The Harem of Jason Morgan
The man clicks send and lets out a heavy sigh. He knows his email could be traced. Hating taking risks like this, but there's no other way-- too many lives are at stake. Well, too many of the lives he cares about anyway; Jason, Michael, Brenda, Robin...all the others would wind up being saved in the process. He doesn't really care about them one way or the other. Except Dara. The A. D. A. is the key after all. Without Dara's involvement he doubts he could convince HER to help. She'd save Dara anyway she could. It's her job after all and he knows she takes her job very seriously. She'd help. She had to. By saving Dara, the ones he cared about would be saved too. He knew that she wouldn't leave the others behind. That would go against her nature. It's up to her now and he knew first hand how capable she is and how honorable. She'd saved his sorry hide, hadn't she? Whatever. He'd done all he could. Sonny Corinthos logged off the computer and strolled out of the library.
V couldn't sleep. This case was really getting to her. More to the point, Alex Garcia was getting to her. This last bout of insomnia was all his fault... Again. V couldn't believe he'd called this late. Again. What kind of new developments did he think she'd have at this hour? Didn't the man EVER sleep? Didn't he think she'd call if she had any new information? She was his partner for gosh sakes!
V punched her pillow a few more times. She tossed and turned a few more times. And finally, she'd had enough. Getting out of bed, V goes to her computer. "May as well do something productive if I'm gonna be up anyway." V mutters under her breath running her fingers through her short chestnut locks attempting a brief order to the toussled locks
She turns on the computer and modem, logs on and smiles. "I love getting mail." Maybe one of her cybersnitches had come up with some answers for her. As she opens the mail file her smile quickly turns into a frown quickly followed by a loud groan. V leans forward over the keyboard and reads unconsciously rubbing her collarbone. Her eyes grow wide...
The next morning at PCPD, the normally calm, cool, collected Alex Garcia goes ballistic.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN 'NO WAY', V? You can't waltz in here, drop a bombshell like telling me that you KNOW Dara's alive and you KNOW WHERE she is but you can't tell me! YOU'RE A COP! You of all people know about obstruction of justice! Then on top of that-- you tell me that Moreno is ready to take this whole city down to get to Dara, but you won't tell me why? WHAT THE HELL HAS GOTTEN INTO YOU, OFFICER? Have you been taking lessons in pissing me off from Morgan and Spencer?"
"Sir, if you'll just calm down; being this stressed out is not good for your blood pressure and I'm sure that you're putting stress on your incision. Busting a gut right here in the detectives' bullpen would in all likelihood delay our investigation even further. You're just going to have to trust me on this one, Sir. Dara is in the best place she can possibly be in under the circumstances. I'm sure that nothing will happen to her that she can't handle. She's a LOT more capable than you can ever imagine..."
"And what do you mean by that exactly, officer? Hmmm?" Garcia replies through clenched teeth his face flushed with fury at V's meandering but persistent refusal to cooperate.
V takes a deep breath and tries again to calm Garcia down. "Look, if I told you where she is you'd run off to go rescue her and protect her, right? You feel responsible, don't you? Well, that is the worst possible thing you can do right now, okay? If you do that you'll only get Dara killed along with Brenda, Keesha, Lizzie Webber, Carly, Baby Michael, Emily, Alexis..."
"and Robin Scorpio."
No one heard Mac enter the room. He looked awful. V groans inwardly. "Now what?" she thinks. Mac looked shellshocked. V goes over to him. "Commissioner, I mean Mr Scorpio, I mean Mac? You look awful! Here, have a seat. What is it? What happened to Robin?"
Mac wipes the tears from his eyes. "Robin's missing AGAIN. She was with Nikolas and when they parted; Robin headed out to Brenda's cottage where she's been staying. There was an accident. Robin's car was totaled. I was with Robin at the hospital-- made sure that the docs got her patched up and that she was stable. I was called away for a phone call and when I got back to Robin's room there was no sign of Robin. She's hurt. I don't have any proof but I'm sure that this has something to do with Jason. More to the point, I think it has to do with Moreno trying to get to Jason by threatening Robin. V...if you know anything..."
V couldn't take it anymore. This was her friend, her mentor. She knew that Sonny contacted her thinking she'd rush in to save Dara. Only he'd made a mistake. Dara didn't need V there. Jason's was the best place for her to be and thanks to his email V now knew that Dara could more than handle what came her way. WSB huh? Sonny's plan backfired. That is until now. She would go in. She'd offer her services to Jason. Not to save Dara or the others but for Mac. And for Robin. V nods resolutely. "Okay. Fine. I'll help. BUT...I have to do this my way. I learned awhile ago from you Mac, that you can't always follow the book and believe me, to save Dara, Robin and the others, I'm gonna have to toss the book right out the window. You guys just have to trust me on this"
And, before anyone had a chance to protest-- V grabs her purse, keys and gun then was outta there.
Jason sits alone in his office. He tries to concentrate on the books but his mind keeps wandering to thoughts of Robin. There's a knock at the door and Rinaldo enters.
"Hey boss, Officer Ardanowski is here"
"Does she have a warrant?"
Before he can answer V brushes past him. "Look, Mr. Morgan, I'm not here to cause any trouble. In fact, I'm here to help. Unofficially but officially if you know what I mean. Well, no. How could you understand. I mean, I don't even understand all of it but..."
"Officer. Officer. OFFICER! Will you please get to the point! I really don't have time for the PCPD harassment today okay?"
"Um, that's just it, Mr. Morgan. I'm not here to harass you. Mr Corinthos contacted me. I know everything and I'm here to help. Well not you really, but Dara. That's the official part anyway. I know she's here and I know why. I also know she's been training the rest of your...how did Mr Corinthos put it? ah, yes, your harem. Mr Corinthos wanted me to tell you that Moreno's attack will be going down in two days."
Jason sat down at his desk trying to digest this new development. "Rinaldo, go get Dara for me will you? I'll be okay with Officer Ardonowski."
Rinaldo leaves, shutting the door behind him.
"Okay, so let's assume that I buy this crap about Sonny sending you. What's the unofficial part? What do you know about Robin? How are you planning to help? If you're even thinking of bringing in Garcia...."
V cuts him off. "Mr Corinthos said you could tell if someone's lying. Look at me, Mr. Morgan. Believe me when I say I'd rather be doing ANYTHING else rather than help you but I have no choice. You need me and I need to be here."
"Fair enough, Officer. I don't understand it but I believe you"
"Well sir, like I said, I don't exactly understand it either. In fact, I had no intention of coming here to help you like he asked. I don't exactly like Mr. Corinthos."
"Then why, Ardonowski? Why are you doing this? What changed your mind?"
"Robin. Well, Mac really. That's the unofficial part. Mac told me that there's been a threat against Robin. She was in a suspicious car accident. The car is totalled but she's nowhere to be seen...I don't suppose you know where she might be hmmm?"
The Harem of Jason Morgan
There's a knock at the door. As Rinaldo pokes his head through the door V hears some giggling. In a voice huskier than usual, Rinaldo announces Dara. "Dara's here, boss."
"Good, send her in" Jason replied
Rinaldo opens the door a bit wider and Dara saunters through laughing and looking at Rinaldo flirtatiously not noticing V just yet. V raises an eyebrow and smirks "Looks like staying here at Mr. Morgan's place is agreeing with you, Dara."
Dara freezes for a moment then whips around to face V holding a gun on her. Jason and Rinaldo look shocked. Jason recovers first "Dara, put that damn thing down. V's not a threat."
"Yeah, well maybe not to you, but she's my death warrant!" spat Dara.
Calm as ever, V rolls her eyes and puts her hands in the air "You're making a mistake, Dara. You're not my assignment; you know that! If you were, do you really think I could kill you?"
"V, Dara...what the hell are you two talking about?"
"What's wrong, Jason? Didn't V tell you that she's WSB? I told you they're after me!"
"V? Is this true?"
"Yes, Mr. Morgan. Dara and I actually trained together. But I'm not here to take her in. I'm here to help, just like I told you. I didn't see any reason to blow my cover. Until now." Turning to Dara. "Dara, I'd never let them get you. You have to know that! I mean, I know that you can't really trust too many people right now but you can trust me," V entreats Dara reminding her of their of training. "Besides, if I'd wanted to take you out I'd have done it already. For that matter, you know that I could have you disarmed and dead already if I wanted. But I haven't. So...can I put my arms down now?"
Dara lets out a heavy sigh, puts the safety back in place and tucks the gun back against the small of her back. "Yeah, I know. I'm sorry, guess my nerves are a little frayed"
V turns to Jason. "I need to speak with Dara. Alone."
Jason looks at Dara who nods at him that it's okay. Jason and Rinaldo leave the two women.
"Dara, You're in a bad way here. Moreno and the agency are both after you. We need to focus on them one at a time and take them out. Moreno is the easiest. I say we go after him first."
"Moreno? No one knows where he is! I think we need to focus on the WSB. I want to know who ordered the hit on me damnit!"
"I know exactly how to get to Moreno. Jerry sent me some info. He knows what Moreno is planning but not where he is. What he didn't know as far as Moreno's plan was filled in by Sonny Corinthos-- specifically the timing. Sonny had also figured out you are here. The guy is evidently keeping tabs-- close ones."
Dara gave a low whistle. "Corinthos? How? And, how long have you been in touch with him?"
"Actually he emailed me from a public library, but that's not important. What's important is he let me know Moreno is planning to strike in 2 days; we have to move fast."
"What's the plan?"
"You've been training the rest of the harem, right?"
Dara's eyes widen a the reference and she starts to laugh "The what? Harem? Where did THAT come from! What a hoot!"
"Uh, sorry" V smiles and shrugs her shoulders "That's how Sonny referred to the situation over here and, well, I can't think of in any other terms now. So? How's the training coming? More specifically, could Liz and Emily be ready for a 'mission'?"
"Hmmm, well Liz definitely, Em? I dunno. Depends on what you have in mind."
"Putting together the information I received from both Jerry and Sonny, Moreno will make an attempt to snatch those two from PC High. I think he should succeed-- or at least appear to. That is-- if the girls are ready. I'll need to see both of them. We don't have much time. Maybe you should keep working with Liz and I'll take over Em's training."
"Yeah, makes sense. You were a lot like Em when you first started," Dara pauses in thought but there is no way Jason is going to go along with the girls being bait no matter how much we train them. Whatever is going down will have to minimize the risk to a negible level.
The Harem of Jason Morgan
"Not only no-- but HELL NO!. You are not going to involve the girls in some kind of scheme and lay them out for some kind of bait for a trap with Moreno. You both have to be high to think that I would even consider it! Em and Liz are not you two... any decision that you'd make are not decisions that they would make with full knowledge of the consequences. They'd both probably jump at the chance and YOU will not even mention to them this harebrained scheme! What in the HELL were you both thinking? V-- I can almost understand; she doesn't know the girls but Jesus, Dara! You took the report from Liz when she was raped! Do you really think that the she could deal with a man like Moreno? And Em! Emily is a recovering drug addict the practically goes catatonic at the sight of blood. They would be like lambs to the slaughter." Jason rages then slams his fist down on his desk. His fury fills the room as he paces the room pausing briefly to glare at the two women.
"I told you he wouldn't go for it." Dara sighs slumping onto the couch but not responding to Jason's ire.
"Mr. Morgan, I understand your concerns. That's why Dara and I want to work with the girls. Moreno IS going to go after them. That is why we have to be ready and so do they." V reminds Jason practically.
"Liz and Emily are under MY protection. Moreno is never going to get the chance. All your information is what Moreno is going to do...not what I'm going to do. Thank you for the information you've given me my timetable. Now if you'll excuse us, V. Dara and I have some work to do. See Carly about your bunking arrangements. Johnny! " Jason dismisses V coldly. Johnny opens the door and with a nod from Jason escorts V from the room.
The next day at the Pleasure Principle Massage Parlor .
"Okay. Let me get this straight? You want her to come there? Yeah, it can be done, but it's gonna cost you." The woman nearly choked on her drink. "Damn. That much, huh? describe my girl? Well, she's no amazon--she's about 5' 6", 5' 7", that okay? Yeah, she's got plenty of stamina--and she can do the rough stuff, just like you asked. Now you know since she's coming to you, I'll need half up front--you know, as a good faith gesture. Good. One more thing--just so I can run this by my gal, will this be a party for two, or are we talking three-way, four-way kinda stuff? Fine." The woman paused. "Repeat that--can she take a punch?!" CLICK. "Friggin' freak," the woman muttered.
"Hello? Hello?!" Moreno swore as he slammed the receiver down.
Over in the corner, his Lt. merely shook his head, incredulous at his boss' bemused expression. "For what it's worth, Boss? Uh, I know you like the rough stuff, but you MIGHT wanna try NOT asking that last question."
Moreno merely glared at his Lt., who was barely suppressing a smirk. "Gimme the next damn number!" he barked.
"Just a thought," the Lt. shrugged.
He crossed off the number, one of but many, and scanned the remainder of the Classifieds. As he called out the number of yet another massage parlor that specialized in 'private, intimate massage sessions,' the Lt. once again shook his head in amazement. After that botched attempt at the shooting range, Morgan was sure to be trying to sniff them out. They should've been long gone from the vicinity of Port Charles. But were they? Uh-uh. No, with all that had gone down in the past 48 hours, his boss was trying to get LAID?! At least that's what the Lt. HOPED he was up to--he didn't even want to speculate as to the reason behind his boss' fascination with a woman's tolerance for pain.
As he watched Moreno once again slam the receiver down, the Lt. drew yet another line through yet another ad all the while, unable to shake the sinking feeling that there was more to his boss wanting to get laid--and that it would spell doom for them all.
Jason's Office, the Penthouse .
"You let me know if anything else develops," Jason nodded. "Later."
"Was that a tip on Moreno?" Dara asked, her voice hopeful. They'd been at it for nearly 24 hours straight, and so far, they'd come up with zilch in the way of leads.
"No," as he hung up the phone. "That was one of my contacts on the street." Jason sighed as he took a seat. "There's a buzz on the wire tonight about a john looking for a dark-skinned black woman."
"Yeah?" Dara shrugged. "So he wants to break on through to the other side."
"That's what I thought, too. No big deal. But it's not the color that's freaking the pimps and 'madams' out--it's what he wants the woman to do, or I should say, be ABLE to do." Jason shook his head. "He wants to know if the hooker has a high threshold for pain, or something like that--the contact couldn't remember all the specifics, he's gonna get back to me."
"I don't follow," Dara yawned. "You're not into prostitution, so why are you even keeping an ear out for that action?"
"You're right, I'm not. But MORENO is. You know from your files that he's got his fingers in all the stuff I won't touch--drugs, prostitution, he's even got a piece of the porn market. I'm simply covering ALL the bases where he's concerned. Besides, whatever my contact finds out, it might be useful." Jason stroked his chin pensively. "It's just a hunch, but I'm sure being underground has got to be driving Moreno nuts. He's probably having to rough it--none of the trappings of "the life." And on top of that, he's not able to get any." Dara shot him a quizzical look. "Moreno has QUITE a rep as a ladies' man. It's the only thing he's more renown for in the mob, besides his brutal 'negotiation tactics'. Rumor has it his rep even spills over into his business dealings: When it comes to Moreno dealing with the pimps he has under his thumb, word is they know if he has his sights set on one of their new working girls and they let someone else get a taste first, like a john, or themselves--they'd better be ready to get the ass whipping of a lifetime, 'cause no one samples the new stuff before he does." Jason paused, a scowl forming on his face. "Even the UNDERAGE stuff."
"God, I'm SO glad he didn't get hold of Emily at the shooting range and that is why you freaked when V and I told you his plans," Dara replied, shaking her head. "I swear, that guy gives slime a bad name. You really think he's gonna try and get some? I mean, after what went down at the shooting range, he's gotta know that WE know he's somewhere close by. With the information that V gave us you'd think that he would be laying low waiting for the strike on the kids. I know you say he'll go to any lengths to carry out a vendetta--."
"Make no mistake, Dara, he WILL. Don't forget that. You know him from what you've heard according to legend in the WSB. But *I* know him from the organization." Jason's voice turned cold. "He's a FIRM believer in payback--the rivers of the Eastern Seaboard are full of folks who prove that point."
"I need to speak with the News Director, please."
Dara folded her arms, sighing as the party on the other end babbled on, inquiring as to just how she'd gotten the number she was calling. Counting backwards from 10, Dara wondered how long it would take the flustered aide to realize that what she had to tell the Director must be pretty damn important; after all, she'd managed to bypass all the switchboard operators and secretaries at CNN and had the direct line to the news desk. She never made it past seven.
"Thank you!" Dara chirped. While she held, she glanced over at Jason, who was once again, engrossed in the files of the laptop computer; he'd been going over Moreno's with painstaking effort, trying to glean every bit of info he could about the man's stint with the WSB. "Hello, there," Dara replied, as she returned to her call. "First of all, don't bother trying to trace this call, or analyze my voice. Both efforts will be exercises in futility and will waste valuable time. Now, on to the reason for this call. How would you like to break a story involving foreign diplomats who engaged - knowingly, I might add - in purchasing the sexual favors of women via a well orchestrated prostitution ring?" Dara paused, then dropped the other shoe. "Oh, did I mention said ring was overseen by members of the WSB, the World Security Bureau? Ah," she smiled. "I THOUGHT that might get your attention."
As Dara launched into her rundown of but one of the Bureau's many "dirty little secrets" she was planning to share with the various news agencies, Jason began perusing Dara's files on her boss, current WSB Director James Connery, and her former partner, Jerry Jacks. Jason knew he'd best brush up on as much info about them as possible, for it would only be a matter of time after all the stories broke that one of the men, if not BOTH, would be paying a visit to Port Charles--and be looking for him.
Scanning the files of the laptop, Jason was still having difficulty shaking his earlier conversation with his contact. Maybe it WAS just a john who was into kinky stuff. But Jason's gut told him otherwise. Whatever this guy was into, it must be REALLY kinky if even the PIMPS were turning him down. It was almost like they were afraid of this guy--hell, like they KNEW who he was, or at the very least, who he was tied to. Again, Jason got that feeling in his gut. He couldn't shake the hunch that Moreno was somehow tied to all of it.
He returned his attention to the laptop and tried, without much success, to pull up a file on a former Agent. He cast his eyes over at Dara, clad in his denim shirt, her legs dangling over the side of the chair. He chuckled as he realized that somehow, his shirt had become her sleepwear of choice. It was the very same shirt she had on her first night at the Penthouse--the night they'd come to an "understanding" about the rules of living under Jason's roof. The very shirt she'd sauntered past the guards in--sans underwear. As Dara absently kicked her legs back and forth while reviewing files on Moreno's cartel, the bottom of the shirt precariously inched its way upward to reveal just the slightest hint of her hips. Stifling a sly smile, Jason reasoned Dara STILL found panties to be optional with regards to sleepwear.
"Hey, Dara. What was the name of that Agent you told me about--the one you said you modeled yourself after when you were being trained?"
She looked up from the files, her brow furrowed. "You mean Anna DeVane?"
"No, not Robin's mom. It's someone else. The one who spoke all those different languages--the one who taught you how to do all those accents?"
"Oh, HER." Dara swallowed hard. "Her name is Emma. You won't find anything on her in my files," as she resumed her study of Moreno's cartel. "Her stuff is classified--only person with access to her files is the Bureau Director."
"Connery?" Jason inquired. Dara nodded gravely. "Okay," he replied, his interest piqued. "There's obviously a story--I can tell by your face. Spill." Just as Dara was about to begin, the phone rang. Minutes later, Jason hung up the phone, a none too pleased look on his face.
"The john with the kinky request? Every place here in Port Charles has turned him down flat--even when he offered to TRIPLE the money. So, it seems he's gonna be heading out for places where folks aren't so hesitant to cater to his desires. My contact says he's heard word that a few of the local joints near the City have been getting calls from this guy."
"You REALLY think Moreno's somehow tied to this, Jason?" Dara was staring at him like he'd suddenly sprouted horns.
"I know it seems crazy, but yeah, I do. It probably won't come to anything, but my man said he'd try and keep his ear to the ground in the City, but it's gonna be hard since that's not my territory. Anyway, back to the story on this Emma, the Agent with the classified file."
"What do you wanna know?" Dara sighed as she closed the file. "I've already told you mostly everything there is to know about her. Next to Anna DeVane, she was the best female Agent the WSB had. Unlike Anna, she didn't have a kid, so she was always game for the kamikaze-type assignments--the kind where you knew going in you might not even stay alive long enough to meet your CONTACT. Anyway, like I told you before, she went loopy: Her teenage sister, who'd been turning tricks on the street since she was 15, was literally dropped off on her doorstep--beaten to within an inch of her life after spending the weekend with a john. He worked her over really bad, Jason. The doctors said the force of the kick to her back was so strong, it snapped her spinal cord in two--she received so many blows to the head, they were amazed she didn't wind up with permanent brain damage. What's the deal with wanting to know about Emma?" Dara's face clouded over, as if the recall of the events was too painful.
"They ever find her sister's assailant?" Jason was scrolling through Moreno's WSB file, his eyes searching for a tiny blip of info that had struck him as strange.
"Nope. It took her two months to come out of the coma. When she did all she could remember about the assailant was that he kept saying her sister was to blame. Of course, armed with that bit of info, the folks at the Bureau assumed it was one of Emma's enemies and began trying to shake them down--only problem was Emma had a lot. She took down some really powerful people." Dara shook her head, as if by doing so she could wipe out the disturbing images of Emma's young sister from her mind. "What does any of this do with us trying to get Moreno? I really don't like talking about this, Jason."
"You say they were never able to find out just WHO was behind the assault, right?" Dara nodded warily. "What if it wasn't an enemy on the outside, but someone WITHIN the Bureau?" Jason looked up from the computer, his gaze narrowed. "Try and follow me on this for a minute--I've been going over the files on Moreno and there's a piece of info about him that just doesn't quite make sense to me. It has to do with Moreno's discharge from the Bureau--you said so yourself he left under somewhat mysterious circumstances, right?" Dara nodded. "Well it says here, right before he was expelled from the Bureau that he took a leave--a sabbatical for TWO YEARS--right after he was reprimanded for harassing a female Agent. Apparently, this wasn't the first time either." Jason paused. "But it WAS the first time the harassment was reported. Now the Agent, female, is - surprise - unnamed. I'll bet you anything that unnamed female Agent he harassed was this Emma."
"Uh-uh," Dara shook her head. Rising from the chair, she crossed the room, hugging herself tightly, talking more to herself than Jason. "That means he would've spent all that time he was away from the Bureau tracking down Emma's kid sister. That he would've--"
Jason dismissed Dara's incredulous stare. "C'mon, Dara! Think like MORENO does. This Agent did what none of the others would do, she ratted him out. Now, while I'm sure that got him in real hot water with the higher-ups, it wasn't enough to get him kicked out. But if he was the one who was behind her sister's assault? THAT would be grounds for kicking him to the curb. C'mon, Dara--work with me here. Killing the Agent, while it would be the the most satisfying method of revenge. would be too obvious."
"But to get to her through her family ." Dara couldn't even finish vocalizing the thought.
"Doesn't seem so far out in left field anymore, does it?" Leaning back in his chair, Jason studied Dara. He remember how Alexis described the way she behaved at the Courthouse when Moreno attacked her--Alexis said it was like she'd zoned out afterwards. He sure as hell hoped it wasn't happening again. Then again, how DO you react to the news that a homicidal Mafia Don may be making plans to even the score with you? "C'mon, Dara," Jason said softly. "Don't freak out on me now--we've got too much left to do. And you know you wanna take down Moreno just as badly as I do." At that last comment, Jason saw Dara's eyes flash for just an instant. He could tell she was still leery of his hypothesis--but at least she was coming back around. "Now didn't you say when he was with the Bureau, Moreno was known for being a master at running head games on folks?" Slowly, Dara nodded. "And where is this Agent Emma--didn't you say she wound up in the loony bin?" he prompted.
"She's STILL there," Dara said softly.
Jason pressed on. "And her sister's in a wheelchair for life--a paraplegic. Remember, killing Emma would've been too obvious. But this way--this way he gets to have the sweetest revenge: She has to live with the knowledge that she's somehow "responsible" for what happened to her sister--you said all her sister could remember was the john kept telling her it was all her SISTER'S fault, right?" Dara nodded. "Of course, it's not her fault, but Emma didn't see it that way, did she?" He paused. "He messed with this Agent's mind and he messed with it GOOD." Jason locked eyes with Dara. "And I'll bet anything that before Moreno makes his move on you, Dara, he's gonna try and do the exact same thing with you."
"Uh-uh. I don't buy it." Dara was pacing the room now--her lawyer mode having kicked in. It HAD to--the thought of Jason being RIGHT was too frightening to even entertain for a second. "It could have just as easily been someone from Emma's past that did that to her sister. Remember, Emma made LOTS of enemies--and don't forget, her sister WAS a hooker. I read up on her background; she used to work at this place, some type of strip joint, that was really a front for an S&M/Dominatrix kinda place. She was into the HARD stuff, Jason. She just probably crossed paths with a real nutcase. I mean he had to be: when she gave her statement, she said she knew she was in trouble when the first words outta the guy's mouth were 'Can you take a punch?'. If that's not a sign of a nutcase, I don't know--"
"Back up!" Jason bolted from behind the desk. "He wanted to know if she could take a PUNCH?" he repeated.
"Yeah, he ." Dara's words trailed off as she watched Jason whip out his cell phone.
"GOT HIM!" Jason punched in the number of his contact, then glanced over at Dara. The look on her face told him she knew what was up, yet Jason knew she wouldn't quite believe it until it was spoken. "Moreno's the john, Dara--then and now. Johnny!"
"Yeah, Boss?" as he flew past Dara.
"Get the car ready." He rattled off a few more instructions to Johnny, then turned his attention to his contact on the phone. As he clicked off, Jason took another look at Dara who was now sitting in the chair, her face buried in her hands. "Hey, you up for this?"
Dara gave a short laugh as she looked up at Jason. "If I'm not, something tells me I've got about 30 minutes to GET ready, right?"
"Less than that. We roll in 15."
"Fine." Dara pressed her palm to her forehead, all the while thinking, THIS IS HAPPENING SO FAST. A few minutes later, Rinaldo entered the office.
"What's up, Jason? Johnny just tore past me saying you wanted to see me pronto and that he was getting the men ready." Jason was silent for a moment as he eyed Dara, who seemed to be doing her best not to come apart in front of both men. "Damn!" he hissed, shaking his head. "You've found Moreno?"
"Yep. Time to go set a trap."
"That's right," Dara replied. Rising slowly, her legs still slightly wobbly, she made her way to the door. As she walked past both men, her eyes were as vacant as her voice. "And guess who's the bait?"