The Return Of Victor Cassadine
Victor adjusted the night goggles until the yacht came into focus. All the rooms were dark except for ahhh, there she was. There was no mistaking that gilt blonde hair, the same color it was forty years ago, but now it was no doubt courtesy of a bottle as opposed to genetics.
He nestled his cheek against the cool metal of the rifle and let his finger caress the trigger.
"Well?" The man next to him snapped. "Is the target in sight?"
"I can't get a clear shot," Victor lied calmly. "Acquisition would be a sure thing if we could move in closer."
Birkoff's voice sharply spoke through his headset. "Victor, the target is within your sights. I have her on my monitor. Take the shot."
His lips twisted. Victor let his breath out on a little exhale and took the shot.
Glass shattered as the report of the rifle bounced off the water. Victor could clearly hear a stifled scream.
"You missed her," Birkoff said flatly. "Abort the mission and report back to Section now. Victor, switch to channel 3."
Victor switched the channel on the tiny transceiver and warily said, "Go."
"You blew it, buddy," Birkoff said in a whisper. "You knew Operations would be watching you on this one. He knows she was your sister."
"Sister in law," Victor said dryly as he broke down the rifle and neatly stowed it in it's case. "Bit of a difference there." He switched off his camera.
"Whatever. You blew the shot deliberately and I can't hide it. The tapes don't lie."
"Are you sure this channel is secure, Seymour?" Victor followed the operative who had accompanied him to Port Charles down the slope of the wooded bluff.
"Don't call me that," Birkoff sighed. "Yes, it's secure."
"Then tell Operations that it's his own damn fault for picking me for this mission. I'm not a field op and he knows it. I'm supposed to be in a bloody think tank looking at the world's economy. Not traipsing through the woods like bloody Oberon, King of the Fairies." Victor pulled the gun from his waistband and pretended to stumble while taking careful aim at the operative in front of him. He squeezed off the shot even while he gave a silent apology to the man he was about to kill.
"What happened?" Birkoff's voice rang with anxiety as he heard the gunfire.
"Bob's dead," Victor said with real regret. "We've been exposed. There must have been a leak. I'm going on Mandatory Refusal. Cutting communication now. Sorry Seymour. I'll see you when the mission is done." He switched off the transceiver even as Birkoff's voice squawked out a protest.
Now, he thought with anticipation. Now the fun begins.
Operations stalked through the halls of Section 1. Operatives either scurried out of his way or made themselves look conspicuously busy with things that required their immediate presence elsewhere. Operations in a temper was someone to be avoided. Operations in a towering rage was someone to run from.
Nikita, Michael, Madeline and Birkoff waited at the table in the main briefing room. Operations strode in and stabbed them each with his laser like stare.
"Can any one of you tell me exactly why Victor only had one operative with him?"
"I made the decision," Madeline said in a deceptively quiet voice, one that for all it's restraint obviously would not brook interference.
Operations leveled a stare at her that clearly said he was not pleased. "I wasn't aware mission parameters called for decreasing the number of operatives to two."
Michael said in his usual emotionless voice, "Regardless of why, Cassadine is alone in the field. He needs to be brought in and debriefed. Nikita and I can complete the mission and locate him."
"No." Madeline's voice spoke with quiet command. "Just locate Victor and bring him back. That is the top priority."
The force of opposing wills held the trio of subordinate operatives still for a moment until Operations barked, "You heard her! Michael, you and Nikita go to Port Charles and pick up his trail. Birkoff, you monitor and keep me updated."
And as they left the room, they heard Operations purr, "Madeline? Would you step into my office please?"
Victor slipped through the dark, secret passages of Wyndemere. He bit back a curse as he barked his shin on yet another as yet unidentified object. God, it was just like Stefan to have a house where every secret passageway was a bloody obstacle course. He wouldn't put caltrops and booby trapped pressure plates past Stefan. Even as a boy he had a mind like paranoid Machiavelli, although Victor supposed you couldn't blame the lad with a mother like Helena.
He rounded a corner and risked turning on his flashlight for a split second. Dust, more dust and old furniture and a curve to the left. That's where the smell was coming from.
Victor followed his nose until the scent of freshly baked scones was near enough to make his mouth water. He pressed his hands against the rough surface of the wall, searching with his fingertips until he felt a section give way with a tiny click. With a small grunt of satisfaction, Victor stuck a small mirror through the opening and surveyed the kitchen in it's reflection.
Empty except for a tray of cooling scones on the counter. Blueberry, his favorite. Damn. He weighed the risks. It was five in the morning. He was hungry. It had been an eternity since he had scones, proper scones. It was worth it.
He slipped out the opening and grabbed a handful of scones. On second thought, he decided to grab the entire tray. With his bounty in hand, Victor turned back to the passageway when another tantalizing scent wafted toward him..
It was the coffee that was his undoing. He had just grabbed the entire pot and a mug when he heard a soft gasp from the door. Damn. Done in by greed. It must be a Cassadine thing, he thought wryly.
"Victor?" A soft, feminine voice said his name uncertainly.
Out of all the voices that could have spoken, this was the most welcome and the least likely to pose a threat.
Victor pinned a winning smile to his face and turned to face Mrs. Lansbury. "Elsa, my love! How are you, darling?"
"I thought you were dead," she said in a shocked whisper.
"Nope," he said cheerfully. "Alive and kicking as the Americans say."
"But how? I thought "
"That I died in prison? Yes, well, that's what you were supposed to think." You and the rest of the world he thought grimly.
"Elsa, darling, I can't be seen here," he said with desperate cheer. "I'll explain everything in good time, but not here." He looked around and gestured to the passageway. "In there."
She hesitated. "But, Mr. Cassadine will be wanting his breakfast soon and the other servants will be about. What if someone hears us?"
"No worries, Elsa. We'll be quiet a two little church mice." It was funny, after years of not being able to safely talk about the past with anyone, Victor suddenly wanted to unburden himself to a friendly ear, to be able to let another soul outside of Section know his secret.
After casting him a doubt filled look, she followed him into the passageway.
Victor clicked on the palm flashlight and proceeded a few yards back down the passageway, handing the tray of scones to Elsa as he did so. When they reached the discarded furniture, he pulled out a chair and held it for her before taking a seat of his own. He placed the palm light on a small table. The faint illumination cast more shadows than light, but it was better than total darkness.
Mrs. Lansbury poured him a cup of coffee and handed him a scone.
"Elsa, you are a treasure." He bit into the scone and gave an appreciative groan of pleasure. "You can't know," he said as he chewed, "how many times I dreamt about your cooking over the last seventeen odd years." With a sigh, he licked his fingers clean and finally sat back with the coffee mug cradled in his hands.
"So," he said reflectively. "Where to begin? One night I was taken from my prison cell. I woke up in a place called Section 1. They claim to be the most covert anti-terrorist group on the planet." His lips twisted in an approximation of a smile. "I believe the covert part, I don't think most governments are even aware of their existence. The anti-terrorist part is sometimes harder to swallow. They," he paused and corrected himself. "We don't always limit ourselves to fighting terrorists. Sometimes the lines get a little blurred." He took another sip of coffee and continued.
"I was told that as far as the rest of the world was concerned, Victor Cassadine was dead. They even showed me a picture of my funeral." He lightly patted her knee. "I was so touched to see you there, Elsa. It really meant a lot to me at the time. I had two options. Cooperate or die for real this time." He gave her a wryly bitter smile and said, "I decided to cooperate."
"But why?" Mrs. Lansbury asked. "For what purpose did they want you?"
He shrugged and grabbed another scone and consumed it in four neat bites. "My file from the WSB intrigued them. Section thought I could offer them something and Section doesn't waste resources. Even potential resources. So I trained and learned and eventually forgot about escaping." He shrugged again. "There is no escape short of death and I'm not done enjoying life just yet." He gave her another smile and took another scone. "They discovered that I have a talent for tracking financial trends, for spotting artificially induced up and downswings in the world market among other things. So for the last few years I've been living comfortably with the world's financial market as my own little playground. It was a tolerable life, until two days ago."
"What happened two days ago?"
"The head of Section ordered me to go out on a mission and assassinate someone."
He gave her another careless smile. "Helena."
Note: I neglected to mention in Chapter 1 that the name "Elsa" for Mrs. Lansbury is my own creation. It just seemed to fit.
"Helena? But why?"
"Lord only knows." Victor sipped his coffee and silently held out the cup for another refill. "I don't think Operations had a reason. I think he just wanted to see what I would do. They do that from time to time, place you in situations where your loyalties are put to the test." He blew on his coffee before sipping at it. "I failed, but not out of some misplaced family loyalty. I'm never sent out in the field. This was a chance to bolt, so I did. I deliberately missed the shot and ran."
Mrs. Lansbury looked at him with concern. "What will you do now?"
"Lay low. Hide for awhile until I think of a plan."
"Are you going to lurk in the walls of Wyndemere until then?"
He leveled a stare at her. "Would you feed me and keep me a secret?" He asked only half jokingly and knew her answer before she even shook her head no.
"Mr. Victor, I always liked you. You were always nice to me, always treated me kindly. That's why I went to your funeral. But if what you're telling me is true, these people are going to come after you."
"Yes," he admitted quietly.
"If so, then your being here will put Master Nikolas in danger. And I can't have that." Regret filled her voice, yet nonetheless her expression was implacable.
"Of course," Victor replied in a resigned tone. "Protect the heir, isn't that always the Cassadine credo? I wouldn't want any harm to come to the boy, either. Very well, Elsa my love, give me until nightfall and I'll slip out just as I slipped in and no one will be the wiser." He patted her cheek. "Go back to the kitchen before you're missed."
She stood, then paused. In the half light, half shadow she looked ageless, timeless and Victor could almost imagine it was twenty years ago when the world was his for the taking, as long as he was willing to split it three ways.
She spoke in a soft, hesitant voice. "Master Victor, I am glad you didn't die in that prison. It always seemed to me that you had a good heart. Not like " her voice trailed off and she looked away.
"Not like my bastard brothers, eh? Not to worry about hurting my feelings, Elsa, or those of my dear, dead siblings. I know what we were then and what I am now. Oh, and Elsa? You never saw me. Don't even allow yourself to think about me. You don't want to pay a visit to Section's debriefing room."
When she left him, Victor munched on another scone and gave a silent laugh. He knew what he was now, all right. A man sitting alone in the dark, a man who couldn't claim his family name. A man who couldn't claim his own life.
"Well," he said around a mouthful of scone. "I think it's time for a plan."
Stefan looked at Mrs. Lansbury over the rim of his glasses as she dropped yet another piece of cutlery.
She shot him a glance, bit her lip and replaced the errant spoon. As she poured him another cup of coffee he noted that her hands trembled.
"Is something troubling you, Mrs. Lansbury?"
"Hmmm." He sipped at his coffee and idly said, "I could have sworn I smelled scones earlier." Stefan looked up sharply as the plate she was setting for Nikolas crashed to the floor.
"Something is troubling you," he said with polite concern. "No, don't worry about the mess, one of the maids will see to it. Sit down and tell me what is troubling you."
"Nothing, sir, really." Nevertheless, she still sat down and clasped her hands together under the tablecloth to still their trembling.
It wasn't like her to drop things, or to jump like a nervous cat. He studied her face, noted the evasive way she refused to meet his eyes, the way she glanced nervously around the room as if looking for an escape route. Something was troubling her. Something involving him and serious enough that she felt she had to lie to him about it. He thought about the matter and finally spoke aloud what he felt to be the most likely scenario.
"Are you being blackmailed by someone?"
Her protest of "No!" burst from her lips so naturally that he cautiously decided she was telling the truth.
"Then what is it?" Stefan took off his glasses and held her gaze. He silently willed her to tell him the truth.
"It's your uncle Victor, sir."
Stefan rocked back in his chair, dumbfounded as to why she should be upset about a man long dead.
"Victor? What about him?"
"He's here, sir."