"Doc." He got up as soon as she entered, giving her a quick hug. "You okay? I'm sorry about how you had to hear the news, I--"
"It's fine, Roman. There is no really good way to hear something like that. When the man on the reception desk patched me through to your room so quickly I knew that something must be wrong."
"He's been great. Been fielding calls for us from the ISA all afternoon." Roman turned his back on them, walking over to stare out of the window at the darkened city. "They've been great, too. Shane was in touch pretty much straight away. That's why we're all still here waiting. He's got half the agency's resources focused on this one case."
"How about you two?" asked Bo, from where he was sitting with Hope on the end of the bed. "You both look a little shook up."
"We're fine," Marlena assured him, torn between wanting to go to Roman to console him, and wanting to stay with John. She decided to stay where she was. "Our plane came down, but we weren't hurt. Actually we've been having rather a nice time on a quiet little beach." It struck her that it had probably been when she had been having such a good time that Sami had disappeared, and felt a pang of guilt. John's hands took her shoulders, guessing the direction of her thoughts, and wanting to offer some kind of reassurance.
"You're sure you're okay?" Hope's eyes had widened at the mention of the plane crash, although she knew well enough that Marlena was not going to be worrying about herself right now. "It shouldn't be too hard to find a doctor if you want to get checked out."
"We're fine." Speaking up for the first time, John echoed Marlena's earlier words. His hands tightened slightly on her shoulders, and she put her own hands up to cover his. Hope nodded. They looked as though they wanted to be alone, and she didn't entirely blame them.
"There are quite a few messages for you," she told them. "For both of you. Caroline and Maggie both wanted to make sure that you're okay, and EJ called for you, John."
"Thank you." Marlena looked once again towards Roman, but he still hadn't moved. Clearly he was waiting for the telephone to ring again, wanting further news from Shane. "Are we planning to head back home soon? If we're leaving in a hurry, I'll put off calling anybody until we're in the air."
"We're staying," Roman told her, without looking around. "Initial investigations suggest that they took a plane out of Salem. Sami and an unidentified woman, that's all we know so far. I don't want to go anywhere until we know more. When we do, we go wherever they went."
"Of course." She nodded slowly, her heart hammering in her chest. "I'll... I'll call home, then. John?"
"Right behind you, Doc." With a brisk, strained nod at Bo and Hope, he followed her from the room. They closed the adjoining door to their own room, and John sagged momentarily against it. Marlena went to him immediately.
"Are you all right?" she asked him. He stared down at her, rather surprised by the question.
"Me? She's your daughter, Doc."
"Yes, she is. But you love her just as much as Roman and I do, and I know you can't really show that as much as you'd like when Roman is around." She leaned into his embrace, glad of his strong arms around her. "Oh, John. Who would take her? And why Sami? We have our enemies, and we always have - you, me and Roman. But Sami?"
"I know. An unidentified woman, Roman said. The only woman I can think of who's ever had any kind of vendetta against Sami is Kate, and their problems are well behind them. She couldn't have got herself mixed up in something without us noticing, could she?"
"It's possible, I suppose. Unlikely, but possible. I have been a bit wrapped up in you since I got you back." She sighed, before drawing in a long, calming breath. "I should call home. I don't want Caroline and Maggie worrying about me, and I'd like to speak to the kids, too. And Eric. Should I call Eric?"
"Not until there's something to tell him. With a bit of luck we can get it all wrapped up before he needs to know." Gently John lifted her away from him, so that he could look at her properly. "I know he'll be angry when he finds out, but if you tell him now, he'll want to come and join us, and you don't need to be worrying about him also."
"True." She nodded. "Fine. I'm going to get cleaned up first, and get a change of clothes. I don't think the hotel will thank me for getting sand all over the furniture. While I'm doing that, why don't you call EJ?"
"Sure." He held onto her for the moment, as though unwilling to let her go off on her own. "You going to be okay, Doc?"
"For the time being. If this person really wanted to hurt Sami, then why would they have flown out of Salem first? Right?"
"Right." He pulled her close again, just long enough to kiss her forehead. "Keep thinking that way. She'll be fine, and we'll have her back before you know it."
"Of course." She nodded once, then when he had let go of her again, she turned about and headed off towards the bathroom. He watched her for a moment, tugging loose his collar with suddenly clumsy hands, before turning towards the phone. After a very short moment, the ringing was answered by a familiar, clipped voice.
"Elvis." John sat down on the bed, leaning back against the headboard. Only then did he notice that his feet were still bare, and wondered, vaguely, if he had left his shoes behind on the island. He didn't remember seeing them anywhere recently. "You called?"
"John!" There was the beginnings of a smile in the younger man's voice. "There was some talk of you having disappeared. You found yourself, then?"
"Something like that." Rubbing his eyes with one hand, John had to struggle to focus properly on the conversation. His mind wanted to be elsewhere, planning and theorising, wondering who that unidentified woman might have been. "Listen, if this is about business, I think it's going to have to wait."
"John, please. Do credit me with a modicum of sensitivity. I called earlier because I wanted to make sure that you and Marlena were all right. Believe it or not, I do care."
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry. You must be worried about Sami also."
"I am, yes. I've been driving myself half-mad trying to work out what this is all about, but I can't seem to get anywhere. I know that Sami isn't exactly skilled at making friends, but I can't think of anybody who'd want to abduct her." There was a pause, and an almost audible frown. "Well, myself once or twice, admittedly."
"It's okay, you're not on the suspect list." John wasn't sure why he was so certain of that; he just was. "How are you all doing, anyway? The kids...?"
"Will's worried sick, but he's hiding it well for the twins' sake. The baby... well, with luck we'll have Sami back soon enough that it won't matter too much. Hopefully she's still too small to notice."
"Yeah." John's mind was still elsewhere. EJ had clearly noticed, and when he spoke again it was more gently than before.
"Listen John, I know you probably want to be thinking about Sami right now, and trying to figure all of this out, but just so that you know, I've done a little investigating of my own. Well - not just me. Steve was very helpful. He has some pretty handy contacts, you know."
"Steve?" John hadn't given a thought to his latest business partner, but now that his mind had been dragged onto the subject, he realised that he should have remembered him earlier. EJ was right - Steve had any number of contacts, many of whom had been cultivated in the long ago days when Steve had been anything but a mostly law-abiding private detective. There was every chance that he could get answers faster even than Shane Donovan and his colleagues at the ISA. "Did he find anything? Even the slightest thing could be useful right now."
"Exactly." A certain jauntiness had found its way into EJ's voice, and a part of John's mind went on the alert. "He managed to get hold of some old friends in aviation, and they found us the plane. It didn't go off radar once, and it put down in Austria. We checked, and it doesn't seem to have headed for any of the main airports, so we were thinking somewhere out of the way. A private strip maybe. Anyway, I'm on my way out there now to follow up a few leads. I couldn't sit around and do nothing."
"You're what?!" John bit back a groan, focused enough to at least try to be tactful. No wonder his mind had begun to shout warnings at him - there was a sense of purpose in EJ's voice that suggested at a real enthusiasm for action. There was something else, though; something that John would have noticed before, had he not been so preoccupied. Something low and grumbling, behind the increasingly animated voice. An engine. More than one engine. This time he did groan. "Elvis..."
"John, I've got a lead. I'm following it up. Now if you're honestly suggesting that I should have stayed behind in Salem and waited for the ISA to play catch-up when--"
"That's not what I'm saying." He couldn't be angry with somebody for doing exactly what he himself would have done - or, rather, he could, but not without looking like an idiot trying to yell down the telephone line. "Is Steve with you?"
"No. With you lot all out of the country, I think he felt he should stay behind and look after the family. I don't doubt that Maggie Horton could do some serious damage to a kidnapper if she put her mind to it, but they probably feel better having Steve there as well."
"Then you're on your own?"
"Not exactly, no. Even if I would much rather be." There was a sigh. "Look, do you have a problem with me being involved in this, John?"
"Not me personally, no. I don't know what Roman's going to say when he finds out, though." Don't know, but can certainly guess. "What does Nicole think of you dropping everything just when she's about to give birth to your baby?"
"She understands. She-- Look, she knows that Sami is still important to me. Nicole's not the jealous type. Or... well, she is, obviously, but... she understands. Roman will just have to understand as well. I've made more headway than your secret agent friends, so he should bloody well be thankful, shouldn't he. Now are you coming to join me, or do I follow up this lead alone?" There was the muffled sound of a voice speaking somewhere nearby, and EJ answered it, not quite loud enough for John to hear. Moments later he was back on the phone, with a muttered, "Mostly alone."
"I'll get my jet in the air. We'll meet you in Austria. Anywhere in particular that you have in mind?"
"You got your laptop with you?"
"Yeah, sure." John got up, fetching the computer from his luggage, and opening it up on the bed.
"Fine. I'll forward you the data that Steve's contacts came up with. There's a list of small airfields that are in roughly the right region of the country, and we were going to start working our way through them. We've ruled a few out already just by making inquiries before we left Salem. We could meet up at the first one."
"Got it." The list appeared in a message, and he scanned through it. "I'll send this on to Shane Donovan. He might be able to cross off a few more of these for us. Nice work, EJ."
"So does that mean that you're less angry about me coming over to Europe?" The voice was almost teasing, a faint trace of mockery not quite hiding itself. John shook his head slowly.
"I'm not angry. I think it's a really bad idea, but I'm not angry. Roman doesn't trust you. Bo and Hope don't trust you. Hell, Sami doesn't trust you."
"I know." EJ didn't seem to care. "I'll see you in a little while, then. Stay in touch."
"Wait." Not wanting the other man to hang up just yet, John snapped the word out. "You said that you weren't alone, but that Steve isn't with you. So who is?"
"Oh." There was distaste in EJ's voice now. A suggestion of definite unhappiness. "Don't let's spoil that joyous surprise so soon, hey. Be seeing you, John." He hung up. John glared at the telephone. That last exchange hadn't sounded in the least bit encouraging.
"Trouble?" Emerging from the bathroom wrapped in a voluminous bathrobe, with a towel that looked almost as big wrapped around her head, Marlena settled down beside him. He handed her the telephone, then had to take a moment to disentangle himself from the cord. She laughed a little, and he was glad.
"EJ's made some progress tracing the plane that Sami and her kidnapper were on. Get your calls done. We're heading to Austria."
"Austria? Are you sure? Shane..."
"I guess Shane needs to start recruiting a few more people like Steve." He leaned over to give her a quick kiss on the forehead. "I'm going to fill the others in. Give you a bit of privacy. Okay?"
"Thank you." She smiled at him, although he could see the strain in her eyes. He wanted to stay with her, and try to make her feel a little better, but he knew that she would want to talk to her friends. Instead he picked up his laptop, and headed for the connecting door that led back into Roman's room.
"Sami's going to be fine, Doc," he told her, just before he opened the door. "We've got a real head start now. It'll be okay."
"I know." She didn't sound entirely convinced, but her smile was warm enough. He nodded briefly, then pushed open the door, heading back to rejoin the others. Now was the hard bit. Getting them all to fly off to some out of the way airstrip in Austria on the say so of a man whom none of them especially liked might take some serious persuasion. He wondered why he was so willing to take EJ at his word. Whatever the reason, he hoped that he could pass some of that faith on to the others. Otherwise, this could well turn out to be one exceedingly fraught trip.