At long last…

For my fellow GH fans and friends,

Here is the latest installment. It’s not action packed this time, but I hope you’ll find a few quality Robert and Anna moments, some of the relationship building stuff that we’ve been missing. Enjoy!

Previous chapters are available in the archives or at https://www.fanfiction.net/~catkthompson

Endgame Chapter 8  – WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

After wasting several rounds and most of their energy, Robert and Anna sat down, defeated. It was no use. No one was going to hear them scream. No one was going to release them even if they did.

“What the hell do we do now?” said Anna, her irritation readily apparent.

“I don’t know. Yet.” Robert made his way around the chamber opening and closing all of the cabinets.

“Well, we obviously can’t shoot our way out. How many bullets do you have left?”

“Four.” He eyed the supply of chemicals he’d found. “Can we blast our way out?”

“What?”

“I know you can diffuse a bomb, but how are you at building one?” he said.

She sank into the rolling chair near the work station and bent over to check the undersurface for bugs. “If I made a bomb strong enough to blow that door, the blast would kill us both.”

“So much for that.”

“Any other bright ideas?”

“Not at the moment.”

“You wasted half your ammunition firing at a steel door. What did you think—that you had some magic bullets? Good job we weren’t killed by the ricochet.”

“Anna, don’t do that,” he said as took off his sport coat and tossed it on top of a stack of boxes. He shoved a crate into the corner and stepped up on it to examine the mounted camera.

“Don’t do what?”

“The same thing you always do,” he said.

“And what is that, Robert?” she said, moving on to the drawers on either side of the desk.

“You take out your frustrations on the closest target. It’s not gonna do either of us any good to be down each other’s throats.”

“Eeerrrgghh! I know! I know you’re right! I’m just…” She pulled a small bound notebook out from under a pile of file folders and opened it to the first page. “Robert!” she said in a voice that sounded like a mixture of joy and panic.

He was at her side in an instant. “Did you find something?”

“Just this.” She held up the book. “Robin’s journal. She was here, Robert. All of this… this is her research. They kept her here all of this time against her will,” she said, her voice trembling. The thought sickened her, but proof that Robin was alive was almost enough to compensate for it.

He took the journal out of her hand and sat down on the cot on the far side of the room. “She was looking for a cure Polonium Poisoning?” he said, flipping through the pages.

“Apparently.”

“Under the command of Jerry Jacks and his band of merry men. Dammit!” He shook his head.

“Robert, what are we going to do? We can’t just sit here. Our daughter is out there somewhere.”

“We don’t seem to have a lot of options right now, do we? We’re gonna have to wait until someone opens that door and then… then we can make a move.”

“How long do you think until someone comes back?”

“I don’t know.”

“What if they don’t come back?”

“They will.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Because… Look, you said you saw Faison and Obrecht on the boat, right?”

“Yes.”

“So Faison knows you’re here.”

“Yes.”

“And what’s the one thing in this world that he wants more than anything else?”

“Me,” she said.

“Exactly.”

“So you think he’ll come back to claim me?”

“Or someone will. At the very least, they’ll bring you food and water. Keep you alive.”

She chose to ignore the fact that he didn’t include himself in that statement. “And then what?” she said. “We have four bullets. They have automatic weapons. The odds aren’t exactly working in our favor.”

He read the exasperation in her face. He reached out and pulled her rolling chair closer to him. He looked deep into her eyes. “Listen, this is us. You and me. We just need to put our heads together. We’ll come up with something.”

She leaned in and allowed her forehead to touch his. She smiled, thinking their heads were quite literally together.

He gave a slight chuckle, knowing that was exactly what she was thinking.

“Okay?” he said.

“Okay,” she answered. “I guess we have time, don’t we?” she said with a slight smile.

“So it would seem,” he said.

They began to run escape scenarios by one another, shooting down one plan after another for one reason or another. Robert could feel Anna’s frustration growing again. Truth be told, he was no less irked than she was, but one of them had to keep a cool head.

After about an hour of fruitless discussion, Anna decided to change the subject. “Robert?”

“What, love.”

“Luke ran off after Jerry because he was looking for a cure for Polonium Poisoning. Jerry held Robin hostage so she could develop the cure. I can make sense of that. But how do you think Faison and Obrecht fit in to this whole thing?”

“Obrecht ran the clinic where Robin was held to start with.”

“Yes, but is there more? How is she connected to Faison? What is his part in all of it?”

“I don’t know, but I intend to find out, one way or another. And when I do…”

There was no need to finish that statement. She knew exactly what he was thinking. She was thinking it too.

“There’s something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about,” she continued.

“What’s that?”

“You said that you figured out that I was here because of a message from Britt Westborne.”

“Right. When she said that her mother might have brought her baby here, I figured it was—”

“How did you know that Obrecht was her mother?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, how did you know that Obrecht was Britt’s mother? I only found out a few weeks ago, but you were…”

“In a coma. Yeah. Don’t remind me.”

“So? Did I tell you that at the clinic?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

“What do you know?” She stood and started to pace about.

“What?”

“Or more precisely, what else do you know?”

“Anna, you’re not making any sense here.”

“Robert, I don’t think I told you about their relationship, so if I didn’t tell you, you must have got the information somehow. The question is what other information do you have, how did you get it, and how do we retrieve it?”

“Three,” he said matter-of-factly.

“What?”

“That’s three questions,” he smirked.

“Oh, shut up,” she said. She rolled her eyes, but he saw the playful grin that snuck across her face.

“What are you thinking?” he asked, intrigued. He watched her pace a while longer, obviously deep in though. He was in awe of her mind at work. He always had been. And there was nothing sexier than the gleam that she got in her eye when she was in throws of concocting a plan or solving a mystery.

“What if…” she said, still moving from one side of the room to the other. Her fingers formed a steeple in front of her lips just under her nose. “That’s it!” She crossed the room and sat down in front of him again. Turned sideways in the chair she crossed her legs.

He did his best to ignore them.

“Robert,” she started in again, leaning in toward him, “you said you saw Obrecht and Robin at the clinic before you lost consciousness.”

“Yeah.” He cleared his throat and sat up straighter.

“What if you heard them talking and somehow retained the information?”

“Subconsciously?”

“Yes. What if you heard something about what they were planning that you just don’t remember?”

“So, what do you want to do now, hypnotize me?”

“It’s not a bad idea.”

“It’s a terrible idea! Since when do you possess the skills to—”

“I’ve learned a lot of things since the last time we were together.”

“I’ll just bet you have!”

She caught the wicked twinkle in his eye. “Ah, watch it, Robert.”

“Anna, this is…”

“Come on. It can’t hurt to try, can it?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because…”

“Robert!”

“Anna, it doesn’t make any difference why I know what I know, all right?”

“But if you heard Obrecht say something, anything—”

“I was unconscious.”

“Yes, but if you—”

“Anna, drop it!” he said sternly.

“Couldn’t we just try it? Alex and I—”

“No.”

“Don’t you trust me?”

“Of course I trust you.”

“Come on, Robert,” she said with a curious smile, “what don’t you want me to find in that head of yours?”

“What? Nothing. Look, I’ve been reenacting Sleeping Beauty for the better part of a year, Anna. I’d rather not take any chances, all right?”

She considered his request and nodded, then stood and walked away again.

“I’m sorry,” he said, recognizing her disappointment.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said still facing away from him with her arms folded.

He stood and approached her. “Anna,” he whispered as he folded his arms around her from behind, “it’s gonna be all right. You’ll see.” He didn’t have to see her face to guess that tears were welling up in her big brown eyes.

She nodded again. “I know,” she said.

“We’ll figure it out, love.”

“I know,” she said again. She wiggled out of his grip and turn to face him. “I’m just so frustrated, you know?” Her lower lip quivered and the tears threatened to fall even as anger burned behind them. “Damn it, Robert!” She shoved at him.

She wasn’t angry at him. He knew that. She would much rather have been laying into Faison, but in his absence, Robert was the stand in.

“That man has destroyed every chance we’ve ever had at happiness and now he’s doing the same thing to Robin and her family!”

Her fists came at him, one after the other, pummeling him like a human punching bag. If he’d been stronger, he’d have let her have at it for a while longer, but currently that wasn’t an option. He rushed in to scoop her up into his embrace again before she could swing again. She didn’t fight him. Instead, she crumbled into him, sliding her arms under his and wrapping them up over his shoulders. She clung to him, soaking his shirt with salt water as he swayed slowly and shushed her softly.

“We were so close,” she murmured. “So close. She was here,” she cried. “I just want to hold my baby, Robert.”

“And you will. I promise. Come here.” He let go and took her hand, leading her over to the cot. They sat side by side, backs to the wall. He put an arm around her as she rested her head on his shoulder. “Now, look at it this way. A week ago you thought she was gone. Now you know they have her, but you know she’s alive, right?”

“Right,” she said, taking his free hand. She squeezed his fingers between hers. She sniffed. “She’s alive.” She wiped her eyes with the other hand as she sat up. “Do you think that we should—”

His face stopped her midsentence. His head rested on the cement block wall behind them. His eyes were closed. The dark bags around them spoke volumes. He lifted his head when she fell silent.

“Do I think we should what, love?”

“Ah… Do you think we should try to get some sleep? I mean, the circumstances aren’t ideal, but I am rather tired,” she said, knowing he wouldn’t admit that he was exhausted, but he would sleep if he thought she needed to.

“You are? How’s your head? You don’t think it’s a concussion, do you?”

“No. It’s fine. I’m fine. It’s just been a stressful day. Maybe if we get some rest we’ll be able to think more rationally about this whole thing.”

“You’re probably right about that.”

“Okay. So, you take the cot,” she said, getting to her feet.

“Where are you going sleep?”

“I can sleep in the chair.” She found an electrical pannel on the opposite wall and turned off the overhead lamps, leaving them in the soft glow of emergency lighting.

“Or we can both sleep here,” he suggested, patting the mattress next to him.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Robert.”

“What? We’ve occupied smaller spaces than this. Remember Beirut?” he said with a wry smile.

“I do,” she laughed. And I also remember that we damn near lost our mark because you couldn’t keep your hands off me.”

“Hmm. Well, I was younger then and much more flexible. And Lavery wasn’t part of the equation.”

She eyed him skeptically.

“Your virtue is safe tonight, my dear. Scout’s honor,” he said, raising his right hand.

She smiled at him. “Fine, but you take the wall,” she said, slipping off her heels and hanging her jacket on the back of the chair.

He removed his shoes too and lay down on top of the blanket, turning on to his side.

She positioned herself next to him facing away but was not surprised, nor bothered by his arms encircling her waist.

After a few minutes he heard her giggle. “What?” he said.

She covered her face with her hand, still laughing. “This just reminds me of that bloody train ride, that’s all.”

“The honeymoon train to hell?”

“Yes! Trying to fit into the upper berth. God, it was awful!”

He gave a small chuckle. “At least this time we don’t have to deal with motion sickness.”

“Thank God!” she said with a sigh. “Robert?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you ever wonder what might have happened with us? You know… if Faison hadn’t happened. Again. Do you think we could have made it work the second time?”

“I don’t know, Anna,” he said quietly. “I know that when we said our vows, I meant them.”

“Me too. Every word.”

“We had our share of trouble. God only knows. But we certainly had a lot of good times, didn’t we?”

“The best.”

“Those memories of you and me… Robin… they got me through some pretty dark moments.”

“Sometimes they’re the only thing that get me through the day—memories of Robin,” she quickly clarified.

“Name one,” he said.

“What?”

“A favorite memory.”

“Right now?”

“Why not?”

“All right…” She thought for a second. “The day I we told her we were her parents.”

“Good one.”

“Your turn.”

“Ah, the day I gave her the puppy.” He laughed. “You were fit to be tied. You and Duke.”

“No we weren’t!”

“Were too. You covered it well, though. Next.”

“Robin’s dance recital.”

“Ooh… and the delayed-gratification dress. That’s high on my list too. How about our second wedding? I think Robin was as happy as we were. Go again,” he prompted her.

She smiled. “Robin’s wedding. Having you there to walk her down the aisle.”

“And after the wedding,” he chided.

“Robert!”

“You were drunk on champagne and I was drunk on you. Intoxicated by the radiant beauty of the mother of the bride,” he went on.

“I thought we agreed never to talk about that,” she said in a hushed tone.

“Who’s going to hear it?”

They both had to laugh at that. Neither spoke again for quite some time, each lost in thought. Finally she broke the silence. “Thank you,” she said.

“For what?”

“For the trip down memory lane. It was nice.” She yawned and stretched. Her hand came to rest on his, their fingers intertwining.

“My pleasure,” he said. “Sleep now, love. Tomorrow we can get back to work. Find a way out of this mess.”

“And we find our daughter… and take her home… to Port Charles,” she said sleepily.

“Damn right.”

“To Patrick and Emma…”

“To Patrick and Emma,” he repeated. He felt her inhale deeply and let it out. Her body relaxed against his. He kissed the back of her head and whispered good night. He allowed himself to relax too, but before drifted off to sleep, he made a promise—a promise to himself, to Anna, and to Robin and Emma. This time, he would reunite mother and daughter. Faison would not win again. Robert would die before he would let him win again.

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The Saga Continues….

Finally…. Here it is #RnA fans. Enjoy!

All chapters also available on https://www.fanfiction.net/~catkthompson

ENDGAME

Chapter 4

THE RETURN OF MS. DEVINE

Anna shook her head. She wanted more than anything to believe that their daughter was still alive. But she was afraid to venture down that road again. “Robert, don’t,” she said shaking, her head.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t do that to me. Don’t say that. I don’t want to get my hopes up only to have them dashed again. I can’t.”

“They won’t be.”

“Please, Robert,” she begged, tears filling her eyes again. “You know I want to believe you.”

“Anna, you can believe me. You know that. Look, I don’t know exactly what happen here, but this note— it’s a clue.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because… before I left to find you after Faison—that bastard—had taken you, I sat her down to have a talk to her. I didn’t know what in the world to say to her. You know, you were always the expert with teenage girl stuff.” He paused, taking her hand.

“Yeah,” she said with a nod. Her eyes were watery again, but a tiny smile graced her lips.

“Anyway, before I left, I sat her down and tried to explain in not so certain terms what had happened. She was so smart, Anna. She knew exactly what was going on—even though I tried not to let her see it. She knew it was dangerous. But she also knew I had to find you. She knew how much I loved you.”

She heard the pain still evident in his voice even after so many years. “Robert—”

He went on. “My God, how I loved you, Anna. I didn’t want to leave her, but I couldn’t… I couldn’t leave you out there, alone, with that madman. So, I hugged her and kissed her, and promised to bring you back to her. To us. She told me that we should think of each other every night at midnight. I told her that wasn’t nearly enough, that I’d be thinking of her every second of every day. And she said…” He chuckled. “She said, ‘I know Daddy, but with time changes and everything, it’s always midnight somewhere, right? So we’ll be thinking of each other all the time.’ She was so grown up. So brave. It was the last thing she said to me before I closed the door. ‘Remember, Daddy. It’s always midnight somewhere.’” He paused again and gulped, trying to swallow the lump in his throat.

“Robert, do you really think…?”

“She’s out there, Anna. I know it. You know it. You can feel it. I can see it in your eyes.”

“No,” She pulled away from his grip and walked across the room, still forcing herself to deny what she so desperately wanted to believe.

“Come on, Anna! Listen to your gut”

“I can’t!”

“What do you mean, you can’t?”

“I don’t know if you realize, but my instincts—”

“Your instincts are just as good as they always were. The note brought you here to me, didn’t it?”

“Yes, but…”

“Anna, look at me.” He waited for her to face him again. “You are the smartest, most capable agent I know.”

“Please!” she said, walking slowly back toward the bed.

“Well, besides yours truly of course!” he snickered.

“Oh!” She swatted at him.

“Hey now!” He caught hold of her arm and wove his fingers in between hers, preventing her from walking away again. “Would it help if I told you that you are also the most beautiful agent I know?”

“Hardly. Flattery will get you nowhere, Scorpio. Anyway, I told you I’m not available.”

“Listen, just  ‘cause Lavery’s alive, that doesn’t change the fact that you… you still take my breath away.”

She tilted her head and gave him one her half smiling, half crying looks, a look that made him want to envelope her in his arms and take it all in, all the joy, all the pain, everything. It hurt him to see her doubting herself.

“Come on, Ms. Devine,” he said, flashing her a smile loaded with his distinct brand of Aussie charm.

She laughed.

“Trust yourself. Hell, trust me!”

She had struggled so many times over the past year and a half to put Robin’s memory to rest, to find the power to accept that she was gone and the will to go living without her. Now she stood staring at Robert, searching her soul for the strength to dive head-first back into the pool of hope. Instead, she found it in him. All of the courage and conviction she’d ever needed stared back at her in his cool blue eyes.

“You’re sure?” she asked with a sniffle, lips pressed together.

“Positive.”

She took a deep breath and licked her lips. “Okay,” she said, drying her tears on her sleeve.

“Does that mean you’re with me?”

“Robert, if you’re telling me our daughter is out there and this is your proof, you know I’m with you. So, what do we do now?”

“We start with the usual suspects,” he said.

“Faison?” she asked.

“Top of the list, but their keeping him at Steinmaur.”

“Right.”

“Helena?” he asked. “She was working with him for a while.”

“She’s dead.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Nope. She and Luke had a showdown on the Haunted Star.”

“And Spencer won?”

“That round, anyway.”

“The things you miss when you’re in a coma.”

“What about the Jeromes?” she asked.

“What?”

“A woman named Ava Jerome recently turned up in Port Charles. She claims she’s no relation to Julian, but Duke swears she is.”

“He would know.”

She gave him a stern look that softened quickly. “I hate to admit it, but I am a bit worried about a possible connection.”

“As well you should be. But even if it is the same family, what would they want with Robin?”

“I don’t know. Would they use her to get to Duke?”

“I don’t think so. She was gone before he ever resurfaced.”

“True. But Faison had him.”

“And now we’ve come full circle.”

“Of course we have. Why didn’t I think about it sooner? Damn!”

“What?”

“Liesl Obrecht—the monster that put you in a coma—she’s his partner in crime.”

“And if she was here and Robin was here—”

“Then it stands to reason that she—and he—”

“Are involved with Robin’s disappearance,” he said, completing her thought.

“Yes. But why?”

“Who knows why that demented Dane does anything he does? Other than because of his sick obsession with you, of course.”

“Dr. Obrecht is currently MIA. So, we’ll have to start with Faison.”

“When do we leave?”

“We don’t. I do.”

“I’m not letting you go alone.”

“You don’t have a choice, Robert. You can’t even stand on your own yet. You need time to recover and we don’t have time to waste.”

She had a point. Robin had already been missing for over a year. They couldn’t afford to let the trail get any colder than it already was. Still, the thought of her anywhere near Faison made his skin crawl. “I don’t like it Anna.”

“I don’t either, but I’ll do what I have to. For Robin.”

“What about taking Spencer with you? Or Mac?”

“No. Luke has enough trouble of his own right now. He’s off on his own wild goose chase. Mac is getting ready for the wedding. Though we should call him and let him know about you.”

“What wedding?”

“He and Felicia are getting remarried.”

“That’s a bit of good news, isn’t it?”

“Not for Frisco. Remind me to tell you about the Nurse’s Ball later.”

“Anna, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but… What about Lavery?”

“What about him?”

“What if he were to go with you?”

“What for?”

He shrugged. “Backup.”

“Robert, ten months in a coma must have done a number on your mind.”

“What does that mean?”

“I love Duke, but we both know that’s the dumbest idea you’ve ever had. He means well, but he’ll only slow me down.”

“Are you sure?”

“Rule number one: don’t send an amateur to do a professional’s job, right? Besides, I’m a capable agent, remember? You said so yourself.”

“Even capable agents need backup.”

“I don’t want to bring anyone else in on this until we have more to go on. I’d rather not get Mac’s or Patrick’s hopes up just yet.”

“Fine. But we should at least know what we’re up against. I’d like to make a few calls.”

“I’ll check in with Frisco,” she said, pulling out her phone.

“I’ll try Sean. Is my cell here somewhere?”

“Here.” She fished it out of the bedside table drawer and turned it on. He reached for it and she held it out of his reach. “Your battery is low.”

“Anna,” he said, agitated, but not oblivious to the fact that she was bending over to plug in the charger.

“I can manage that. Would you just give it to me, please?”

“Yes dear!”  She tossed it to him.

He caught it. “Thank you, darling!”

“The pleasure is all mine.”

“I doubt that,” he teased.

“Dial, Robert!” she said, hitting send on her phone and waiting to be connected.

“Yes, boss!” he said, smiling. He liked what he saw. The Anna strutting around the room in front of him now was a complete change from the one who had stood before him only moments ago. This one was calm, in control, and in charge. She was back, and from his perspective, looking better than ever.

“Hi, Frisco? It’s Anna,” she said into the phone.

He turned his attention to his own phone and dialed. “Yeah, hello, Anna, Let me talk to your dad please. What? Tell him it’s Robert Scorpio. He’ll speak to me. Just tell him.”

“What have you got?” she asked once they’d both finished with their calls.

“Not much. According to their daughter, Sean wasn’t feeling well. She couldn’t get him on the phone, which concerns me.”

“And Tiffany?”

“She wasn’t home. I’ll have to see if I can get more info from him later. What did Frisco say?”

“Still no sign of Obrecht. He’s arranging clearance for me to get into Steimauer right now. Otherwise, nothing,” she sighed. “So, I guess I should get going.”

“Come here a minute, will you?”

“What?” she asked, approaching.

“Sit.”

She did.

He took her hand. “Before you go, I need to tell you…” He stopped, suddenly unable to speak. He inhaled sharply.

“What is it, Robert?”

“I wanted to tell you…” He cleared his throat. “Just… don’t let him get to you, okay? Keep your head in the game.”

“Don’t worry. I will. But you know that I will do anything I have to, to get our daughter back.”

“I know. But don’t compromise yourself in the process, okay? I want her back as much as you do, but you have to stay safe. ‘Cause she still needs her mother.” He gave her a concerned smile. “So do I.”

“Don’t go soft on me Scorpio,” she said with a chuckle. She tried to stand and walk away, but he held fast to her hand.

“I mean it, Anna. If anything were to happen to you while I was stuck here…”

“Robert, I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself.”

“I know you can, but…”

Her brow furrowed as she regarded him curiously. She hadn’t seen that look on his face since the cancer scare several years ago. When he threw his head back on the pillow still at loss for words, she took it upon herself to make the next move. She leaned in and hugged him.

He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair. “I love you,” he whispered.

Squeezing him even tighter, she choked back her emotions and whispered back, “I love you too.” Then she pulled away and quickly wiped away a single tear from her left cheek. “I’ll be fine, all right? You just worry about getting well again.” She picked her bag and threw the strap over her shoulder, then checked for her phone and her gun. She turned and headed for the door.

“Anna,” he called after her.

She looked back.

“I’ll be waiting to hear from you.”

With a quick nod and one last smile, she closed the door behind her.

Previous chapters are available in archives or on   https://www.fanfiction.net/~catkthompson

It’s Always Midnight Somewhere

I promised I would share my short story once it was finished. So… here is it. Only, it’s not just a short story anymore. It’s more like the first installment of a continuing saga. For those of you who are General Hospital fans, you’ll recognize the characters right away. If you’re not big on GH, I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway. As with all things Scorpio, there is bound to be a little intrigue and excitement, and hopefully a little romance. To all of my #RnA Tweeps… I hope I’ve done you proud. More to come.

ENDGAME

Chapter 1

IT’S ALWAYS MIDNIGHT SOMEWHERE

“It’s always midnight somewhere,” Anna said, as she read the note aloud for about the tenth time that night.  “What is that supposed to mean?” She stood and paced around her office, rolling her neck and stretching. There was a knock at the door.

“Come in.”

An officer in uniform poked his head in. “You wanted to see me, Commissioner?”

“Yes, officer. Were you the one working the desk when this envelope was delivered?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Did you happen to see who delivered it?”

“No ma’am. Detective Falconeri called in with an update and when I hung up the phone I noticed it sitting on the desk. That’s when I brought it to you. Is there something wrong, Commissioner?”

“No. Thank you. That’ll be all. Ask Detective Falconeri to come and see me as soon as he gets back, will you please?”

“Yes ma’am.”

The officer closed the door behind him. Anna returned to her desk. She picked up the note again and put her glasses on to examine it more closely.  She held it up to the light, lips pursed. The message was spelled out in letters clipped from magazines. No signature. Nothing. Just those four words. It’s always midnight somewhere.

Another knock came. “Yes,” Anna said, taking her glasses off.

“Commissioner?” The detective hovered at the door.

“Dante, come in please. Did you find anything new at the crime scene?”

“Maybe. We talked to all of the staff on duty again. All of their stories check out.  But one of the bus boys says he remembers seeing a woman while he was out back on break. Said it was her first night. She was wearing a housekeeping uniform. Funny thing is, Carly says they haven’t hired anyone in several weeks.”

“That’s interesting. A new employee that the owner of the hotel doesn’t remember hiring? How did we miss that the first time round?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you get a description?”

“Not much of one. It was dark. Medium height. Blonde.”

“Well, let’s follow on that. Keep me posted, all right?”

“Sure thing. What’s that?” Dante asked, motioning toward the note in her hand.

“I’m not sure. It was left at the desk earlier today in an envelope addressed to me.” She held it out to him.

“Looks like an old-school ransom note. Is this message code for something?”

“I wish I knew. There was no sign of anyone. It just showed up. The name on the envelope was typed. I don’t know what to make of it.”

“Probably just some kids messin’ around. There’ve been a lot of teenagers hangin’ out down on the docks lately pulling pranks.”

Anna would have liked to buy Dante’s suggestion, but her gut instinct told her there was more to it than that. She was convinced it was a clue of some kind. A clue to what, she didn’t know. “Joke or not, let’s keep our eyes and ears open, okay?”

“Sure.”

“It’s late. Why don’t we get out of here and deal with all of it in the morning hmm? I’m sure Lulu would love to see you some time tonight.” She put on her jacket and escorted Detective Falconeri out of her office, turning out the lights and closing the door behind her.

~

By the time Anna made it back to the Metro Court she was exhausted. She was rather glad that Duke was staying in his own suite tonight and hadn’t insisted on spending the night with her. She was far more interested in sleep right now than anything else and she was in no mood for conversation. She climbed into bed and drifted off almost immediately. A while later she woke up again.  She glanced around the room. It was still dark. Was it morning already? She picked up her phone. “Oh ,God. Midnight,” she said to herself. “It’s always midnight somewhere.” She still didn’t know what to do with that message. She got out of bed and put on her dressing gown. She found a bottle of water on the table in the sitting room of her hotel suite and flopped down on the sofa. She propped her feet up on the coffee table and took a drink.  She ran her fingers through her hair. Her stomach growled. Only then did she realize she’d forgotten to take time for dinner. “I really need to stop living out of a hotel. I don’t even have a refrigerator to raid,” she thought. She threw her head back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling. Soon a small smile crept over her face as she recalled one friendly late-night chat with Olin and Robin eating a chocolate cake together in their kitchen. A lone tear lingered in the corner of her eye.  She wiped it away with the back of her hand and exhaled deeply. She wondered how long it would be before she could remember her daughter without pain and regret. She knew Robin wouldn’t want it that way, but it was still hard to avoid. She knew sleep was impossible at that point, so she headed back into the bedroom to get dressed again.

~

With no place better to go on her moonlight stroll, Anna ended up on the docks. She was standing on the pier for all of five minutes when she heard a rustling sound behind her. Instinctively, she reached into her bag and gripped her gun. She slowly turned and discovered three teenage boys creeping up behind her in the dark.

“What can I do for you,” she asked.

“Do have any money in that thing?” one of them said, pointing to her small cross-body bag.

“Why? Who wants to know?”

“We do,” another boy said. The three of them took a step closer. One of them punched his fist into the palm of his hand.

“Sorry. No money. But I do have a badge and a police issue weapon,” she said, producing the badge.

“Shit. She’s a cop,” said the third boy, who’d remained silent until now.

“Commissioner Devane, at your service.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

“Hold it. Just a minute,” Anna said sharply. “I’d like to talk to you.”

“About what?” one asked, his voice shaking.

“Do you know anything about this?” she asked, pulling a folded piece of paper from her bag.

“Never seen it before,” the ring-leader said.

“What about you,” she asked the others.

They both shook their heads.

She eyed what appeared to be a can of spray paint in one boy’s pocket. They had to be the kids Dante had been talking about earlier. “Are you sure? You ‘ve never seen this before?”

“No, Commissioner.”

“Not even if I remind you that cooperating with me could keep you all out of juvie for any crimes you may have committed whilst you were playing your little pranks down here?”

“No ma’am. Honest.”

“We haven’t done anything! You guys said we couldn’t get in trouble for the stuff we did!”

“Okay. Take it easy. Why don’t you just hand over the can of paint in your pocket and get on home to your mothers and fathers. Hmm? And don’t let me find you all down here again. Especially not at this hour.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they chimed. Without another word they took off, never looking back.

Anna stood on the pier a while longer, looking out over the harbor through the mist. A ship’s horn blasted somewhere in the distance.

“Anna, what are you doing out here at this time of night?” She heard Robert’s voice in her head.  She shook her head with a half-smile. He was always more protective of her than an ex-husband ought to be.

“I wish I knew,” she said, as if he were standing next to her. “Sometimes I don’t think I know what I’m doing at all anymore, Robert. Latex faces, a bullet that doesn’t match the murder weapon, and just now I damn near pulled my gun on a group of teenagers.  What’s wrong with me? My instincts are… just not what they used to be. You and I… we used to make such a good team. Nobody could pull one over on us. Ever since… Ever since we lost Robin… I don’t know. Nothing’s the same anymore. Then again, maybe I’m just getting old.”

As the harbor bells began to ring, a warm summer breeze blew her hair. She smiled, as if lost in some distant memory. She breathed deeply and exhaled, then took her phone from her pocket and dialed. No answer. She dialed again.

The familiar voice of Dr. Birchmeier, Anna’s usual contact at the Swiss Clinic, came on the line.

“Yes. Hello, doctor. This is Anna Devane. Has there been any change in Mr. Scorpio’s condition?”
“No, Madame Devane. I’m sorry.”

“I see. Has Ms. Sutton been there yet this morning? I wasn’t able to reach her.”

“No Madame. His wife…”

“Ex-wife,” Anna snapped.

“Yes Madame. She has not been here in several days.”

“Oh. Well, have there been any other visitors?”

“None that I know of, though someone did leave an envelope for him.”

“An envelope? What kind of envelope?”

“Nothing special about it. Just a plain envelope with the name Robert Scorpio typed on it.”

“Open it. Please.” Her eyes narrowed as she bit her lip.

She heard the tearing of paper as the doctor tore open the envelope. Her stomach tightened. She was glad now that she hadn’t eaten or she might have wanted to throw up.

“How strange.”

“What does it say,” she shouted into the phone.

“It is a bunch of colored letters that spell the words it’s always midnight somewhere.”

Her gut had been right about this one. If she and Robert had both received the same message, then someone was up to something. They had far too many enemies between them to speculate as to who it might be without further investigation. With him lying helpless in a coma, she couldn’t afford to take any chances that he was the target. She had to get to him.

“Listen to me. I want you to hold on to that note and don’t let any visitors in to see Mr. Scorpio. Do you understand? No one. If you see anyone or anything suspicious you are to contact the authorities and me immediately, do you understand?”

“Yes, of course, Madame, but what exactly do you think is going on?”

“I don’t know yet, but I intend to find out. Whatever it is, I don’t like it. I’m going to call Interpol. There should be an agent there with in the hour.  I’ll be on the next plane.”