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Chapter 110: The Negotiation

"Victor," Stefano DiMera said in his typical booming voice.  "To what do I enjoy this unexpected visit?" The Italian turned to his son.  "Elvis, make room for our guest."

Victor shook hands with Stefano as the younger man pulled a third chair to the patio table and ordered a servant to bring an espresso, no sugar.  Victor was impressed.  The boy paid careful attention to details, unlike Philip.

"Thank you, EJ," Victor said.  "As much as I would enjoy your company, however, I believe that your father and I must have this conversation in private."

EJ glanced at Stefano, who gave a curt nod.  The young man quickly took his leave and headed inside the DiMera Mansion.

"So what is so important that we must speak alone?"  Stefano had taken his seat and was watching Victor carefully.

"First, before we get down to business, I would like to present you with a gift."  Victor tried not to smile at Stefano's wary glance.  He looked to the door that opened on to the patio.  "Marcus, please bring our guest out."  He waited as Marcus shoved the bound and hooded man outside.  "Please remove our friend's hood."

Victor watched Stefano, not Marcus, as he pulled the hood off of Drew.  Stefano's expression turned from one of suspicion to surprise and then to something approximating glee.

"This is a gift," Stefano said as he rose from his chair.  He stepped over to Drew.  "Ah, my traitorous and aptly named Iago.  It truly has been too long."

Drew swallowed hard.  "Maestro, please. . . .  I'm not a threat to you."

"Of course, you aren't," Stefano said in a low rumble.  "That is not the point.  You betrayed me when you chose your brother over me.  And I cannot accept betrayal."  He turned to Marcus.  "Would you please escort our guest inside and tell my son to take him to the basement?  Iago and I have a great deal to catch up on."

Drew yelled for help, but Victor knew nobody would hear him.  He watched in amusement as Marcus muscled Drew through the door and into the house.  Stefano watched as well, and clapped his hands, almost in excitement, as he sat back down.

"Oh, Victor, you have no idea what this means to me.  But I assume this is not purely a gratuitous gift and I know you are not here to collect on the contract."

"You know me too well," Victor said.  "Consider Mr. Donovan a 'peace offering' of sorts.  Or a negotiating chip."  He paused as a servant appeared with his coffee and then disappeared back into the house.

Stefano waited as well.  "So what is it that we are negotiating?"

"Andrew Donovan.  My sources say that you've expressed some interest in the boy."

Stefano gave nothing away.  "Perhaps.  Perhaps not."

"I have plans for him," Victor said.  "I just want to know if his . . . elimination would create friction between our organizations."

Now Stefano seemed intrigued.  "So it is not enough to have the father locked away?  You intend to destroy the son as well?"

"I'm impressed," Victor said, and he meant it.  "Your sources in Costa Blanca must be quite good."  Stefano gave the hint of a smile.  "But it's a little more complicated than that.  I intend for the father to watch his son die."

"And how do you intend to do that?"  Stefano's interest was now obvious.

"Well, at the moment, I'm waiting for the opportunity to present itself.  Once the time is right, I intend to let it be known where Donovan has been languishing for the past year.  I am quite confident that his friends will mount a rescue mission, and the boy will take part."

Stefano nodded.  "An intriguing plan, though I must admit that it is hardly your style.  I have always figured you more for the bullet-in-the-brain approach.  What you describe seems much more up my alley."

"I have my reasons," Victor said, though he did not mention that he wanted Shane to suffer for humiliating him.

Stefano grew pensive.  "Do you also intend to eliminate John Black in the process?"
                                 
"It is a possibility I have considered.  Would that trouble you?" Victor asked.

Stefano bobbed his head for a moment as he thought.  "Not particularly.  The Pawn has been useful, but he also has been a tremendous thorn in my side.  It would not be my preferred course of action, but just as my actions towards the Bradys have had the potential to hurt your son and grandson, I cannot deny you your actions merely because they might impact a person of interest to me.  Besides, I must repay you for your kind gift of today."  Stefano lifted his cup to his mouth, then lowered it.  "So your plan has my blessing.  In fact, I believe I may be able to help you a little.  Perhaps we could use this opportunity to our mutual advantage."

"Oh?"  Victor raised an eyebrow.

"Yes.  I actually have some plans of my own involving the Costa Blanca prison system.  Rafael Hernandez has become quite an annoyance to my son, and I understand that he has just arrived in Costa Blanca to investigate my granddaughter's disappearance."

"But the girl has been returned," Victor said.  "And we know she was taken by Anna DiMera.  Why would he still be investigating?"

"You see the source of the annoyance.  Elvis and Samantha want this matter ended, but Rafael refuses."

Victor nodded.  "So you plan on having Hernandez arrested and thrown in jail.  He'll have to escape and flee the country, which, if he succeeds, will make him a fugitive from justice should he ever try to return."

"That is it.  More or less," Stefano said.  Victor could tell there were some details that the other man was not revealing, but he still welcomed the information.  "And should Rafael encounter Donovan in that prison, I feel confident that he would report his news to some of his friends here in Salem."

"I want Bo out of it," Victor cautioned.  "After all, despite his hatred of me, he is my son.  I would keep John Black out of it as well, but I see no realistic way of avoiding that."

"I am sure one of us could come up with a distraction for Commissioner Brady," assured Stefano. He raised his cup.  "I like this plan, Victor.  Salute."

Victor raised his cup in turn and took a sip.  There were still details to iron out, but Rafe provided the opening for which he had been waiting.  He would have to work quickly with Vasquez and his officers, but the plan could be put in motion in short order.

"So tell me something," Stefano asked, interrupting Victor's train of thought. "Why did you believe I had interest in the boy?"

"That's simple.  You are always in need of a new subject, and I thought the boy would fit the bill.  He's already well-trained and his use would give you the added benefit of inflicting more damage on the Bradys.  And Donovan, while not John Black or Roman Brady, has caused you some difficulty in the past.  He did take your Iago, after all."

Stefano chuckled.  "All of that is true, but if only it were so simple.  The boy is unsuitable.  Too much like his father.  A good pawn must have some moral, let us say, malleability.  We learned that with then-Captain Donovan."

It was Victor's turn to chuckle, as his longtime suspicions were confirmed.  "I always guessed as much.  A death with no body, followed by amnesia.  That seemed like your handiwork."

"True enough.  It was quite extraordinary.  The memories we were able to eliminate normally, but the man completely rejected the programming.  It was quite a feat.  My scientists concluded that there was something so deep-rooted in Donovan's mind -- some absurd notion of 'right' and 'wrong' -- that he would never be able to perform the tasks for which he would have been useful."

"Shane always did see the world as very black-and-white," Victor noted, thinking that probably was what allowed him to be such a good ISA agent.  The ability to put a mission above all else, and not abandon it even when family or friends were in danger required such absolute thinking.  "We, my friend, are realists who understand that it is far more grey."

Stefano waved his arm.  "Bah, who needs ideals?  But it was more than ideals.  It was a  combination of factors.  That black-and-white ideology plus mental discipline.  Very much like John Black in that respect.  John often fought the programming, but it was nonetheless worth the effort because he was not instilled with such strong ideals.  He was, to use your words, much more grey, so he would perform as needed for at least a time."  Stefano shrugged.  "With Donovan, my men said his mind would prevent him from performing even that much."

Victor thought back to playing chess with a disheveled man who had been confined to a tiny cell for a year.  "I will give Shane credit.  He does have a rare degree of mental strength."

"So he does."  Stefano sipped from his cup.  "In any event, you asked about the boy.  After Donovan, we have avoided subjects who exhibited similar traits.  That ruled out the boy.  My scientists looked at him briefly, examined his records and psychological profile, but concluded he would pose similar problems as his father.  I will admit to some disappointment at that.  Having the boy under my control could have been quite helpful when dealing with the ISA."

"Oh, right, I heard about the raids."  Victor smiled inwardly.  "But you don't seem to have suffered nearly as much as some of our competitors.  There is quite the vacuum in the tri-state area and Southern California at the moment."

"Bah," Stefano grumbled.  "You can have it.  I have no desire to expand at the moment."

Victor translated that last comment.  The FBI and DEA had captured enough of Stefano's lieutenants that he needed to consolidate power in his existing locations before thinking of moving into new territories.  "Well you should be grateful that you did not put more of your resources through Costa Blanca."

"Yes.  That is the last time I invest in a minor despot with delusions of grandeur."  Stefano harrumphed again.

Victor took another sip of his espresso.  It was strong and he savored the taste.  Setting down his cup, he gave his competitor a wry grin.  "Given this little incident, you should be doubly pleased about our little plan.  It was Shane Donovan who provided the details of the Costa Blanca plan to the ISA.  He managed to send the information just before he was captured."

Stefano sat silently, absorbing that information, before swearing a few times in Italian.  After he composed himself, he looked at Victor.  "If that is so, I want Donovan destroyed."

"That, my friend, is precisely the plan."  Victor smiled.  "Even if he somehow survives this little adventure, he will be little more than a broken shell.  And isn't that far more satisfying than a quick death?"  At Stefano's responsive smile, Victor lifted his cup once more in a toast.  "To Shane Donovan, who will soon wish he had begged for death."

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Feb. 8th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
well done! wish I could think up plots like that!
jwsel
Feb. 10th, 2011 05:04 am (UTC)
Thanks very much. I know this really isn't Vic's style, but it is far more fun than just having someone shoot Shane.

And I always was annoyed at the lack of explanation for how Shane was miraculously cured of his gunshot wound and any injuries from the explosion on the mountain when he woke up in the wilderness a few weeks after he supposedly "died."
(Anonymous)
Feb. 10th, 2011 12:22 am (UTC)
Great story. I always look forward to new chapters. I can't wait for your version of the reunion!
jwsel
Feb. 10th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
Thanks very much. I still have no idea how long it will take to get to the reunion, because there still is a lot to happen before that. But it will happen eventually.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )