Violet Vorback threw the morning newspaper to the floor. Her hands clenched into fists and her face contorted in anger for an instant, before, with a deep breath, she regained control of herself. Over the years she had spent pursuing her mission with single-minded determination, she had learned that the emotions that fueled her quest could also be dangerous. They could cloud her ability to think clearly and foil her plans and that was the one thing she couldn't allow. Not after all she had done, all the time, money and energy she had invested to make them pay for what they had done. She knew when it was time for cold reasoning and when for heated passion. Now was a time for the former. It was unfortunate that the car bomb had failed, but it couldn't be helped. If the gossip rags were right then she had until 8 p.m. tonight to finish with Beverly Kingston once and for all before she was transferred back to New York City where she would most likely to under close surveillance. She had failed with Peter Baxter, but she wasn't going to fail again. She had to get to Beverly before she was transferred, it was that simple. At least she would be able to use the nurse's uniform again.
Despite her best intentions, Violet Vorback was excited as she strode down the hospital hallway with an air of purpose. Once you got the hang of it, she thought, it was so easy to fool people into thinking you belonged.
Violet would have thought that the intensity of the feeling would dull with experience, but the opposite was true. Every time she was on the verge of completing yet another step on her mission, she felt herself truly come alive, tonight more so than ever. Maybe it was Beverly who inspired such passion in her. She had always blamed the actress more than the others. It was her who gotten Emily involved and ultimately killed, even if she hadn't held the weapon that had shot Emily.
The bomb would have been too easy and in a way Violet was glad that it had failed. Now, she got a chance to look Beverly in the eye while she killed her. She deserved no less fate, of that Violet was certain. She discretely ran her fingers along the lower seam of her uniform, where she had hidden the long, thin blade. It was going to be a pleasure using it. Of all the ways to kill, she preferred the hands-on approach. Stabbing were quick and silent, exactly what she was looking for tonight. They carried none of the noise of guns or the uncertainties of poison. Reaching the door of the private room, Violet cast a quick look around before turning the handle. It was unlikely that she would be recognized even if someone saw her. The dark wig pulled into a severe bun and the thickly rimmed glasses perched on her nose drew attention away from her face and onto features that could easily be altered.
She slipped into the darkened room, pausing just inside it to gently close to door behind her. The thin beam of light from the corridor had been enough to tell her that she'd come to right place. The blonde haired shape on the bed was huddled and facing away from her, but it had to be her all right. She quickly pulled the blade from its hiding place and in a flash, had crossed the room, ready to thrust it into her victim's ear, thereby piercing the brain and killing her. She reached for the blonde head. The instant she registered that something was off, a torch blazed alive, blinding her. Her arms flew up to shield her face. The weapon cluttered harmlessly to the floor. She bent down to retrieve it, but a voice stopped her.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," it said calmly. "You see, it's only a few pillow and a blond wig on that bed."
Violet snarled with uncontrolled anger. Reason took leave of her as she picked up the blade and blindly charged in the direction of the torch. There was a brief scuffle which couldn’t have lasted for more than two seconds before the door flew open and the main lights were switched on. Violet whirled around and found herself faced with two gun aimed directly at her.
"Drop the knife now!" one of the men shouted.
Violet threw the knife with the flick of her wrist. It hit one of the man square in the shoulder and with a cry, he promptly dropped his weapon. The other man fired, but missed. Before Violet could react however, a strong pair of arms enveloped her, immobilizing her and dragging her her across the room against her will.
"Don't shoot, Detective, a voice near her hear shouted. "I've got her. You can cuff her now."
As he watched Violet Vorback being led away by Detective Harrington's men who'd arrived within seconds, Paul couldn't bring himself to feel any satisfaction about the conclusion of this affair. He had caught the woman who'd shot Steve as well as blackmailed and murdered a number of other people, but it didn't fill the void that had been left behind by the actions of this young woman driven solely by the need to exact vengeance.
After making sure that Agent Tobin's wound would be seen to, Paul quietly slipped away. There would be no rest for him tonight as he resumed his vigil at Steve's side.
Eventually, his body had given in after what he'd been through not only the past forty-eight hours, but also ever since the affair had first started, but Paul Temple had still managed to stay awake until, finally at 3 o'clock that morning, Steve's fever had broken. He had still refused to leave her side, arguing that after he'd stayed this long, he might as well spent what was left of the night camped in a chair next to her bed.
It was from exactly that position, with a cramped neck and aching back that he awoke sometime the next morning. All his aches were however forgotten when he caught sight of Steve looking at him intently.
"Steve?" he asked, his heart pounding in his chest all of a sudden.
"Louise?" he tried again, when she showed no reaction, but just kept staring at him.
At that, she frowned.
"Am I awake?" she finally asked. Her voice was hoarse and was barely recognizable, but to Paul's ears, it was the best, most beautiful thing he'd ever heard.
"Yes, you are awake, darl-." Te term of endearment came naturally, but he cut himself of. He didn't want to frighten her unduly.
Steve however seemed not to have even noticed his blunder. "Then you are real?" she questioned after a lengthy pause.
"Why?" Paul erupted without thinking. "Yes, of course I'm real," he managed eventually, too shocked to even ask a question.
"It's all so confused in my head," she began, clearly hesitating to open up to him in this way. It cut at Paul's heart to see her not trust him with this information, but he said nothing, wanting to give her all the time she needed. "I don't know what really happened and what was just a dream."
Paul fought to hide his immediate worry. Was it possible that the fever had done some additional damage? The doctors had mentioned the possibility and she sounded awfully confused.
"Maybe I should get a doctor?" he suggested and moved to get up.
"Wait! Please..." she said and there was a catch in her voice. Paul couldn't help but obey her plea and sat back down.
"What happened to me? What really happened?"
"I don't think that's such a good.." Paul began, but Steve cut him off.
"Please, Mr...Paul, I really need to know." Once again, Paul was powerless to deny her request.
"All right. What do you remember?" Paul queried, chiefly to gain time.
"I remember being shot..or rather I don't remember the shooting itself, but I remember being in hospital and being told that I'd been shot and had been hurt very badly," she said slowly, as if struggling to put the facts in order. Haltingly, with many pauses, she continued to narrate the events from her point of view, up to the time when she'd woken up at the mansion.
"I don't think I dreamt it, I think Beverly Lloyd really was there. I know it doesn't make any sense, but I do remember talking to her." At this point, Steve paused, lowering her gaze to the blanket covering her.
"She told me...things about you," Steve continued after several minutes. "At the time, I believed her, but when I overheard her talking on the telephone later on, I didn't know anymore. I didn't know who was telling the truth, and to be honest, I'm still not so sure."
Paul's heart sank. He didn't need to ask what Beverly had told Steve, he could very well guess that she'd tried to make him out to be the bad guy, probably by claiming that he had something to do with the Knave. The question now was how could he make Steve understand that she could trust him. She had known Beverly for considerably longer, and her memories of him were limited to a hospital visit or two.
"Do you remember your first job?" he asked, suddenly having thought of a way he might be able to gain her trust and make what he was about to say less painful.
"Yes, I was working for a small newspaper in Cape Town. I wasn't a reporter or anything, I was just there to make tea and do other odd jobs. It was extremely boring," Steve recalled.
"Until you decided to look into the death of a young woman name Emily Vorback," Paul prompted.
"She was shot during a robbery at a jeweler’s. The reporter who caught the story didn't think anything of it, but I couldn't stop wondering how an eighteen year old from a good family, who had never been in trouble could be involved in a robbery. Since I had nothing else to do, I decided to do some investigating of my own," Steve recounted. "Why are you asking me about all this?" she asked, interrupting her narrative rather abruptly.
"The woman who shot you was determined to avenge that girl's death," Paul explained.
"But why shoot me? Granted I never found out the truth, but surely that can't be a reason to shoot somebody," she protested.
"You got in her way, that's why she shot you. I don't think she ever intended to hurt you. She was after the people whom she thought had gotten Emily involved in the robberies."
"Beverly is one of them, wasn't she?" The question came out of the blue for Paul. He hadn't expected Steve to catch on this quickly.
"Yes, she was the mastermind of the group," Paul confirmed. When he saw Steve's worried expression however, he added. "You needn't worry about either of them, anymore. Emily's sister murdered Beverly. She was arrested for her murder along with several other murders last night. She can't hurt you again. You're quite safe here."
They were both silent for quite some time until Steve spoke.
"Thank, you. For telling me all this I mean. I appreciate it."
"Anytime Steve, anytime," Paul replied, his gratefulness evident in his voice. He had missed Steve in his life more than he'd allowed himself to acknowledge, even in the privacy of his own thoughts. Now that the danger had passed, he could permit himself such realizations. Violet Vorback was safely in custody, although whether she was sane enough to be tried in a court of law was an open question at the moment. Consumed with the thirst for revenge, Violet had only been to eager to tell her story to the police. As it turned out, the attempt to murder Peter Baxter hadn't been her doing, but that of her accomplice, a bar man maned James Stevens. Investigations were under way to determine of a case could be made against the remaining members of the Cape Town burglary gang.
It was another ten days before Steve was reluctantly declared fit enough to leave the hospital. Her rapid progress had astounded both Paul and her doctors. Steve had been complaining for days that she was ready to get out of hospital and this morning, she had finally been declared ready. Paul was helping her gather and pack the few things he'd brought her over the past few days.
Steve herself was sitting on the bed, fidgeting nervously and tugging at her clothes with an absent minded expression on her face.
"Another headache?" Paul asked gently when he noticed her far-away look. Despite her progress, Steve was still suffering from headache.
"No, no," she replied distantly. "My head's fine."
"You seem worried," Paul commented, pausing in his efforts to fit everything into a small valise and turning to face his wife.
"I am worried. What if I never remember? What am I going to do then?"
"First of all, your memory has already started to come back. You heard the doctor, it may take time. And second," Paul crossed over to her and took her hand in his. "Even if you never remember all of it, you're still not going to be alone in this, ever. I'm going to be with you every step of the way."