John arched his eyebrow at Bo’s retort to Steve. It never took long for these two to start sniping at each other. That is, John reminded himself, if this man really was Steve.
Steve began sitting up, but lay back down quickly. He was obviously still a little groggy. Bo helped Steve sit up while Benjy headed to the other side of him. Steve took no notice of the younger man as he couldn’t take his eye off of Bo.
“I’m not kidding, Beauregard,” Steve said. “You look terrible.”
Hearing Steve call him by his full name softened Bo’s heart. Grinning at his friend he said, “Well, you might want to check a mirror, Steve.”
Steve laughed, imaging how bad he must look. Glancing at the other man who was helping him sit up, he jumped after he recognized the face from one of the times he woke up.
“Who are you? You were with them before!”
Bo began shushing Steve, telling him to quiet down. He was just about to tell him who the man was when John interrupted, “Steve, I know you are confused right now, but we don’t have a lot of time to discuss this. Those Dimera goons could come anytime.”
John met Steve’s gaze and saw the recognition in his face. He smiled at who he hoped was his old friend. “Welcome back, nonetheless.”
John was amused to see Steve laugh after giving him the one over. He was even more amused when Steve said, “Seriously, Roman, you too! Have you gained weight?”
“Man, I forgot about that!” Bo said, worried about how any of this will make sense.
Realizing they don’t have time to really explain, John decided to take things one step at a time. “Steve, do you think you can walk?”
Getting out of bed, Steve tried to stand but Bo caught him. As frustrated as he was at being so dependent on support, he was angrier about what he was wearing.
“What the hell is this? A hospital gown?” Glaring at Benjy, Steve grabbed him by the arm and asked, “What they hell did you do to me?”
Benjy shook his head, and said back, “I’m sorry.”
Steve did a double take at the sound of Benjy’s voice, recognizing immediately he had some sort of handicap. He seemed to know this person, other than just remembering him as one of the men who had held him captive. Before he could ask, John began throwing clothes into the room.
“Here! Wear these!” he yelled as he was pulling off the clothes of the guard they had knocked out.
Bo knew John would need help. Looking at Steve, he asked, “Will you be okay? I need to help Joh-, um, him.”
Steve, who by now was standing with Benjy’s help and staring intently at the younger man, nodded his head. “Where do I know you from?”
Benjy swallowed, not sure how to proceed. He had watched and cared for this man over half his life. Now he was awake and demanding answers. Benjy knew he deserved them but felt out of place explaining. Frankly he really didn’t know where to begin.
Knowing he couldn’t let Steve go so he could sign to him, he simply said, “It’s been a long time.”
Steve heard the tone of the man’s voice and tried to place it. He knew this speech impediment reminded him of something. Could he be deaf? Realizing the guy was staring at his lips, Steve realized he probably was.
“You’re deaf, aren’t you?” Steve asked.
Benjy smiled, trying not to let tears get in his eyes at finally being able to speak to his old friend.
Steve picked up on the smile. It was familiar. “I know sign language.”
“I know.” Benjy said, this time the tears welling up in his eyes.
The truth dawned on Steve finally. He staggered backwards, using the bed as support. He heard his two friends coming back in the room with clothes for him to put on. Staring at them and realizing why they looked that way, along with the identity of the stranger, forced Steve to rub his face. Feeling the long beard, Steve felt even more horrified.
Bo asked, “Steve, are you okay?”
Steve glared at Bo, “How long have I been gone?”
Bo and John stood open-mouthed at Steve’s direct question. Steve’s expression was unreadable, especially given his facial hair, but the horror in his voice was unmistakable. Benjy didn’t know what to say either and stood looking from one man to the next. Finally, John handed Steve the clothes from the guard.
“You need to put these on!”
“No,” Steve said angrily. “Not until you tell me everything.”
“Dammit, Steve, there isn’t time!” John yelled back.
Bo agreed, “He’s right, man. We’ve got to get out of here right now.”
Steve shook his head He didn’t care where they were. He didn’t care about the present at all. He wanted to know what happened in the past.
“I’m not leaving until I get some answers from you. The last thing I remember before… this… the last thing I remember before was telling Kayla…” Steve had to stop and turn away. Tears were forming in his eye.
“Steve,” Bo began, but stopped. There was so much to say, and they really didn’t have time.
Steve, with his back to them, noticed something behind the machines he had been strapped too. Using the bed as a support, he walked over there, hoping it was what he thought. Seeing it was, he made his way over there. He still wasn’t strong enough to walk on his own right now, but the machines helped him make it there.
All three men tried to help him but he told them to stand back. Behind the machines, Steve found a sink with a mirror. Looking in the mirror at the face before him, Steve was reminded of looking at himself the first time when he lost his eye. Now he stared back at himself and this time the patch wasn’t taking precedence. The huge beard on his face was. Staring at himself, he pushed the hair out of the way and saw a few hairs of gray. How old was he now? His friends hadn’t said.
“How long?” Steve said, through gritted teeth.
“Sixteen years.” Bo said solemnly. John glanced at him but Bo just shrugged. If he was in Steve’s position now he would be demanding answers too.
Steve was glad he had the sink to keep supporting him. Bo said it so simply, sixteen years, like he was talking about hours. Holding his head, Steve was trying to let it all sink in but it was so surreal his mind wouldn’t let him believe it, even with the evidence right in front of him.
Realizing that Steve might stand over there all day, he walked over to his friend and stood behind him. “Steve, when we said we need to get going…”
“I want to shave.” Steve said.
“What? Steve, man, we don’t…”
“Let me just shave this crap off. Please. Then I’ll put the clothes on and go with you.”
Bo turned to Benjy and repeated what Steve wanted. He didn’t even know if they had anything around for that but Benjy smiled. He reached in his backpack and pulled out a trimming kit. Benjy signed he always brought it and would try to fix up Steve’s beard when he could. Not that anyone understood him. Steve still had his back to him and Bo didn’t understand sign language.
He took the kit and walked over to Steve, who said he needed help.
John, pacing in the background was furious; they didn’t have time for this at all. “Would you like me to make an appointment for you to get your hair done too?”
As if communicating silently with each other, both Steve and Bo knew the best way to deal with John like this was to ignore him and continue with what they were doing. As the beard was getting trimmed down to a reasonable length, Bo explained that Steve had been presumed dead this whole time. Listening, Steve’s mind was going a mile a minute with all his questions. Where was he? Why was Benjy here? Why take him to begin with?
The question that was foremost on Steve’s mind was the hardest to ask. Sixteen years was a long time gone, and Steve wouldn’t let his mind even think about what Kayla had been doing in that time. He was worried she had moved on but there was another fear; what if something had happened to her or Stephanie?
That fear propelled him to finally ask, once Bo was done. “What about Kayla and Stephanie? Are they alright?” he asked softly.
John, for once, stopped pacing and knew that if this man was Steve, he did deserve to know about his wife and daughter.
Bo answered, “She and Stephanie are fine, Steve. They live in LA now.”
Steve nodded. At least that question was answered. Sixteen years and Kayla believed him to be dead. Could she have moved on? The image of her being with someone else, and that man raising Stephanie, came immediately to mind. Steve found he could get up and walk finally. He walked past Bo, taking his time and moved over by John and Benjy who were watching him, knowing what he wanted to ask. Looking at them, he said, “Has she… has Kayla moved on? Did she remarry?”
John looked past Steve to Bo, feeling like her brother, her real brother should be the one to answer.
Bo smiled a bit as he said, “No, Steve, she didn’t. She actually never really recovered from your death.”
Hearing that, Steve felt a range of emotions like nothing he had ever experienced come over him. Again, he had to hold onto something to remain standing. His Sweetness had not remarried, and Steve felt actual relief at that. Then the relief turned to guilt.
Steve repeated, “She never moved on? She’s been… alone this whole time?”
“Not alone, Steve,” Bo said, his heart breaking, “she’s had Stephanie, who is a beautiful, young…”
Hearing Bo speak of Stephanie the anger now took over Steve’s body. He took the table he was leaning on, pulling it up and slamming it down as hard as he could. He screamed as the rage went through him.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t going to have time to continue letting his anger out. Noises from the door told them they had visitors. The Dimera men probably heard Steve’s scream.
“Open this door!”
From the banging sounds on the silo’s door, there were at least two men outside and maybe more. Obviously, the guard Bo and John knocked out must have radioed in before coming inside.
John grabbed the table and scooted it forward, laying it on its side to block the entrance into the second room. Bo pushed the bed into place as another barricade. Drawing his gun, John began barking orders.
Steve wasn’t sure how much help he would be. He could barely stand and walk on his own, much less carry a gun.
The one man they hadn’t paid attention quickly pushed the bed back away from the door.
“Stop!” Bo yelled, forgetting Benjy couldn’t hear him.
A moment later, the others realized what Benjy was doing, when the young man lifted the dingy rug under the bed to reveal a trap door.
“There’s a basement?” John asked.
Signing quickly, Benjy began explaining. It took Steve a few seconds to realize it was up to him to interpret.
“He says that the island has tunnels underground connecting various points of the island which were used for utilities and communication. He knows enough of them to lead us out of here.”
Benjy grabbed his backpack and pulled a flashlight from one of the pockets. He began heading down below into the darkened tunnel. John picked up his pack and motioned for Bo to grab his own gear He didn’t like not knowing exactly where they were going, but he preferred the tunnel’s chances over shooting their way out. An idea occurred to him and he stopped to retrieve the mosquito netting used to cover Steve’s bed, ignoring the looks of surprise Bo and Steve sent his way. There wasn’t time to explain what he was doing
John was the last through and closing the door behind him, he took the netting and twisted it into a rope to fasten the trap door shut. He heard Bo say, “Good idea.”
Jumping down to everyone else’s level, John answered, “They will get through it eventually but it should slow them down.”
Benjy and Steve were a few steps ahead, the younger man using his flashlight to look up and down the tunnel, figuring out which way to go. Steve, having nothing to use to illuminate his own path, was forced to hang on to Benjy. He was glad that his legs were improving and though he couldn’t run yet, he could walk fairly well.
Benjy chose the direction and the three men followed. They couldn’t go very fast on account of Steve but they were making some progress. After walking for awhile, their feet met water.
“Is it flooding?” Bo wondered.
Benjy shook his head.
“The tunnels house all utilities. The old water main is near here, and because of it leaking significantly, they built a new one,” Steve interpreted for them.
As they kept going, the water rose a bit but finally seemed to level off at two feet deep. Still it was cold and all the men’s teeth were rattling.
“How much further?” John asked impatiently.
“The more we stop and ask him questions,” Steve said, “the longer this will take. He has to stop and look at me to communicate so we might as well keep going.”
“That’s just great,” John sneered, “we come back here for Marlena but instead find your butt and now…”
“Marlena?” Steve actually stopped at the name.
John forgetting how long it’s been, answered, “Yeah, Marlena. She’s been kidnapped and brought here.”
Steve didn’t understand. Marlena was dead. How could she be alive? “I don’t understand, Marlena Evans? Your wife, she didn’t die?”
Benjy, anxious to get out of the tunnel, began pulling Steve to get the men walking again. Presently, the tunnel had opened up putting the men in a large room. Benjy knew they still had a ways to go so there wasn’t time to talk.
Unfortunately, John and Steve didn’t share that opinion.
“Yes, Marlena didn’t die, Steve, she too had been held by Stefano.”
Steve realizing Benjy was pleading they go on, tried to move but his legs gave out. He wasn’t sure if it was from fatigue or shock but he really needed a break.
“Sorry, Benjamin, I need to rest.” Steve signed. Benjy reluctantly relented, his main concern being Steve’s health.
As Steve leaned up against the wall, he asked John when he found out Marlena was alive.
John, glancing at Bo, said, “About a year after your death. She, too, woke up from a coma.”
“Wow,” Steve said. “And Stefano had her that whole time?”
“Yes and no,” John said, feeling weary. “With her presumed death and kidnapping…”
“Multiple kidnappings,” Bo added quickly.
John stopped for a beat to glare at Bo who shrugged, then finished, “It’s just complicated.”
Steve snorted, “I bet, Roman.”
Hearing Steve say John’s former identity made both Bo and John flinch. Deciding that should be the first thing they needed to explain, Bo began, “Listen, Steve, about Roman here…”
He didn’t get to finish. Sounds of machinery began echoing through the tunnel. The three men who could hear were yelling at Benjy to ask what was going on. Though Benjy couldn’t hear the sounds, he could feel the vibrations; he searched with his flashlight and finally rested on the tunnel ahead being closed off. John took his flashlight and saw behind them access was closed there too.
As the three men asked questions, Benjy signed that he hoped given the old main was no longer in use they had shut off the power to control access to it. Unfortunately he was wrong.
“That’s just great!” Bo yelled while John felt panic really hit him. Benjy stood silently wondering how long before the men would come and take them away. Only Steve wasn’t about to go down without a fight.
Taking the flashlight from Benjy, he began using it to peer around the room they were in. He had noticed it’s vast size and that it reminded him a good deal of the room he and Kayla had gotten trapped in back in Stockholm when they had gone underground. With the flashlight, Steve could see various valves and pipes lining the ceiling.
Pointing at the valves he asked Benjy what they were. Benjy explained they were used to flood this room when necessary. His heart rate going a mile a minute, Steve began searching below eye level for a possible drain. If water was to flood the space from time to time, then it must have a drainage system. With a little luck…
He found it! It was a large sized pipe that the men could easily fit through but the problem was there was a hatch on the outside of it. It looked to be a break away. Throwing the flashlight back at Benjy, Steve used his arms to raise himself up and try to push his body against the drain, hoping the hatch would break away.
“What are you doing?” Bo asked incredulously.
Steve stopped for a few seconds to catch his breath. “I’m trying to get us out of here!”
John, jumped right in and began slamming his own body against the hatch. Soon, Bo and Benjy joined in. They could feel the hatch start to give, but it seemed it would always resist at the last minute.
Bo stopped to catch his breath and said, “It’s no use, guys, I don’t think it’s going to give…”
“Hell, no!” Steve yelled, as he kept pounding. “I didn’t come back from the dead after sixteen years to be killed in this water trap by Dimeras. If Kayla waited for me all this time the least I can do is get out of h-”
His voice cut off as Steve finally got through; unfortunately he disappeared down through the pipe, yelling as he went. Shocked, the three men took all of two seconds to glance at each other before following suit and into the new path leaving an empty room behind.
Steve didn’t really have time to comprehend what was going on. He got sucked into the vortex of water that literally pushed him along, making him feel like a bug in a water vacuum. Feeling the water and a little air rush past him was his only clue that he was actually going somewhere. Just when he thought he couldn’t hold his breath any longer, he finally felt himself leave the water cocoon and splash into another body of water.
Swimming to the surface, Steve sucked in deep breaths and struggled to get to where he could touch ground. Luckily, he was only about 12 feet from shore of the small pond. As he lay exhausted against the bed rock he heard a splash behind and looked just in time to see Bo and John land behind Benjy. The three men made their way to where Steve lay and collapsed nearby, gasping for breath.
Glaring at his two old friends, Steve spat out between breaths, “How in the HELL did the two of you manage to survive for sixteen years without me?”
Off their curious glances, Steve began to mimic the panicked behavior he had witnessed while in the underground tunnel. “Honestly, I don’t ever remember the two of you giving up so easily.”
John was still breathing too hard to answer and Bo, after recovering, decided to just ignore Steve for now and figure out where they were. He glanced at Benjy who had managed to climb up on solid ground and grabbed his arm to get his attention. “Do you know where we are?”
Glancing around, Benjy wasn’t exactly sure where they were, but guessed it had to be the north part of the island as he knew the emergency valves they went through led up here. He signed to Steve as much.
“North part?” John repeated after having regained his voice. “Does that mean we are on the other side of the villa? The jungle part facing the larger mountain that stood behind it?”
Benjy nodded to John’s question.
Bo, John and Steve got out of the water and began to circle around trying to figure out what they had to work with. Steve asked Benjy, “How far could we be from the villa?”
Benjy answered, “At most, four or five hours.”
“Are there any booby traps we need to be concerned with or maybe motion detectors? Bo and I didn’t notice any around the island when we landed.”
Benjy shook his head and using Steve to interpret, explained, “This island was never meant to be housing any important Dimera operation plans. It was used as a prison base where Steve was kept along with me. There was more security in place during the nineties but thanks to the dot com burst, Stefano lost a good deal of his fortune and had to make large cutbacks.
Initially, Stefano had envisioned using the Internet as a way to keep track of his all his locations but due to security restrictions placed on satellite communication that proved impossible. Stefano was also forced to consolidate his islands, and this is one of the few left and only place for them to bring Marlena.”
John bristled with excitement at the mention of Marlena’s name and lost all interest in anything else, giving Steve a much needed break from signing, especially since he’d had to have Benjy spell out some of the more technical terms not in his vocabulary and even spelled out, the terms had made little sense to him. Fortunately, John was ready for action, not more talk.
“So she is in the villa?” John asked.
Benjy nodded. “The villa isn’t as large as it appears from the outside.,This island was never meant to house the Dimera family for an extended time. Marlena is here only until Stefano arrives, which should be very soon.”
“Then we don’t have a lot of time to get Doc out of there!” John said.
“Benjy,” Steve signed, “do you know which room Marlena is being kept?”
“She is in the private living areas of the villa. The good news is it’s on the north side of the villa, closer to us, but the bad news is she will have a guard stationed directly outside her door.”
“Is she okay?” John asked.
Benjy nodded.“She was drugged to sleep the way here but was awake by the time I left to take care of Steve. She wasn’t very happy when I left.”
John smirked. “I imagine not.”
“The problem is, now that they know we are here on the island and now have Steve and Benjy, I bet Stefano will have extra security around her,” Bo said.
Benjy said out loud, “Not necessarily. The men will be reluctant to tell Stefano that Steve is awake and I helped plan his escape. Stefano is not as…” Benjy paused, “forgiving as he used to be.”
The three men looked at each other with concern. Steve asked, “Do you think the men might actually believe that this escape has nothing to do with Marlena, but you trying to rescue me?”
Benjy smiled, “Yes. The men congratulated themselves on how they successfully took Marlena and thought no one was able to trace them to this island.”
“That should work to our advantage,” Bo said. John and Steve hoped he was right.
“They are going to be interested in doing searches of the island looking for us trying to escape. They think the last place we would go would be back to the villa,” Benjy further explained.
Grinning, Steve said, “That gives me an idea.”
The gate guard cursed to himself, vowing if he saw Benjy again, son or no son of Stefano’s, he was going to shoot him. The whole villa was in an uproar. Stefano was due in about six hours and they didn’t have time to deal with Benjy’s rebellion.
Everyone was scrambling to find Benjy, Johnson and whoever was his accomplice. No one was sure how Benjy got help in this, but often he had been allowed to head to the main island for supplies and might have made contacts. The problem was, they were supposed to be monitoring him but had grown lax with it.
Now that relaxation of regulations was biting them back. Benjy had gotten away with waking up Steve. Hopefully it would be only a matter of time before they found them. The gate guard stood at the north entrance looking for any clues himself, though it was highly unlikely Benjy would come back to the villa.
“Hey, be careful!”
Grabbing his gun, the guard called out at the sound of the voice. An Italian accented voice answered him, “Found Benjy and company!”
The guard was shocked to see Benjy, a vertical Johnson and a third man being led out of the jungle by a Dimera guard. The prisoners had their hands in the air and the guard had his pistol on them.
“You have them!” the gate guard said surprised. Then upon getting a clear picture of the Dimera man leading them in, he says, “I don’t know you! Where did you come from?”
“I came on the detail to help guard Marlena when she arrived. I showed up the day before yesterday.”
The gate guard glared back at the new man and tried to place him. It was true new guards came in earlier in the week but this one didn’t register. Suspicious, the guard asked, “Why didn’t you radio in?”
Pointing his pistol at the accomplice, he replied, “This one jumped me in the woods and I lost it. I couldn’t look for it while keeping them accompanied.”
Looking the men up and down, the guard noted they did look like they had been through a skirmish. so did the guard. Relieved that at least the prisoners were back, he allowed them through with a shrug.
“Just make sure you check in with Disalvo so you can take them to the assigned cells,” he said as they passed.
Of course, the four men didn’t go anywhere near Disalvo or the jail cells. Benjy had explained to them exactly where Marlena was being held. Using his knowledge of the extra guards coming in, Benjy had told John exactly what to say.
Now that they were inside, Bo, John and Steve and followed Benjy, keeping their formation. Located on the north side, Marlena’s room wasn’t too far. Reaching her hallway, they found only one guard standing watch outside her room.
“What’s going on here?”
John, still using the thick Italian accent, lied, “Disalvo told us to come up here with the prisoners and place them with Marlena.”
Horrified at the idea, the guard shook his head, “You can’t do that! Stefano would be furious at them coming near Marlena.”
John shrugged, stating, “Disalvo said this was an order straight from The Phoenix.”
The guard, though surprised, wasn’t about to contradict orders from the head of the family so he immediately let the four in.
Inside, John saw Marlena standing by the window, looking out. Turning around to see Bo and John coming in didn’t surprise her in the least. She knew John would come for her and Bo would be a perfect accomplice.
But the sight of who was with them made Marlena gasp out loud.