A Man Of Good Bones

By

Antigone

 

 

 

A Note from the Author:

As you may recall, Stefan Cassadine's last appearance on General Hospital ended with his death. A challenge was issued on The Cassadine Fanfiction Forum - a rallying cry to save him through fictional means. "A Man Of Good Bones" was my entry in that challenge. Because my story follows the original script quite closely, and because that original storyline is getting older by the day, you may have forgotten some of the details that help to set the stage. Here are the salient points of the televised version:

Stefan Cassadine returned to Port Charles to assist his nephew, Nikolas, in saving the Cassadine fortune. His master plan was to have Nikolas marry Lydia Karenin, an heiress whose inheritance could put the Cassadine finances back in the black. Nikolas resisted the marriage, as his heart belonged to Emily Quartermaine who was dying of cancer at the time. Stefan, in an act most seem to agree was completely out of character, arranged to have his henchman, Darius, push Emily off a cliff - thereby clearing a path for the marriage he'd arranged. Darius, blinded by the heavy fog, threw Summer Holloway over the cliff instead. Stefan sent Darius away that night, arranging to have him killed in a plane crash. An unhappy Nikolas chose duty over love and decided to marry Lydia. A suspicious Lucky Spencer began to investigate Stefan.

Alexis Davis, whose infant daughter had been given into the care of Ned Ashton, came to Stefan for help regaining custody. Stefan arranged to have Ned charged with rape. Stefan was then arrested for the murder of Summer Holloway based on a taped confession handed over to the police by Nikolas. Alexis, now in possession of an incriminating letter she'd obtained from Darius' sister, and realizing she'd made a deal with the devil, agreed to represent her brother and kept him in jail through an "improperly filed motion." Stefan turned the tables on her, laying the blame for the conspiracy against Ned directly at her feet. Alexis was arrested. Stefan was freed. Upon his return to Wyndemere, Nikolas informed him that their creditors - long believed to be a Russian cartel - were, in reality, one man. Lorenzo Alcazar. Stefan attempted to kill Lorenzo Alcazar, but failed. Luke Spencer, unable to bear his arch-enemy's escape from justice, kidnapped Stefan and held a televised kangaroo court to convict him of his crimes. After the "trial", Stefan returned to Wyndemere where he was attacked in retaliation for his assault on Alcazar and suffered horrible facial burns. He was taken to the hospital where Luke tried to kill him, but failed. Stefan then escaped to the tunnels, took Lydia hostage and wound up on the bluffs with Luke. They wrangled with a knife, Stefan took a thrust to the chest and Luke, in pushing him away, threw him backward over the cliff to his death.

A majority of fans, to this day, refuse to believe the man who returned to Port Charles was the real Stefan Cassadine. And there begins my story...









A Man Of Good Bones




Coast Guard Rescue

MONTAUK - The body of an unidentified
man was found floating off the coastline near
Montauk Point State Park early this morning.
He has been taken to Montauk Medical Cen-
ter where he remains unconscious and is said
to be suffering from acute hypothermia. Any-
one with information pertaining to the identity
or last-known whereabouts of the victim is ask-
ed to contact Det. Swarthburn with the East
Hampton Police Department at 555-4243.






Montauk Medical Center - Treatment Summary


Patient Name: Steven Mikosovic
Date Admitted: May 5, 2003
Treating Physician: Dr. Franklin Postern


Summary:


Patient was admitted to MMC comatose and unresponsive, exhibiting symptoms of severe hypothermia - pupils fixed and dilated, skin discolored, excessive muscle rigidity. His condition presented with multiple systematic derangements including vasoconstriction, decreased tissue oxygenation, increased blood viscosity and dehydration. Emergency physicians responded with the immediate introduction of a hypothermic wrap. Intravenous access was established, hemodialysis and inhalation re-warming were administered to prevent core temperature afterdrop. Heart was monitored for signs of arrhythmia. (None.)

Patient regained consciousness at 2:32 AM on May 10. Catheter removed. Electrolyte balance stabilized, glucose levels normal. No signs of neuronal damage. Although the patient remains bedridden and seriously weakened by this trauma, he is both verbally and physically interactive, and meets the standard for transfer to an after-care facility.

Patient transferred to Greenport Nursing Home on May 15, 2003.

F. Postern






"The room...changed," he wheezed, silently cursing his inability to catch a breath.

"You had another nightmare, Mr. Mikosovic. I'm beginning to think you stage them just to keep yourself in a private suite." She lifted the spoon to his mouth, tipping the applesauce over his lip to spill onto his tongue.

She wouldn't have attempted the humor were she scheduled on the night shift. The dreams, if one could call them that, were violent in the extreme. He'd sent more than a few well-muscled orderlies lurching off to the infirmary to tend to their wounds. It was a mystery to everyone how a man so weak could summon the strength for such aggressive resistance. Perhaps some suspected the truth, that his subconscious remained in the past, still caught in the web of a life and death struggle - though they would surmise it was the water. The water had come after. The sea, as he ranked it, had been the least significant of his ordeals.

La Pensata. A little bookstore on the outskirts of Milan. The proprietress had called. He remembered this. She had called to tell him they'd found a rare, unexpurgated copy of Suetonius' Lives Of The Twelve Caesars, published more than a century ago, its forward written by an Italian author he'd found particularly insightful. He'd gone, of course. Just rushed out the door without a second thought. Lost to the glory of the day, he supposed. A golden sun, a brisk wind, the smell of fresh, steaming espresso riding the breeze down each cobblestone street. He recalled his annoyance at finding the bookstore closed. He recalled tapping at its window, bewildered by its darkness, glancing at his watch. That was the final memory of the day; the trim Swiss face of that watch.

He imagined his next awareness had planted the seed of these violent dreams. She must have arranged it. She had to have known he'd awaken beneath that thick plaster mask, unable to open his eyes, his mouth - his only breath coming through the tiny straws they'd inserted up his nose. He writhed in that bed, choking for air, for light, for life, only to find his limbs constrained by the cinching straps of her restraints. He bucked and tossed, his head flailing right then left, attempting to shake this suffocating, isolating, horrifying weight from his face. How long had she watched him suffer through this? How entertaining had it been? There was no way to know. Only the clucking noise she made as her tongue struck the roof of her mouth came clear through that darkness. Only her petulant announcement, at the last, that he'd ruined the second mold of the mask. How fortunate she still had the first.

Days to weeks, a month and beyond - if he could have seen the moon or the stars he might have been able to determine exactly how long she'd kept him there, confined to that bed. And then, as it always was with her, quite suddenly not. They'd moved him in the night, drugged him and dragged him to the yacht. Dumped him in a stateroom and locked the door. By the time he'd thrown off the effect of her narcotic and hauled himself to the porthole they were already out to sea.

Eight days later - he could count them now and more, he could triangulate the stars well enough to know they were heading west across the Atlantic - a knock came at his door. It wasn't the knock of food, sounding as it did between the unsavory feasts of lunch and dinner. Nor was it the knock of a guard checking on his prisoner. (Was he rolling notes in bottles and pitching them out the window? Had he hung himself on a shower rod in the last hour or two?) No. This rapping was crisp in tone and flavored with formality. This knock came with a polite request to join her on the deck for tea. That and duct tape to cover his mouth, a ski mask to cover his head and a neat piece of rope to tie his hands.

He would never remember her initial words. There were some. They didn't matter. All he held important was the sight of the man seated at her side; a stranger, a monster, a creation whose existence served to unhinge the universe itself. A trick, some trick, she was always playing tricks. If it served her she would send him skating off the edge of sanity simply to provide an amusement to accompany her meal. He couldn't acknowledge, even to himself, how close she'd come to succeeding.

It was more than the suit - a suit he remembered having hung in his closet in Milan. It was more than the watch, that familiar Swiss watch, and the ring he'd worn like a talisman for the last thirty years. It was beyond even the color of his hair, its style; the beard, its trim; the precise squaring of his shoulders, the subtle tilt of his head. All of this weighed for naught against the balance of that face. His face. Every angle, every line, each expression - from the studied speculation he offered the prisoner who'd been tossed into the seat before him, to the scorn he advanced at Helena's introduction of her "poor Mr. Karikos" - stretching to expand to the seething heart of madness as he watched...himself...slide the deck chair back and stalk away in gruff irritation at yet another of his mother's ridiculously obscene little ploys. It was an honest reaction, true to the man he knew himself to be. Yet it was not him. It couldn't be him! What had she done?

"You couldn't imagine I'd be idle, Stefan. Content with the glacial grain of such a cold climate and the cloying claustrophobia of convent life? I didn't last a week. Oh, look at you shivering! Is this a sympathetic response to the suffering of your mother, or are we slipping into shock at the sheer magnitude of what she's managed to achieve? You see it, don't you? The potential in him. My "second" second son. Magnificently alive and just as magnificently ...biddable. A quality I'd always looked for in you but, alas, never found. Shall I guess your questions? You must have them by the dozens! Well, perhaps we can make a start.

"He is no one. A man off the street, you might say. A man of good bones, the right height, a mutable demeanor. Surprisingly responsive to the drug. It was easy to train him, to corrupt his personality, to replace his memories with your own. I never thought to appreciate the fact that you were such a diligent diarist. And now he is as well. He actually believes he is my son! Of course, we were forced to lend him some of your more nettlesome qualities; that tedious tendency to scowl, your ponderous proclivity for sarcasm, that ruinously restrictive one-track mind. Yet such a small sacrifice to make when one considers the eventual reward.

"We were forced to alter him by photograph at first. It was...adequate. Certainly sufficient to obtain the loan. Those Russian mobsters were more than amenable when it came to dealing with the great Stefan Cassadine. Can you imagine their surprise when we offered as collateral the lucrative holdings of the Cassadine Estate? Their millions fell straight into our pockets. They took him by his face, his name and his word. And we took them for every dime they'd consent to drop to that negotiating table. Such a shame it was not enough.

"Do you remember Anton Karenin, Stefan? We used to shoot skeet at his chalet. His forest is not nearly as empty as it was in those days. I managed to find quite a lovely bit of game. His granddaughter, an indolent waif named Lydia. Useless in every way save the genes she held in common with her elderly paterfamilias. Not to worry. You bargained her dower brilliantly. The complete Karenin fortune for a simple match between his granddaughter and my grandson. Nikolas could do worse. And it is only five years, after all. By that time your tiger of a twin will have siphoned the bulk of that wealth away and into the hands of those so much more deserving of its riches.

"Of course, his face was in need of refinement. I couldn't have him wandering the streets of Port Charles, much less the halls of Wyndemere, wearing anything less than an identical visage. Poor Stefan. We've finally found your value to the world. You are a template; a prototype; the rough sketch upon which I've patterned my ultimate masterpiece. I knew I would find a use for you. And a good thing, too. I was beginning to wonder why I'd kept you alive."

His lips pressed tight at the memory of her words, his jaw clenched in anger.

"Mr. Mikosovic? Are you done with dinner, then? All full?"

Her question drew him back to the hospital room - this bed, his weakness, and the unforgivable amount of time that had elapsed since he'd thrown himself off the ship. His hand found hers at the bedrail and gripped it tightly. "A phone," he huffed, trolling for a breath. "Did you...find...phone?"

Her head twisted toward the open door, hesitant of a witness. He watched her hand sink into the pocket of her uniform and draw out the treasured cell. "I'm not supposed to do this, you know. And I'm going to stand right here while you use it. That was our agreement. Remember?"

His chin drew down to his chest in accord as his hand reached for the device. "Just...message," he growled, tapping out the number with a finger that shook as if it were possessed. He lifted the phone to his ear. "Pazdravlyaya, Mikkos...Greenport Nursing Home...Long Island...New York." He might have added more but descended instead into a fit of phlegmetic coughing. The nurse had to take the device from his hand and end the call herself. No matter. That should be enough.






"I don't understand. You are not here."

Five days had passed because the man had not seen the need to check his messages. Certainly not on their private line. He'd thought his master had been standing before him, chiding his mistakes, giving him orders. And he had been wrong.

Stefan tightened his hold on the arm of the wheelchair and sought the calmness to speak. "Imp...imposter," he stammered, taking a moment to draw in a long, soothing breath. "What is he doing?" The man's eyes darted away from his, reluctant to answer the question. "Darius!" he ordered with so much force the last syllable fell to the gravel of a hacking cough.

"I am to kill," admitted the man, the hands in his lap closing into fists. "Kill! I am not believing this! I am no killer. This Darius will not do." His dark head shook on the heels of that pronouncement, his lower lip protruding obstinately.

Stefan quickly surveyed the dayroom, assuring himself they were not overheard. He angled his palm over his lap and pressed it down twice in the air, signaling a softer voice. "Who?" he inquired carefully.

"Miss Emily," spat Darius, fractious at the thought. "Miss Emily whom Master Nikolas cares for deeply and I think even loves. She is to die. And why? Because she is not Miss Lydia. I understand the marriage is arranged. It must proceed. But to begin with a murder? This is wrong. I will not do it."

"No," agreed his master, meeting that stubborn eye and providing it assurance. "You will not kill Emily." It was a startling bit of information, though, that Nikolas' heart had strayed in this direction. What of his engagement to the Campbell girl? Broken off, perhaps. Yet if this was where his nephew had invested his love, if he were now emotionally involved with Emily Quartermaine, Stefan would not see her hurt. "Do whatever you must to...protect," he wheezed. "Anything. But...important to follow along...not reveal yourself. You will watch...for me."






Although he had applied every ounce of his formidable will to the torture of his rehabilitation sessions, Stefan still lacked the strength to stand for more than a brief period of time and was forced to endure continued confinement in a wheelchair - a fact he came to regret upon the occasion of Darius' next visit. What had begun as a simple perambulation around the grounds became something akin to a Grand Prix race as the man's step quickened to a near-run, careening his charge toward the furthest stretch of the nursing home's verdant parkland. That his confederate was deeply disturbed was more than evident. Stefan could only hope he would survive to discover the reason why.

When, finally, they stopped beneath the shade of an old oak tree, Stefan set the brake to his chair and re-adjusted his blanket. Darius had begun to pace, his feet stomping through the moist morning grass, wearing it down to dirt. "Will you tell me what has happened or is it your plan to make me guess?"

The man stopped in his tracks and turned a troubled eye to his master. "You said anything," he announced, his voice ripe with accusation. "This is what it took. I killed her. I killed this Summer. The prostitute Master Nikolas hires to fool Luke Spencer. This girl his brother is bedding. She is dead. You said anything. I had only one choice. He orders me to kill Miss Emily or be killed myself. Not that it matters. He will kill me anyway. This is certain."

Stefan's eyes closed, his chin dropping forward to his chest. A death. There was now a death in this business. That it came at the hand of his man made it all the more distressing. Damn his mother to unholy hell, and himself as well for failing to recover in time to take charge of the situation! He had to get out of this chair. He had to get back to Port Charles as soon as humanly possible. "Darius, Darius," he repeated softly. "I am, as you can well imagine, sincerely disappointed. While there may indeed have been mitigating circumstances, I cannot imagine a threat so great it merits the theft of a life. Be she innocent or no, she did not deserve to die."

"You don't know," the man exclaimed, his desperation mounting. "You are not there to see him! To hear him! Every day he pushes and pulls. He is everywhere. He is nowhere. And suddenly his finger is shaking in your face. Do what I want or I will leave you to the vengeance of my mother! He is mad, I tell you. All can see it, but no one says a word. I want to scream, 'This is not Stefan Cassadine,' but who do you think will believe me?" His hands balled into fists and he dropped to his knees before the wheelchair. "I have killed. I am a murderer. I am a weak, stupid, pitiful man. I could see no other way." His head bowed to his misery, his shoulders broken, his chest heaving with the shudder of a sorrowful despair.

Stefan let him weep until he found he could stand it no longer and sent a hand to rest atop the crown of his head. "You cannot go back." The head swung violently beneath his palm. "Very well, I agree. But still, we must do what we can to make amends. This is not forgiveness, Darius," he admonished. "That comes from a grace beyond my own. But we will make our attempt to honor this death in the only way we can. Are you amenable to this?"

The man brought a wrist to either eye and wiped away his tears, nodding with grave determination.

"All right, then. First I would ask you to write a letter to your sister..."






Every step Stefan made on the road to his recovery seemed to come at the cost of a sacrifice for Nikolas. At his graduation to a walker, his nephew announced his engagement to Lydia. The introduction of a pair of three-footed canes arrived with the news of the Karenin girl's suicide attempt. A lurching stride with a gentleman's stick came on the day Nikolas married. The nurses imagined he wept with joy. The nurses were fools.

Darius had taken the concept of making amends and turned it into a mission. He'd shaved his head, altered his attire and lost enough weight to be described as "gaunt." And while he performed his assignment of surveillance with a dedicated professionalism, furnishing reports filled with detail and a startling amount of nuance, Stefan worried at the gleam in his eye. He had no way to tell if that burning glare was fired by a desire for retribution or the fierce madness of a man who aimed to martyr himself to a cause. The fact that he now carried her picture in his pocket, this newspaper photograph he'd ripped from the obituary of the prostitute he'd killed, provided no comfort at all. For this and so many other reasons, he decided it was time to go. The battle could not be fought from a distance. His foot, no matter how unsteady, would finally have to step onto the field.

"Your sister wants her child back. She has asked for his help. He is ready with his blackmail and sends her out of town as he paves the way." Darius fell back in the chair, stretching his legs out before him and throwing a hand behind his head. There were two new behaviors here. First, he no longer seemed to require his notes to provide a recounting of events. Second was the surprising lack of formality he exhibited while in his master's presence. Both deviations were troubling. "She has called my sister. I think she makes time for a visit. That letter will be coming into play very soon."

"When was the last time you went to her grave?" he inquired as he tucked a pair of shoes into his traveling case.

This brought forth a speculative stare. "Yesterday," Darius announced, as if he were issuing a challenge.

Stefan ignored the tone. "Are you still sleeping in the tunnels?"

"More often since the Spencer left. He goes to become a policeman. As if this will make her any less dead."

That remark was harder to ignore. "I will need you close to me now," he declared, careful to maintain his equanimity. "We will operate as a team. Our initial target will be his creditors. Have you had any success in tracking them down?"

"Oh yes," Darius responded with a smile. "They were not so hard to find after all. In fact, they are so close one might actually reach out and touch them."






It was an odd juxtapositioning. Stefan on the docks being cruelly beaten by a pair of Russian thugs, and Stefan in the shadows, leaning on a cane, observing each ham-fisted blow. A part of him thought he should feel those punches. Another part, a deeper part, thought he might deserve them himself. He wiped these imaginings from his mind as the imposter took the final hit and fell to the ground, his attackers stalking off with blood on their hands.

"A warning only," whispered Darius from just behind his shoulder. "His creditor is still hiding behind the Russians, it seems."

"Morgan is looking for the name. You will see he finds it."

"Yes," replied the man. "You have staged my death?"

"I thought it wise."

"I thank you for that."

Stefan turned abruptly, his gaze narrowing to his henchman as he quested after a meaning.

"It brings me closer to her," offered Darius, stepping back into shadow and turning on his heel.






He refused to think about what it must have taken for Nikolas to go to the police as he had. It was hard enough to acknowledge the fact that he believed this monster was his uncle. On the odd night's tossing to find his comfort in the cheap motel room bed, he would take to listing the many reasons his nephew might have for accepting the lie. They had not seen each other in a very long time. People changed. (But, really, was he the kind of man who could change so much?) His focus was not fixed; his attentions radically diffused by his affection for a girl dying of cancer, an empire falling into ruin at his feet, a marriage he could not abide. (Yet his "real" uncle would have stepped into the breach, not exacerbated the crisis. How could he have forgotten this?) It was possible, during the years they'd spent apart, that Nikolas had come to associate Stefan with the unyielding weight of the empire itself. He did not want to be its prince. He'd always struggled against that. Perhaps, in his mind, he equated turning his back on the man who raised him with rejecting the onerous burden of his Cassadine birthright. Stefan always stopped when he reached this conclusion, cutting as it did so close to the bone. He needed his strength to see him through the days ahead. A heart breaking inside him would only cripple his effectiveness.

As he packed these thoughts away for the thousandth time, Darius burst through the door.

"I couldn't stop it! There was no way to know!"

Stefan rose from the bed and circled around the man to close the door behind him. "Lower your voice and tell me what has happened."

"The prince," gasped Darius, slapping a hand to the flat of the dresser and bending over to catch his breath. "The creditor had him beaten. He is taken to the hospital. Another warning."

"What is my nephew's condition?" Stefan inquired, fighting back his alarm.

The man's free hand patted the area just beneath his chest. "Ribs. None broken. He will remain in the facility overnight. Longer perhaps. He is conscious, but has some pain."

"Enough of this!" he raged. "I have allowed Alexis to play her game and keep him in that cell. This couldn't last forever. She had to have known that. It's long past time to bring him out of that sanctuary and have him answer for his crimes." Stefan began to pace the small stretch of carpet beside the bed, sifting through his possible responses to this turn of events. There was only one that would serve his purpose, and while he did not find it in any way palatable, he knew it would do the trick.

"Go to the girl he is using as his wedge against her. The little fan of Ned's who is crying rape. Let's make use of his original design and have her implicate Alexis. I have no doubt, once she is removed from the case, our man will be released and walking the streets with impunity. We must draw him out into the open. We must provide his enemies the target they require to effectively vent their wrath."

"And Nikolas?" asked Darius, backing toward the door.

"I will see to the protection of Nikolas. You find the girl. I want Alexis neutralized as quickly as possible."






The wire must be pulled through the cartilage firmly enough to completely sever the carotid artery. Any imbecile knows this. Any moron recognizes the fountain of blood spraying from the neck as a signal this has been accomplished. Any idiot could determine, before removing the wire from the throat of his victim, if this had taken place. Really, it was a matter of pride in the end. Who could point to that man and claim he was the true Stefan Cassadine? Were this his act - even undertaken in manic desperation - Lorenzo Alcazar would now be dead.

The chirping tune of the cell phone interrupted his righteously indignant thoughts. "Yes?"

"You must turn on your television," Darius instructed, a snowy whine interspersed between his words. "Luke Spencer has taken it upon himself to put you on trial."

Stefan snapped the cell phone shut and picked up the remote control, struggling to imagine how this circumstance could become any more embarrassing.






"Wait. Wait for it," he instructed, placing his hand on the other man's chest. "It's quite possible Spencer will take care of the problem himself."

Stefan adjusted the doctor's mask higher on his face. His breath had heated the cloth and set the bristles of his beard to itching. He ignored this discomfort to focus on the door of that hospital room and a sign, any sign, of what was happening behind it. The man had been severely burned, after all. He was, from all reports, completely incapacitated. How hard could he be to kill? Even a fool like Luke Spencer should be able to accomplish the deed.

"No. She isn't. She is," Darius observed dolefully, marking the entrance of Bobbie. They both knew Spencer's game was up. He had either managed to kill his quarry or completely lost his chance. When Luke was pushed back through the door by his ever-vigilant and moderately incensed little sister, they came to the conclusion the imposter had survived.

Stefan turned to slip behind the pillar. "She will move him now."

"No," Darius disputed. "We can continue with our plan and have him in our hands in a matter of minutes."

"I am telling you Barbara will have him moved. She is a dedicated nurse. She prefers to save lives rather than have them taken right under her nose. You will stay and watch for an opening. Help him escape and send him on to the tunnels. Tell him Helena will meet him there to provide him the means to make his getaway."

"And if he recognizes me?"

Stefan took a long look at the man who stood before him, the man who bore no resemblance to the Darius of old. There were times when even the name caught itself on his tongue and seemed curiously inappropriate.

"Don't worry. He won't."






He had dragged so very many people into the arena of his defeat. Lydia. Lucky. Luke at the last. A chain of unblinking witnesses to document his final descent into Hell. There'd been no chance to retrieve him. Not one moment he hadn't held a hostage or become a hostage himself. Spencer's malicious brutality aside, he'd made a fair end - skewering himself on the knife fevered with his conviction that this would somehow kill them both. That was his mother's reasoning; the endless penance of a life behind bars, a life as exile, the very same life she could not embrace with her...how did she phrase it?...nuns and penguins, penguins and nuns.

All this time he had waited for her to emerge from the shadows. This fraudulent man, her "second" second son, was by her own admission the lynchpin of her plan. So certain was he that she would surface at any moment, her claw reaching out to snatch the pretender's fate from the fire, that Stefan stayed his hand throughout. He might have ended this debacle long before her imposter fell from the cliff. He might have saved so many, especially Nikolas, the agonies inflicted by that graceless ghoul's increasingly maniacal behavior. Instead he'd set his sights on the weaver of the web, the true villain of the piece - trusting in his own instinctual perception of her wickedly invidious design. A pure miscalculation from beginning to end.

The fact that she had abandoned her creation and had lifted not a finger to alter his fate could lead to only one conclusion. She no longer required him. Stefan hoped to the very depths of his soul that what she had gone past needing was a carbon copy of himself. He prayed that whatever adjustment she'd made to the essence of her scheme rendered the existence of another Stefan Cassadine completely unnecessary. But this wasn't a thing one could take on faith now, was it?

He took a last look at the corpse of his twin and bid a silent farewell. Leaning the cane aside the chair, he rose to his feet on his own. He would walk from this cemetery free of all encumbrance, dead to the world and equipped with every liberty such a state would allow. She still had that mask, he reminded himself, and apparently a few errands to run. Even now her eye might be measuring the many faces of the maddening crowd; even now she might be casting her net for yet another man of good bones.

If, of course, she hadn't already found one.