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Chapter 103: "Did we do this?"

Hope was back at Shane's computer.  John's computer program running on his laptop was spitting out password combinations like there was no tomorrow, but nothing so far had worked.

"Arrgghhhhh," Hope groaned as she stared up at the ceiling.  Why couldn't she find the password?

"Sounds like you're having fun."  Hope grimaced, annoyed that John had chosen that moment to enter the office.  "No luck?" he asked.

"Absolutely nothing," she said.

John was carrying a tray with some cookies, a teapot, some cups and an afternoon newspaper.  He set it on the desk.   "Hopkins insisted I bring it down.  And you could probably use a break."

Hope had to admit it was true.  After they returned from Drew's, she had redoubled her efforts on the computer.  She had been at it since 7 a.m.  "What time is it now?"

"Half-past-four," John replied. 

Hope shook her head.  "Why do I feel like we're missing something obvious?  Maybe Shane just used some random numbers and letters."

"You don't believe that, and neither do I," John said.  "We both know Shane well enough."

He was right, Hope thought.  They both knew Shane well enough to know what lay beneath that superficial British reserve.  His years with Kim -- no matter how much he might deny it -- had been the most important part of his life.  That was why they both believed his password had some connection to their past.  With a sigh, Hope took a cookie off the tray and went back to punching in numbers.  Meanwhile, John picked up the newspaper and began skimming the headlines.

"Whoa!" he said.  Hope looked up to see that John's eyes were wide.  He passed her the newspaper and she looked at the headline on the third page.  "Police Seek Clues in Stratford Murder Mystery."

Hope read the first part of the article aloud.  "'Police in Stratford-Upon-Avon are baffled by the murder of local publican Geoffrey Harris, who was shot to death in his home in the early morning hours on Tuesday.  Mr. Harris' long-time partner, Ralph Prentice-Fairbanks, a makeup artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, is suspected of the crime and is presently a fugitive from the law.  Neighbors expressed surprise at the killing, stating that they had never seen any hostility between the men.  They also reporting hearing nothing unusual Tuesday morning.'  Are you kidding me?"  She looked across the desk.  "John . . . . Did we do this?"

He seemed to take a long time to answer.  "Someone wanted Drew real badly."

"So you don't think Drew killed Geoffrey?"

John shook his head.  "Not a chance."  He took a deep breath and let it out, but Hope could see the anger rising in him.  "How could I have been so stupid?  I knew that lead made no sense.  Andy told me that too.  And we just beat a path to his door.  We led them right to him."

"Who is 'them'?" Hope asked.

Johns shook his head again.  "I don't know.  The ISA maybe?  That guy in Homeland Security gave me the lead."

"But why would the ISA or Homeland Security want Drew?"  None of this made any sense to Hope.  "Especially enough to kill someone for him."

"You're right."  John's anger was still simmering, but he took a moment to think.  "Only one man wants Drew enough that he'd stop at nothing to have him."


"Stefano," John confirmed.  "Drew betrayed him and Stefano doesn't accept betrayal.  Even after 20 years."  He stood up.  "I'm going to call Roman.  Maybe he can watch Stefano and see if Drew turns up there."

"You think they'd take Drew to Salem?"  Hope sounded dubious.  He was probably already dead.

"Or wherever Stefano is," John said.  "Stefano will want to see Drew personally.  He'll want to make sure Drew hears him give the order. . . ."  His voice trailed off and Hope knew he did not want to say what they both knew.  The order to have him killed.

John knew Stefano's mind better than anyone, and Hope trusted his instincts.  She watched John leave the room to go upstairs and place his call.  Then she turned back to the computer, but she could not bring herself to return to work as she thought guiltily about their mistake.  In all likelihood, if they ever managed to find Shane, they would have to tell him that they had gotten his brother killed.