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Chapter 59: "Call it a hunch."

"I'm quite impressed with the girl, Mr. Kiriakis."

Victor listened as Leo Dempsey, the Titan General Counsel, talked about Jeannie Donovan.  He was pleased by the report, but it hardly mattered.  Victor intended to make sure the girl was in Salem this summer.  Still, it was nice to hear the girl described as "smart," "articulate," and "poised."  That would make it more reasonable to have her around Titan.

"Thank you, Leo," Victor said, ending the conversation.  As the attorney left the office, Victor stood from his desk chair and began to pace as he thought.  His plans for the girl were coming along nicely.  He still had to find a way to get the boy into position, but he still believed an opportunity would present itself.  Only, it had to be soon.  Vasquez was getting anxious in Costa Blanca, and Victor had promised that things would be put in motion shortly.

"If I could just find the right hook," he muttered.  It did not matter right now.  He would figure something out.  The fallback was to have a tip delivered to Roman Brady or John Black.  Maybe a smuggled note from Costa Blanca.  Of course, for that, he would need someone who could forge Shane Donovan's handwriting.  He could not assume they would rush off without verifying that.  And for the moment, Victor had no samples he could use.

Enough of that.  There was still time.  An opportunity would present itself.  He just had to remain on the lookout for one.

So that was the status of the Donovans.  Victor's only other issue right now was his son.  The surveillance showed that Philip had intended to meet with John Black, but Victor did not know what Philip was plotting.  He knew his son would avoid outright defiance, but the situation was precarious.  Even though Philip was weak-minded, he was still Victor's heir and needed to remain by his father's side.

The problems all stemmed from that girl, Melanie, who he could not bring himself to call his daughter-in-law.  She was a menace.  Because of her, Philip was refusing to live at the mansion and was at odds with Vivian.  If only Victor could get Melanie out of the picture.

He walked over to his desk and flipped open a file folder.  There was the life of Melanie Layton -- he refused to dignify her with the surname Kiriakis -- laid out before him.  Unfortunately, there was no particularly useful dirt in the file that he could use to get rid of her.  Philip already knew the worst of what the investigators had found, which meant Victor would have to manufacture something.  That was always much more difficult.

Even more problematic was the fact that whatever he came up with had to be irrefutable, with evidence so solid that Philip could not remotely question its veracity.  If only Victor had evidence that the girl was having an affair.  The file did suggest some involvement with one of the doctors at her hospital.  Not an affair per se, but some past relationship that he might be able to exploit.  Perhaps he could begin planting seeds of doubt now, and have his best men set the stage for a "tryst" between Melanie and this Nathan Horton.  That might work.  At the moment, it was the best plan available.

His thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of his phone.  Victor glanced at the number.  Odd.  It was still quite early in California, far earlier than Victor's expected report time.  That meant something significant must have happened.  He picked up the phone.  No point risking anyone outside his office hearing his man on a speaker.  "Yes."

"Mr. Kiriakis, it's James."

Marcus James was Victor's best investigator and operative, and he had been following John Black since his arrival in Salem without detection.  Victor was highly impressed about that, though he suspected Black's extended period of inactivity had caused some of his skills to degrade.

"What do you have?" Victor asked.

"Not very much from the house," James said.  "When we aim the listening device, all we get is static.  I think Papa Donovan probably put in some scramblers in case anyone got the idea of going after his wife and kids."

Victor should have expected that.  Shane had always been concerned about his enemies going after his children, so it was hardly surprising that Kimberly's house would have state-of-the-art anti-surveillance technology.  "Is there anything you can do?"

"I might be able to sneak a bug inside, but I doubt it will work any better.  I'll probably just get more static and it might be found."  James added, "We'll keep visual surveillance.  That may already have turned up something."

"What?" Victor asked.

"Andrew Donovan had a rather odd exchange this morning with a female neighbor," James said.  "Call it a hunch, but I think there's something there."

"What kind of exchange?"

"Of the 'it's a struggle to keep my hands off her' type.  I was observing from a distance, but it happened during a run with Black.  Anyway, Donovan went up on the deck of what I assume is her house.  It looked pretty intense.  Honest, I thought he was going to screw her right there, in front of everyone on the beach.  Then something happened that caused them to stop."

"You don't know what?" Victor asked.

"Nope," James admitted.  "Maybe a husband came home.  Or woke up.  I don't know.  I still want to check out the woman.  As I said, it's really just a hunch, but my instinct says it's worth investigating."

James' instincts were usually pretty good, so Victor agreed.  "Fine, as long as you stick to your primary mission.  I don't want to lose track of John Black.  He's far too much of a loose cannon to have running around on his own."

"Gotcha," James said.  "I haven't seen him since the run this morning.  Oh, by the way, your suspicion is correct.  The boy and Black seem to be pretty close.  Wait, there's movement.  No, it's just the boy and his mother.  No sign of Black.  I can leave someone in the van to let me know if Black moves while I check out Donovan's lady-friend."

"Very well."  Victor hung up the phone and thought about James' report.  The thing about the woman was intriguing, but was secondary for now.  For the moment, Victor had confirmed a key element of his plan.  Andrew Donovan was close to John Black.  That left Victor confident about one thing.

When the time came for John Black to head to Costa Blanca, the boy would go with.  And that would put him directly in the line of fire.  Exactly where Victor wanted him.