass, crossing themselves with due reverence, and bowing their heads to pray, each action bringing back some dim remembrance of services passed to Angelo’s confused memory, each adding to his feelings of resentment and rebellion, until the Father asked of Ivy, "Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband? Do you promise to love, honour and cherish him, through sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better for worse, as long as you both shall live?"
She simpered prettily, her wide red lips pouting a little, her blonde head giving a small nod, and answered, pretending that the ‘for richer for poorer’ did not give her a choking feeling, "I do."
Father Michael nodded and turned to Angelo, "And do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise love, honour and cherish her, through sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better for worse, as long as you both shall live?"
"No. She may take me," he moved suddenly, straightening up, crossing his arms, growling out the words with bitterness, "but I refuse her."
"What?" Shrieked Ivy and Lady Sarah at once, the daughter in dismay seeing the rubies and power slip through her fingers, the mother seeing the dawn of hope.
Kristen took a faltering step forwards. "But…"
"But nothing," Angelo snarled like a caged tiger, "I will not marry her."
Surprisingly, the Boss did not argue with his rebellious protégé. He turned to Lady Sarah, "A slight change of plan nothing more is necessary, I perceive. The wedding, public and legal, will take place on the 24th of December, I swear to you."
"But Christmas is less than a week away!" Ivy whined. "How will anything be ready? I want a big proper fancy wedding! I want all my friends to see me and be jealous! I want the rubies around my neck, satin on my feet and diamonds in my hair!"
"I assure you," the Boss didn’t snap, that wasn’t his way. Instead he let no emotion be shown in his voice, replacing it with the emptiness of contempt. His hand rested gently on a Bible lying on the side of the pew. "Everything will be ready." He signalled to Angelo, a little flicker of his eyebrow the only indication of his displeasure, "Everything."
"Goodbye," Kristen’s smile was hiding fear. She had not expected such open rebellion from this quarter. She liked Angelo more than she would admit to her co-conspirator. The Boss wouldn’t forgive the simple treachery of her feelings anymore than he would forgive a betrayal to the authorities.
"Goodbye," Lady Sarah answered in defeat, despising her own weakness, and dragged Ivy away from the church.
The Boss nodded in reply, and turned to Angelo.
"Fool." He didn’t even spit the word, but spoke it as if it meant nothing, and held no hurt. "This is not the end."
He walked out of the church then, leaving Kristen to handcuff herself to Angelo and the briefcase.
Angelo sighed gently as she pulled him to the waiting car. "It never is."
Belle was racing, her heart in her mouth, beating harder with each pumping step she took, mind turning, everything pushing her towards the only thing that mattered, finding Shawn. She paused briefly as a bus rushed past her, breathing harshly. Where was he? She felt her something like her spirit tug her to the left, and leaving a panting Megan in her wake, she skittered between the traffic and ran down a long avenue.
She had to stop, her breath was coming in short gasps now, but she knew if she stopped she would lose him. She couldn’t afford to lose him now. Another block, another turn, and then the white visage of the church was laid before her. It was a squat building, ugly and impressive rather than beautiful and magnificent. A bell tolled the hour. It was later than she thought.
The trouble with million to one chances that might just work is that there are nine hundred and nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine chances that say it won’t. Prayers rolled off Belle’s lips as she came closer and closer to her goal. ‘Please’ - the word had never meant so much to her. ‘Please let him be there.’
The priest, an old man with hair the colour of dirty snow and shaking hands, was locking the doors as Belle threw herself across the street, praying that she was in time, not seeing the limousine that forced its way down the road behind her. Shawn had been here, she knew, but was he still inside? Had she come so far only to lose him now? She pushed back the thought. She would not be defeated so easily.
Even more breathless from running up the church steps, Belle was panting when she reached the priest. "Father," she reached out to touch the man, and realised that he was shaking. "Please, I have to know, is there a young man here? He’s tall, handsome, hair so dark it’s almost black, eyes the colour of chocolate…" Belle didn’t know what else to say. The old man was shaking his head.
"You’re too late," he was fiddling with the door’s lock when he spoke, and so did not say Belle’s face whiten or her knuckles grip tighter around the handbag’s handle. "There was a young man here, but he’s gone. They’re all gone."
"Was he alright?" Belle felt her heart breaking at losing Shawn again, but she had to know if he was healthy after all her father had been through at their kidnapper’s hands.
"No," the priest turned at last and realised how lovely Belle was, and how terrified, "he was banged up." He touched his own forehead. "Bruises on his face. Made me wonder more. I mean, who would want to look like they’d just been in a boxing match in their wedding photos?"
"Wedding?" Belle grasped at the word. "Who was getting married?"
"The young man, and the Vicomtesse, only they weren’t you see," the priest was turning the keys over and over in his hand. "She said ‘I do’ and he said ‘I don’t’, you see."
A thought flickered through Belle’s mind, perhaps she had the wrong church, perhaps all the instincts in her small body were wrong, and Shawn had never been here. She reached into her bag and fumbled around until she found the picture of Megan and Shawn in New York. Shawn was leaning against a Harley Davidson motorbike, in what looked like an apple orchard in bloom, with a leather jacket on, a gold earring glinting, and the cheekiest, cockiest most gorgeous smile ever seen across his lips. "Was this him?"
It was the priest’s turn to fumble around then as he searched for his glasses. "Yes, he’s a little older than in this, and his hair’s shorter, and he’s a lot more bruised now, and he wasn’t smiling much, but that would be him."
"Belle!" Brady and Spanner Joe, at very long last, had escaped the traffic cop chasing them, found the rest of the group, and were now catching up with Belle.
"Please, you have to tell me, are they married? Shawn and his Vicomtesse?" The words were clinging to Belle’s throat, she didn’t want to speak them, but she had to. She had to know. Yet she couldn’t bring herself to say ‘his fiancée’.
"Angelo, they called him." The old priest’s mind was wandering rather. "Not Shawn, Angelo." He caught sight of Belle’s stare and the group running up behind her. "No. They’re not."
The air rushed from Belle’s lungs in relief. He wasn’t married. He was alive. He was in deep trouble, but he was alive. The world was a blessed place once more. "Did you hear the surname?" She gripped the man’s arm. "What did they call him other than Angelo?"
"Salvatore," Father Michael shook his head, "I wondered about that. He didn’t look much like an angel of salvation to me, but then," he scratched his head by way of contrast, "I suppose they never do."
Belle hugged him hard. She knew enough now. She could find him. She knew exactly where to start looking too, and to her friend’s astonishment, she was off and running immediately, throwing kisses back to the priest and with a huge smile on her face. She knew that name. The summer he had been lost to her, he had come to New York, he had stayed with Megan, working in ‘Guiseppe’s Café’, and then his nickname had been ‘Angelo’. Now, at last, she knew exactly where to find her missing Shawn.
"Is that really you?" His heart pounded. He couldn’t believe it.
"Yes, it’s me." She was so beautiful. He’d forgotten just how beautiful she was. She looked like an angel… "Come closer."
He moved towards her, noticing the way the light breeze was caressing her blonde hair, the way the moonlight made her eyes shimmer, and how wondrous she looked in that light.
"It’s been so long," he was near her now.
"Too long," she put out her hand to take his. "You know I’m yours, don’t you?"
"Always and forever."
His. His Belle. The words seemed almost as unreal as the idea that lay behind them. She was his. Always and forever.
He looked down at their linked fingers, and a thousand memories ran through his mind.
"Is that a new haircut?…It looks different."
"You couldn’t be bothered with me earlier, and now I can’t be bothered with you. I have my own problems, and none of them concern you."
"Oh God, you know."
"Take another little piece of my heart now, baby! Oh, oh, break it!"
"I guess your new hairdo’s doing something weird to you brain again. What happened, touch an electric socket?" Shawn smiled at her, trying to giggle her into a better mood.
She blew up at him, slapped his chest and screamed into his face "God damn it Brady! I’ve had enough of you and your ridiculous jokes! Why did you even bother coming back? Stay the Hell away from me! Screw you and your little girlfriend too!"
"Belle, did someone hurt you?" Shawn repeated slowly.
"Yes: you did, Shawn." Belle lifted her head again and looked into his chocolate brown eyes with blue ones full of tears.
"Always and forever."
‘I love you Belle,’ Shawn thought and kissed her chastely on the lips, then he tried to deepen the kiss, holding her for longer than friends would do and trying to become a lover instead of a friend.
Belle pulled away abruptly and stared at him. "I… I can’t do this, I’m sorry." Then she fled, and Shawn was left alone and miserable on the terrace of Tuscany’s on New Year’s Day.
"Is this some kind of sick joke, Belle? Break my heart and then try to make it right by saying ‘I love you, Shawn, but only as a friend’? It’s not worth it, Belle. It’s not worth it."
"No more I love yous, Isabella. No more I love yous, my dearest darling."
"No I can’t forget tomorrow when I think of all my sorrow,
When I had you there but then I let you go.
I can’t live, if living is without you.
I can’t live, I can’t live anymore.
I can’t live if living is without you.
I can’t give, I can’t give anymore.
"Poor Belle doesn’t know how true this is, I’ll die if I have to live without her."
Things that he thought he would never think about Belle flashed through Shawn’s mind. Belle. In. Bed. With. Henry. Naked.
The voice’s words echoed abruptly through his head. ‘Aim low. Fire. Now.’
And then he raised the gun in his other hand, took a single step backwards, and fired point blank into Belle’s chest, a shot that could not fail to kill her. It broke her heart and his irredeemably.
The boy she had once claimed to love so desperately, the boy who had loved her more than his own life, took her life with no more compunction than he would have had in shooting Stefano Dimera.
Darkness fell, hope died, and all was lost.
Shawn Douglas Brady had killed Isabella Black.
Song Credit: All You Need Is Love, the Beatles.
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