Author's Notes: Thank you for reading. I really enjoyed writing this chapter. Baby scenes are always fun. Please take a moment to review after you are done reading. I always appreciate reviews and have fun reading them.
"Look at you!" Sarah exclaimed. She clapped her hands together excitedly as Mickey began to giggle. "You're standing all by yourself! What a big girl you are!"
Mickey clapped her own hands together happily as she mimicked her mom. The motion messed with her balance and she fell back, landing on her diapered bottom. Her laughter instantly stopped, and her wide eyes began to well up with startled tears.
Sarah knew from experience that she had to act fast. Mickey wasn't hurt, just surprised. She held both hands up and to the sides. "Oopsy daisy! You took a tumble." She made a funny face and Mickey chortled. "Would you like more banana?"
At Mickey's enthusiastic nod, Sarah picked a plastic plate up off the blanket and scooted closer to the baby. She unpeeled a chunk of fruit and handed it to Mickey. "Small bites," she reminded the little one. As the baby ate, Sarah glanced around. "It really is gorgeous up here," she mused. "Its no wonder Justin wanted a piece of this property. Its so relaxing." She stared out at the tranquil lake about a hundred feet from their picnic blanket. The water glistened in the sunlight. "Next time we go to town, I'll have to buy swimsuits for us and a life jacket for you," she told Mickey. "Maybe I can start teaching you to swim while we're staying here." Closer to them, trees dotted the landscape. The cheerful sounds of their feathered inhabitants filled the air.
She glanced down at the fitness tracker on her wrist. "Wow! We've been out here almost three hours. I guess we'd better head back inside." She started gathering up the supplies scattered across the blanket, packing them back into the picnic basket she'd found in a storage cupboard. Despite Justin's assurances, she was surprised to find that the house was very well stocked. A man's idea of a house having 'everything' didn't always match a lady's idea of 'everything'. Yet, this house had almost everything a person or family could need for a relaxing low-tech vacation. The kitchen was filled with gizmos, gadgets, and small appliances. There was an impressive stock of DVDs, CDs, board games, and books. There were even some old VHS tapes and a VCR. She was going to have to find time to try the VCR soon.
"Ok sweetie. Are you done with your banana?"
Mickey nodded, holding her hands up in the air. "Done."
Sarah grimaced slightly before chuckling. "You always manage to wear as much as you eat." The baby had smashed the banana in both hands. Bits of goo filled the spaces between Mickey's fingers. She'd also managed to get chunks of banana into her super fine hair and streaked across her face. "I'm glad I brought plenty of wipes on our picnic. Let's get you cleaned up." Dropping the last wipe into the basket, Sarah stood up, lifting Mickey to her hip in one quick motion. "You're still going to need a bath my icky sticky little munchkin," she proclaimed, dropping a kiss to Mickey's nose. She grabbed the blanket, draping it over her arm and then picked up the basket.
She headed back down the path toward the house. It wound around trees, bushes, and bright bunches of wildflowers as it led her back to the cabin. A huge shade tree stood guard near the large cement patio off the kitchen. Someone had made an old-fashioned swing with ropes and a board and hung it from a high branch. Her grandpa Tom had crafted a similar swing to hang from a tree outside the Horton house. She, her sister, and their cousins had spent hours climbing that tree and pushing each other on the swing. "I'm sorry you don't have a sibling or a close in age cousin to play with," she said quietly, looking down at the baby. An image of Tate flashed through her head but she quickly shoved it aside. "Maybe someday. In the meantime, we'll join lots of play groups."
Stepping onto the porch, she froze. A large golden yellow dog rounded the side of the house and bounded toward her. She slowly eased Mickey a bit higher in her arms without taking her eyes and attention off the dog. Its body language was easy, smooth, and not at all tense. Its tail was wagging and its ears were upright. The dog's coat was shiny and healthy looking and it didn't look like it had missed any meals recently so it was probably someone's pet rather than a stray. She could barely make out hints of blue buried in the fur around its neck as the dog got closer to her. "So, you're probably a boy."
Glancing around, she expected to see someone out for a walk or hike but she couldn't see anyone. "Hmm. You must have escaped your yard." It was a bit odd. From what she could tell during her drive up the night before and the things Justin had told her, there weren't any houses nearby. One of the selling points of the house was its seclusion. "I guess dogs can probably wander quite a ways?" she asked the creature. In answer, it just stared up at her. Carefully balancing the baby, she reached into her pocket with her free hand and pulled out the keys Justin had given her. "I've got to take my baby inside for a bath and a change of clothes. You should probably go home before your humans get worried."
She turned sideways, keeping an eye on the dog while she fitted the key into the kitchen doorknob. "If you're still here after I get the baby settled, I'll check your collar for your owner's number," she promised, cracking the door open. The dog jumped forward. Sarah dropped the basket and hurried inside, quickly shutting the door. It was probably friendly, she told herself. But she wasn't a dog expert and she couldn't take chances with her daughter's safety.
An hour later, with Mickey contentedly down for her afternoon nap, Sarah eased the back door open. She kept her foot wedged against it as she carefully glanced out, just in case the dog tried to force its way inside. The dog didn't seem to be close to the door. She cautiously stepped outside, closing the door behind her. "Here doggy doggy doggy." She rolled her eyes at herself. It would be obvious to anyone that she'd grown up with cats rather than dogs. Dogs probably didn't respond to such generic terms.
She moved farther from the door, stopping just short of tripping over the abandoned picnic basket. It was open and its contents were scattered over the patio. The dog had helped itself to a snack before leaving. Oh well, she thought. At least there wasn't anything in the basket that would seriously hurt the dog like chocolate, alcohol, or grapes. If it got a little sick to its stomach and made a mess on its owners' carpet, maybe they'd do a better job of keeping it home. She gathered up the dishes and a half-eaten banana peel.
Inside she filled the sink with antibacterial soapy water and dropped the dog slobber covered dishes in to soak. She wiped the basket with Lysol and put it away. She ran a couple of wipes over the kitchen counters and then put the package back on a high shelf. Her chores done, she looked over at the microwave clock. "I wonder why I haven't heard from Justin yet today," she mused out loud. It was almost 3 pm. When they'd spoken the night before, she'd understood that he would be calling her with an update this morning. Hopefully nothing went wrong with Zander's arrest or serving Kristin's restraining order. Maybe I'd better check in with Justin, she thought.
She tiptoed toward the playpen and peeked at Mickey. The baby was sound asleep on her back, a peaceful half smile on her lips. Satisfied that the baby was still settled, Sarah crossed to the couch and sank down into a corner. She kicked off her shoes and tucked her legs up under her. Taking her phone out of her pocket, she dialed the most recent number.
Brrring, brrring, brrrring, brrrring, brrrring, brrrring. She was about to give up and disconnect when Justin answered.
She frowned. There was something about his tone… "Hi. Is everything okay? Did I catch you at a bad time?"
"I was finding a quiet private spot before I answered." He paused for several seconds. "I'm at the hospital and several family members and friends are here. Victor was stabbed early this morning."
Sarah gasped. Her hand tightened on the phone until her fingers went numb. "Does my mom know?"
"Not yet. He just got out of surgery a while ago. We've been waiting for him to regain consciousness. Once we have a little good news to share, someone will go to the prison to tell her in person."
"I can be on the road in 10 minutes. I just need to get Mickey ready. I'll tell my mom." She started to stand, falling back to the couch as Justin's firm tone came across the line.
"No. Absolutely not. You and Mickey are safest where you are for now."
She sighed. "It's hard being so far away."
"I'm sure it is."
"Do they know who stabbed him? What was the motive?"
"The police are still investigating. My uncle unfortunately doesn't lack enemies. They have the assault weapon. The lab is expediting testing so hopefully they'll know soon if any fingerprints or DNA were left behind."
She closed her eyes, cringing. "I hate to ask this but, Zander is behind bars? He didn't have opportunity…?"
"Yes. Zander was arrested last night. He hasn't been arraigned yet. I expect him to make bail at his arraignment. I'm not sure he'd have motive anyway. In the past he and Uncle Victor have had issues but lately they seem to have come to an understanding."
She let out a slow, relieved breath. "Just the idea of it." She shuddered. "I know Zander has done some despicable things. I really thought he'd grown up and become a good person. I thought he'd really changed." She gave a low bitter laugh. "I guess I'm naive. First Rex, now Zander. I have terrible taste in men."
"Don't beat yourself up for any of this Sarah. Zander put a lot of effort into convincing you, and anyone else willing to listen, that he was working on becoming a better person. Believing in people is a good trait to have, not a bad one."
She heard a muffled voice in the background and then Justin's voice came back over the line. "Kayla says that Victor is conscious. Eli has been waiting to interview him. He's agreed to let me observe." He gave a dry laugh. "With Uncle Vic, you never know when council is going to be necessary."
She chuckled. "True. Thank you Justin, for everything. Please let me know how my mom is later?"
"Of course. We'll talk in a few hours."
Disconnecting the call, Sarah dropped the phone down onto the couch cushion. She let her head fall back against the couch and closed her eyes. "Uggg", she murmured, pressing the palms of her hands over her eyes to combat the headache that was starting to form. "Please, please, please God, I need this week to start getting better."
"Hello Mr. Kiriakis."
Victor managed a slight nod toward Eli.
"I'm the lead detective on your case. Dr. Brady said I can speak with you briefly. Is that okay with you?"
Victor nodded again.
"Is it alright for your nephew Justin to join us?"
Victor gave another nod.
"May I record this interview?' Eli held up a small stack with a legal pad and pen and a small voice recorder. "I'll also take notes if you answer nonverbally."
"Yes," Victor ground out, letting his impatience seep into his tone.
"Do you remember what happened to you?"
"I… was…" he trailed off, struggling for words. He swallowed hard. "Stabbed."
"You're saying you were stabbed? Is that correct?"
"Do you remember who stabbed you?"
"Yes." He tried to draw in a deep breath but sudden pain stopped him. His fists clenched handfuls of bedsheet and sweat beaded on his forehead.
Justin closed the distance between himself and the bed in three quick steps. "Uncle Vic?" He looked up at Kayla whose eyes were focused on Victor's pulse and blood pressure numbers. He moved to the other side of Victor's bed and rested both hands on the rails, waiting to see if there was any way he could help.
Kayla turned toward Eli. "I think he's had enough for now. He needs his rest. He's still in a lot of pain."
Eli hesitated, staring down at Victor. He knew the older man had been seconds away from identifying his assailant. Part of him wanted to push Victor for the name. He and Lani could make an arrest today. Even if Victor wasn't able to identify his attacker, DNA evidence hopefully would but even with a rush on the results that could take days. With the circles Victor ran in, those extra days worried Eli. Whoever had stabbed Victor could be settled in a country without an extradition treaty before the lab results were back. But in the end, Victor's health had to come before the case. "I'll hang out in the waiting room for a while in case he's up to trying again later," he said.
Kayla leaned down to adjust the nasal cannula helping Victor breath.
Victor shifted slightly, trying to see around her. "Wait."
His hand on the doorknob, Eli paused. He looked back over his shoulder.
"Please…" Victor took a shallow breath, "stay."
Eli looked between Justin and Kayla.
Justin stared down at Victor's face, set with a familiar determined grimace. He met Kayla's eyes. "He needs to do this now. He'll have a better chance of getting meaningful rest afterward."
Kayla glanced up at Victor's monitors and sighed before nodding at Eli. "Fine. But please hurry."
"I will," Eli agreed as he walked back to Victor's bedside. "I'm turning the recorder back on," he said. He laid it on the table by Victor and opened his yellow pad, his pen hovering above it ready to write. "Mr. Kiriakis, do you remember who stabbed you?" he asked again.
"Yes," Victor managed emphatically. "Kristin." He paused, drawing in a breath. "DiMera."
Eli froze, his pen poised in mid air above the paper. "Kristin DiMera?" he repeated. "Do you know why she stabbed you?"
After more than a full minute had passed without Victor elaborating, Eli pushed lightly. "Are you up to sharing that information?"
"She's mad about the baby."
Kayla's eyes widened. She looked at Justin. "I though he didn't know? I instructed my staff to keep the news off the tv and avoid gossiping near him."
Justin chuckled dryly. "The family agreed to break it to him gently and then let him help decide how to tell Maggie. We should have known that Victor has eyes and ears in that house. With all the commotion last night, of course he figured it out."
Eli tapped his pen against the pad, a puzzled frown settling over his face. "I still don't understand why Kristin would stab you, Sir. Are you saying that she was so upset about the baby situation that she would have attacked anyone she encountered?"
"Maybe." Anger gave Victor a burst of energy and he pushed himself into more of a sitting position even as Kayla leaned in objecting. "I can do it," he snapped.
"When he's in this mood, it's best to let him be," Justin suggested.
Kayla looked up at Victor's monitors again. His blood pressure was a bit elevated but everything else had normalized. "Fine," she agreed with a sigh.
"As far as I am aware, no one else was attacked last night or this morning," Eli said skeptically. "Your attack seems targeted. Does she have a reason to be angry with you?"
Victor glowered at him. "Go arrest her."
"Unless you can give me more of a motive or some evidence, I'm going to have to wait until the lab is finished with the forensic evidence." Eli fastened his pen to his writing pad and leaned over to get his recorder. Victor was hiding something. He wasn't sure why exactly but Victor was trying to withhold the motive. He didn't doubt that the old man was correct about Kristin being the intruder who stabbed him but his gut told him there was a lot more to the story.
Victor's eyes narrowed as he glared hard at Eli. "The back door."
Eli's hand stopped inches from the recorder. "What?"
"She came in the back door."
"Through the kitchen?" Justin asked.
Justin met Eli's eyes. "My uncle has coded locks on all the exterior doors. Each person is assigned their own code and codes are changed relatively often."
Eli jotted that down. "Do you know how many people have codes?"
Justin started going through the list. "Uncle Victor and Maggie, Sarah, Zander, Sonny, Will. Gabi has a code so she can come and go as necessary to help care for Ari. Ari's nanny has a code as do several other staff members. Ciara has a code. I have a code. Brady has a code."
"Does Kristin have her own door code?"
Justin looked down at Victor who shook his head. "No. She used to. For a short time during her pregnancy she stayed at the mansion. When she left, her code was deleted. I think it is reasonable to assume that Brady has shared his code with her. I have shared my code with Kayla." He paused a moment. "We have a master list in the safe at the mansion. Uncle Victor also has an app on his phone. In real time he can see who has accessed the house by using a code. The codes can also be deleted or changed using the app."
"Is his phone here?" Eli asked. "I don't think we recovered it at the scene."
"Yes," Kayla said. "It was in one of his jacket pockets." She crossed the room to a stand and retrieved a clear bag filled with clothing.
At the sight of his blood, Victor cringed. "Burn them."
"No!" Eli and Justin both exclaimed at once.
"We'll need those clothes as evidence," Eli explained.
Kayla nodded. "We removed them wearing gloves. We did have to do some cutting but I tried to limit it." She took a pair of gloves from the dispenser hanging on the wall. With gloved hands she opened the bag and removed a Ziplock with a phone in it.
"Did Kristin or anyone besides you, touch your phone?" Eli asked Victor.
Justin accepted the smaller bag from Kayla and pulled the phone out. He punched in his uncle's passcode and then accessed the app. He pulled up the door access list and handed the phone to Eli.
Eli scrutinized the list, trying to hold back his cringe. He couldn't believe all of these people were willing to give Victor so much information on their coming and goings. They had very little privacy. "Brady's door code was used to access the kitchen door at 4:00 AM." He had the night before off but he had heard all the gossip as soon as he arrived at work this morning. Brady, Kristin, Nicole, and Eric had all been at the station to give statements late the night before. There was a cat fight between Kristin and Nicole. Nicole, Eric, and Brady all spoke with officers and gave statements. Kristin disappeared from an interrogation room without giving her statement. She was there voluntarily so no one went after her. He was going to have to find out what time she and Brady each left.
"There are also security cameras," Justin offered. "Also controlled through the security app."
Eli blinked. "No one mentioned the cameras earlier."
"I like my privacy," Victor said flatly.
"I'm sure you do," Eli said dryly. "Are there exterior or interior cameras?"
"Exterior," Victor said quickly.
Eli glanced at Justin but the other man had an unreadable expression on his face.
"One of the cameras covers the area outside the kitchen. Maggie uses it to keep an eye on her garden. The creatures really enjoy stealing bites of her flowers and tomatoes." Justin reached out and Eli handed the phone back. He navigated through the app until he had found camera footage from just before 4 AM.
Eli narrowed his eyes as he stared down at the footage. It was dark and tough to make out the figure but it was obviously a woman. "I'm going to need to keep this phone as evidence. One of our tech experts may be able to enhance this footage so we can see more of the individual's features."
"I need my phone," Victor protested. "I use it for Titan business."
"You can copy the files you need from the security app," Justin put in. "You don't need the entire phone. There is privileged Titan business as well as very personal family information on that device."
Eli opened his mouth to argue but at Justin's insistent expression, he gave in. "Fine. Can you email the security video, the list of codes, and the access log for the kitchen door to me?"
"No," Victor said. As they all shot him surprised looks, he shook his head. "I don't trust you. With those codes anyone can get in my house."
"I need the list of codes to help make a case against Kristin," Eli explained. He tried to sound patient but his patience was rapidly running out. Usually victims were eager to help provide evidence that could lead to an arrest in their case. Victor was trying his best to withhold as much evidence as possible while insisting he wanted Kristin arrested.
"I can change all of the codes today," Justin suggested. "Eli would have his evidence but the house would still be secure." He let his eyes wander over the hospital bed. "Or at least as secure as it already was."
"Fine," Victor agreed.
Justin transferred the files.
Eli took the bag of clothing from Kayla and headed toward the door. He turned to face Victor. "Thank you for your… cooperation. I'll be in touch soon."
As soon as the door had closed behind Eli, Justin raised an eyebrow. "Now that's he's gone, what were you keeping from him?"
Victor looked up at Kayla.
"She's your doctor. She can't break your confidence."
"He's right," Kayla agreed. "I take doctor patient confidentiality very seriously."
Victor sighed. "I knew Zander had switched the babies."
"When?" Justin demanded.
"A long time," Victor evaded.
"Did you know the night the switch happened?" Justin pressed.
Victor answered with a quick nod. "Zander told Kristin. I need you to talk to him. I'll pay his legal fees, bail, whatever. He needs to leave my name out when he talks to the police. You'll represent him of course."
"No, I won't."
Victor's eyes widened. "What?"
"I won't represent Zander," Justin said flatly. "It would be a conflict of interest. I already agreed to represent Sarah. She's fighting for custody of the baby."
"Good for her," Kayla said. "If she needs a character reference…"
"I'll keep that in mind. Thank you." He turned back to Victor. "I'll give you a list of good lawyers. I'm sure one of them would love to take such a high-profile case."
"Fine," Victor reluctantly agreed. He leaned back against his pillows, his eyes briefly closing.
"You really do need to rest now," Kayla said.
"I'll give your assistant the list and ask her to send one of the lawyers over to speak with Zander ASAP," Justin said, already moving toward the door. "I'll check back in on you later. Rest!"
Kristin closed her eyes tightly and slowly blew out a deep breath. "Please," she whispered. She slowly opened her eyes to see the television in front of her. Two talking heads were having what seemed to be a passionate discussion. Briefly the idea of unmuting the tv occurred to her but she pushed it aside immediately. It was probably better to avoid the current speculation. She looked at the crawling headline bar across the bottom of the screen. 'Billionaire Titan founder Victor Kiriakis savagely attacked at home.' "It wasn't savage," she muttered. "He deserved it." She stood up, pacing across the room. "Why is everyone giving that jerk so much attention? He got what he deserved. My baby is missing and no one is looking for her!" She turned to glare at the tv screen. "Talk about that! Tell your viewers to find my baby!"
The clicking of the door caught her attention and she spun to face Brady.
Brady quietly closed the door behind him. He dropped a takeout bag on the table. He'd planned on the two of them having a late lunch but now he just didn't have the energy to eat. "I brought you some food," he announced as he peeled off his jacket.
She ignored the food. "Well?" She demanded. "What's going on?"
He sighed. "Justin's urgent summons was about my grandfather." He sunk down onto the edge of the bed. He ran his hand over his face, sighing again.
"Obviously," she snapped.
He dropped his hand, his eyes widening as he looked at her.
Kristin gestured impatiently at the tv.
He stared at the headline for a moment before closing his eyes in exhaustion. "Yeah. The parking lot was already swarming with press when I left. I barely managed to avoid them."
Kristin paced back toward him, stopping a foot away to stare down at him. "Is he gone?"
Brady shook his head. "No. Thank God. He survived the surgery." He gave another, longer sigh. "Kayla said it was touch and go. He's in surgical recovery waiting to be transferred to ICU. He's still in critical condition and unconscious." The weight of the whole situation finally hit and Brady dropped back on the bed, laying down. He let his eyes close again. "I know I should have stayed. Even though he fired me from Titan, he's still my grandfather. But after being up most of the night, I desperately need a nap. Ciara promised she'll call as soon as there is news."
Kristin gritted her teeth as her boyfriend rambling. Words jumped out at her; 'survived', 'recovery', 'touch and go', 'ICU', 'unconscious'. Her hands clenched at her sides as she pictured that smug old man waking up and gleefully commanding the police to arrest her. He'd enjoy it, she knew he would. He'd love taking the rest of her life from her. He'd already taken so much. She wasn't willing to give up any more.
Without opening his eyes, Brady used his feet to nudge his shoes off one at a time. He toed each one to the side, near the nightstand and pulled his legs up onto the bed. He shifted his position so that his head was comfortably resting on a pillow. "Join me," he said, blindly extending his hand.
Kristin blinked, trying to decipher Brady's words. "No."
He cracked his eyes open. "No?" he asked.
She softened her tone. "I got some sleep last night while you were at the police station and I napped again while you were at the hospital. I'm not tired now." She looked around the small hotel room. "But I'm going stir crazy cooped up here. I think I'll take a walk while you rest." She closed the distance to the bed and leaned down, pressing a light kiss to his lips. "Have a good nap. I'll be back soon." Standing back up, she quickly strode toward the door, grabbing her purse off a stand as she walked.
Brady raised his hand to cover a yawn. "Have a good walk. I love you."
She paused with her hand on the doorknob, smiling sweetly as she looked over her shoulder at him. "I love you too."
Closing the door, she leaned back against the hallway wall. "Damn you Victor," she murmured. "You always make everything so difficult." She unzipped her purse and peeked in to make sure her gun was still there. "Silly," she admonished herself with an eye roll. "Of course it's there. Who would have taken it?" Another option would be better. A quieter less messy option. But if all else failed she would have her back up plan with her. There were ways of silencing it.
Rafe signed his name with a flourish and dropped the memo onto the stack. "Finished," he said out loud. He glanced at the clock. It was almost 4:00. He grimaced. Paperwork was his least favorite part of the job. He rolled his chair back and stood up. He'd worked through lunch. Maybe he'd grab some chips and a candy bar from the vending machine to hold him over until dinner. He opened a drawer and started rummaging for change, stopping to look up when a knock sounded at the door. "Yes?" he called.
"Commissioner, it's Detective Grant."
He straightened into a full standing position and closed the drawer. "Come in."
Eli stepped into the office and closed the door behind himself.
"How's Victor doing?"
"He's awake. He gave his statement." He waved his yellow pad and then patted the recorder nestled in his pocket. "I haven't written it up yet. I just got back from the hospital. I thought you'd want to be updated though."
Rafe nodded. "Yes, definitely."
Wordlessly, Eli handed the pad of paper to Rafe.
Rafe scanned the paper silently. He narrowed his eyes as the name caught his attention. "I want you and Lani to work on finding Kristin. Bring her in for…" He stopped mid sentence as both his and Eli's phones started chiming. He pulled his phone his from his pocket, recognizing the text alert sound. "The lab results on the knife are back."
Eli looked up from his own screen, nodding. "They emailed us both the results."
So much for a snack, Rafe thought, sinking back down into his desk chair. He pulled his laptop toward him and lifted the lid. He quickly typed in his passcode and found the file he'd been sent.
After a quick read through, Rafe lifted his gaze toward Eli. "Well, he was telling the truth. Prints on the knife match prints we already have on file for Kristin DiMera. I want a team back over at the house to dust the kitchen doorknob for prints and see if they can find any other evidence in that area, like footsteps in the garden. I assume the staff and family have been kept out of the house?"
"Of course," Eli assured him. "The staff had already been given today off because they worked so late last night. Sonny has agreed to keep the family away until I give him the ok to return to the house."
"Will text and asked if they could spend another night at my place with David and me." He pushed his chair back and stood up again. "Can you arrange for the forensics team?" As Eli nodded, he went on. "I'd still like you and Lani to look for Kristin. Try starting with the Salem Inn, the DiMera mansion and the tunnels under it, and the DiMera company. You can pull as many officers as you need to help in your canvass. I'm going to head to the hospital to update the team guarding Victor's room," Rafe said as they stepped out of his office. He locked the door behind them. "This whole situation is quite a mess," he mused.
Eli nodded vehemently as they walked together toward the parking garage. "You should see my family's text thread. No one gossips like a huge family."
Rafe chuckled. "Oh I remember the Horton text thread well. Leaving it after my divorce didn't bother me at all."
"Everyone is worried about Sarah. She has been sending calls straight to voicemail. My grandma is really freaking out." He rolled his eyes. "Not that it takes much for Grandma to freak out."
"No," Rafe agreed with a smirk. "I'm surprised Sarah didn't tell anyone in the family where she and the baby are staying."
"If she did, they aren't saying so."
"Justin Kiriakis is her lawyer," Rafe volunteered. "I'm sure he knows where she is or at least is in contact with her. She and the baby are in a safe place," he said confidently.
"The baby." Eli winced and shook his head. "What are we supposed to call her? Is she Mickey or is she Rachel?"
"Right? 'The baby' is so much simpler." He rooted in his pocket for his car keys, using the fob to unlock his vehicle. "I guess if I have to use a name, it'll be Mickey until a court tells me otherwise." He pulled the car door open and looked back at Eli who was unlocking his own car. "Let me know immediately if you find Kristin."
"Of course," Eli agreed, climbing into his car.
As the elevator doors slid open, Rafe stepped out. He scanned the crowd milling around the nurses' station but recognized no one except for a few familiar nurses. I really do spend too much time at the hospital, he thought silently. He quietly made his way toward the door to the nearest waiting room, standing back from the entrance. He wanted to see in without being noticed by the occupants.
Justin sat in the farthest corner of the room, his laptop balanced precariously on his knees as he apparently attempted to work. His laptop bag and briefcase were both resting on the chair next to him.
Will and Sonny stood together near the window. They were whispering back and forth in what seemed to be a lively conversation. It was nice to see Will so content, Rafe thought as he let his attention linger briefly on the two young men. They had both been through a lot and deserved to be a happy family with their little girl. God knew Ari needed the stability her dads provided. He knew his sister loved her daughter ferociously and would walk over a mixture of hot coals and glass shards if it would protect Ari. But the decisions she made in other areas of her life…. His sister had a tendency toward impulsive, impetuous, and irresponsible behavior. Her hastily made choices often put her in tough spots. So far, her issues had only had a marginal impact on Ari because Sonny and Will acted as a buffer with the rest of the family providing lots of support. He was concerned that as his niece got older, it would be harder and harder to protect her from the gossip, hostility, and innuendo that surrounded her mother.
His gaze moved to the left. John was seated alone, flipping idly through a magazine. From so far away, he couldn't tell what the magazine was but judging by John's expression it wasn't holding his interest. Rafe briefly wondered where Marlena was but quickly realized that she was probably with a patient since it was about 4:30 on a weekday.
Ciara has chosen the seating area closest to the door. Hope and Ben sat on either side of her. She was bent over her phone, scrolling. Periodically, she'd stop, whispering something to the others as they all looked down. Her eyes looked a bit puffy but her lips were turned up in a small smile. She was probably sharing family pictures and memories, perhaps of Victor, he thought.
His scan of the room complete, Rafe frowned. No Brady or Kristin.
Across the room, John sighed, tossing his magazine back on the piled table. He looked up, his brow arching as he noticed Rafe.
The movement caught Rafe's attention and he looked back at John. The older man was a civilian but with law enforcement training and experience. He also was one of the people with the most insight into Kristin and how her mind worked. And, as Brady's father, he might know where the couple had gone. He also might be able to arrange to meet up with them without arousing suspicion on Kristin's part. His decision made, Rafe inclined his head to the side, silently gesturing for John to join him in the hall. He stepped several feet to the side so no one else would notice him if they looked up.
"Hey man. How's it going?" John asked as he joined Rafe.
"I'm doing okay. How are you?"
"I'm alright." John inclined his head toward the waiting room. "I'm sure you heard about Victor."
"Yes. I'm actually here on police business. I was hoping I could count on you for some assistance and discretion."
"Of course. I'll do anything I can to help. Even though we often clash, Victor will always be family."
"What we're about to discuss can't get out yet. You won't be able to tell anyone."
As Rafe put stress on the last word, John arched his eyebrow. "I've kept high level state security secrets," he reminded Rafe.
"You won't even be able to tell Marlena for now," Rafe cautioned.
"I understand," John said gravely. "Whatever is going on, I'll keep it to myself."
Rafe glanced around, making sure no one was near by. "Victor is awake and was able to speak with Eli briefly. Kayla and Justin were both present too. He identified his attacker. They have substantial resources and connections so I need to apprehend them before they can escape. Other people may be in danger." As he pictured Sarah and the baby, he grimaced. "Probably are in danger," he amended.
John frowned. "There are rumors that Orpheous is back in town. I've heard he might be your boy's biological grandfather."
Rafe winced. "Yes, he is."
"Did he have something to do with this?" He gestured vaguely in the direction of Victor's hospital room.
"No," Rafe said, shaking his head. "Victor identified Kristin DiMera and subsequent evidence has backed up that claim."
John's eyes widened and his hands clenched into fists. "Kristin?"
"Yes. I need to know where she and Brady are now?"
"Brady was here for a while but he was exhausted. He spent most of the night at the police station and didn't get any seep. So we sent him home to rest a while. Kristin didn't come with him. He said she stayed behind to give the family space and to rest. Brady said that she was awake all night too. Wasn't she at the police station during the middle of the night and wee hours of the morning?"
"She was but not long after an altercation with Nicole, she left by herself."
John shook his head and sighed. "So she had the opportunity."
"Yes." Rafe paused a moment. "I know you were hoping Kristin really had changed this time."
"Yes, I was, for my son's sake. And now for my new little granddaughter's sake. If Kristin is still hurting people, she can't have anything to do with a small child. Is there any way Victor is wrong?"
"We have forensic evidence John. As well as several other forms of evidence. We're in the process of forming a solid case. The puzzle pieces are all clicking into place easily. And she does have a history of committing some very unstable acts."
Yes," John agreed with a sigh. "What do you need from me?"
"I need you to reach out to Brady. Tell him you have news about Victor and need to meet with him and Kristin. Suggest a public place like the square, in about an hour. We'll clear it of civilians in advance and I'll have plain clothes cops surround the place. Their hotel room is too confined. If she's desperate enough, she may hurt Brady."
John closed his eyes briefly, sending up a silent prayer for his son's safety. Opening them, he reached for his phone. "Let's get this over with."