Chapter XII - In the Line of Duty
The rest of the day passed pleasantly without any further alarums and excursions, and Janet took a sample of Serena's blood for D.N.A. analysis before Daniel returned her to Mrs. Dillamore's care.
"Dr. Jackson," General Hammond said in surprise. "Is there something wrong?"
Daniel gave a rueful grin.
"Er, no General Hammond. At least... I could use a little leeway here - for a while."
"Is this about Serena?"
"Ah, yes General. If Serena is my daughter, and Janet says she hopes to get a preliminary result on her blood test today, then I'm going to have make plans pretty quickly. There's no way I'm letting her go back to Italy after what she's told me."
General Hammond looked concerned, more so after Daniel had filled him in on the salient features of Serena's history.
"So you'll need access to the S.G.C.'s legal department, and exemption from any off-world activities until the situation is resolved?"
"Yes sir, and thank you General," Daniel replied, thankful to have such a perceptive and considerate Commanding Officer.
At this point, O'Neill strolled in, stopped dead and did a double-take.
"Er, yes, Jack. Well observed..."
"How did you guess?" Daniel replied with mild sarcasm.
"Still think she's your daughter?"
Daniel felt a sudden urge to hit him. O'Neill saw the look and raised his hands in surrender.
"We'll probably know sometime today," Daniel responded tightly. "Just be thankful your two are still under control. She's been leading me a merry dance this weekend."
"Oh, well then, she's definitely your daughter," O'Neill said with a broad grin. "Revenge is sweet, oh yeah!"
"Jack!" Daniel gave a mock scowl.
He was then subjected to further provocation, as Sam and Teal'c arrived together. They didn't say anything. Didn't need to. Their expressions said it all.
At lunchtime, Daniel left the base and drove into the Springs to take Serena out for lunch - nothing exotic, just an opportunity to discuss her future further. According to Martin Best in the legal department, the simplest solution was for her to enrol for a summer school course at the University of Colorado on Austin Bluffs Parkway. That way, with the pulling of a few strings, she could stay on in the U.S. on a Student Visa until her status as an American citizen was finalized.
"How does that appeal to you?" Daniel asked when he'd finished explaining the options available to her.
"I like that very much. I have always wanted to study archaeology - to fulfil Mamma's dream," she said wistfully.
That tugged at Daniel's heartstrings like nothing else Serena had said so far. Rosa had shared his own interest in the subject and had wanted to study it at university. And all for one night of pleasure, that dream had been buried like an Egyptian pharaoh's tomb... Inwardly Daniel wept for his lost inamorata.
Serena was looking at him in concern and he realized that he'd withdrawn into that past world and lost touch with the present. He sighed.
"I'm sorry, I was just thinking," he replied.
"Mamma has that look sometimes," Serena said sadly. "Oh, I must phone her please."
She looked at her watch.
"There is a vernissage at the Galleria Vecelli this evening, so Stefano should still be there."
Daniel paid the bill and found a pay 'phone. Serena had an animated conversation for several minutes then passed the 'phone to Daniel with an impish smile. Daniel took the handset from her.
"H-Hello," he said hesitantly. "Rosa?"
"Sì. Chi parla?" came a weary voice on the other end of the line
"Sono io Daniel. Mi dispiace... mi dispiace tanto...!"
Before he could say any more, he heard Rosa gasp. There was a sharp cry, abruptly cut off, and a rustling sound, then a harsh voice said,
"You stupid girl! Do you think you can run away from me so easily? Come home now, or face the consequences. This is not over!"
"Tu stronzo di merda!" Daniel growled. "Keep your fucking hands off my daughter!"
Daniel slammed the 'phone down, then noticed Serena's startled face.
"Oops. Sorry," he said guiltily.
"Your Italian is very good, Papa," she beamed.
Chapter XIII - Fragile Balance
For a few seconds, agitated thoughts chased each other through Daniel's brain. He'd just spoken to Rosa for the first time in more years than he cared to think of, sworn at her husband, and claimed Serena as his own. He became aware that her eyes were still focussed on him and that her rather jubilant expression had faded into worried.
"Stefano knows, doesn't he, Papa?" she whispered.
"Indeed he does," Daniel replied, tight-lipped.
"You won't let him take me away, Papa?" Serena asked apprehensively.
Daniel's face softened into a smile.
"Once we get the results of your blood test back, there won't be anything he can legally do about it."
"Legally...?" she murmured, and looked away.
Back in the Mountain, Daniel met Colonel O'Neill coming out of the commissary and told him about the 'phone call as they walked.
"He's a vicious bastard, Jack," Daniel concluded. "There's no way I'm letting Serena go back to him, whatever happens."
"Daniel, I know how you feel. She's a sweet girl, but if you're not her father, you could be charged with abduction. You do know that, don't you?"
"Ah, not necessarily, Jack. She could declare herself an emancipated minor and then I could legally adopt her, or, in view of Stefano's mistreatment of h"
"Um, yes. He... he beats her. Nothing else. So-o, she could request asylum, and we're getting her a student visa for the time being. If Stefano wants to make anything of it, we'll go to court and I'm sure our lawyers can drag things out until she's eighteen, then he won't have a leg to stand on anyway."
"You seem to have it all worked out."
"I think so," Daniel replied with a self-satisfied smile as they reached the elevators.
O'Neill and Daniel acknowledged Lt. Crocetti, the only other occupant, as they stepped inside. The lieutenant gave Daniel a knowing look.
"I hear Colonel O'Neill ain't the only one whose - er - just become a father," he grinned. "In fact, I hear your girl's qui-ite a doll!"
Daniel lost it.
The big marine found himself flying backwards. Daniel's forearm pinned him to the wall by the throat.
"You stay away from my daughter!" Daniel snarled, winding up for a powerful right hook.
O'Neill, caught on the hop, lunged at Daniel's arm - managed to deflect the punch.
"Daniel!" he barked, dragging him off Crocetti. "Let it go!"
Daniel did, reluctantly, back off, breathing hard and glowering at the marine.
"I mean it," he growled. Crocetti raised placating hands.
"I didn't mean no harm, honest," he said, stunned by the doctor's reaction. Who knew the guy could be such a psycho?
"He's - er - been under a lot of... pressure," O'Neill said in a calming low voice.
The moment passed as Daniel collected himself.
"Uh, yeah. Sorry," he murmured, but there was still a warning glint in his eye.
As they left the elevator, O'Neill all but frogmarched Daniel to his office.
"Are you out of your mind?" he demanded, shutting the door with some force.
"Er, apparently," Daniel replied tightly.
"What was all that about?"
"It was... his voice... I guess - he just - sounded like Stefano somehow... And he was there - threatening Serena..."
"No he wasn't. He's never even seen her, for Chrissakes. You have seriously got to get a grip on yourself or you're going to end up back in Mac's psych. ward... And then what use will you be to Serena?"
Daniel's shoulders sagged and he looked drained. He pushed up his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"It just caught me on the raw, that's all," he sighed. "It won't happen again."
"Well, I'd just stay away from any events hosted by the Italian Society for the time being, O.K.?"
"Yeah..." Daniel responded with a wry smile.
Chapter XIV - Point of No Return?
Daniel knew that after lunch, Mrs. Dillamore had planned to take her daughter Bonnie, Emilia and Serena out sight-seeing for the afternoon. He would then meet them at the Travelodge and take them all out for an evening meal to celebrate, he hoped, some good news.
It was almost six o'clock by the time Dr. Fraiser dropped the preliminary report on Serena's D.N.A. test into Daniel's lab. on her way home. He was already pacing the floor in some discomposure, wondering if the result would be through before he left. She tried to keep a straight face - keep him in suspense a little bit longer - but couldn't stop the corners of her mouth from quirking upwards.
"Janet?" Daniel asked breathlessly as she came in with the sheet of print-out in her hand.
"Yes," she smiled.
"Whoo-hoo!" he crowed in delight, sweeping her off her feet, spinning her round and kissing her soundly on the cheek. "Janet, you're an angel!"
"Me? I thought was a Napoleonic power-monger," she grinned.
"You're both," Daniel beamed back at her, "and thanks for bullying the lab. boys into getting the result back so quickly."
"You do realize this is only a preliminary profile? C. & I. are going to want the full report, but I can't see that there'll be any problems. Now put me down and go break the news to that lovely daughter of yours."
After the contretemps in the elevator, he resisted the temptation to gun the accelerator - didn't want to end up colliding with something in his haste to see Serena, now he knew for certain that she was his.
It was just as well he hadn't rushed as Mrs. Dillamore and the girls hadn't returned yet. He picked up a magazine and thumbed through the pages while he waited.
Half an hour later, when they still hadn't returned, he was pacing up and down, worrying that they might have had an accident - couldn't bear the thought that it was happening again. Fate had given him something wonderful - and in just as startling a manner as Sha're. He prayed to the gods he didn't believe in that they weren't going to take back what they'd given - that his curse hadn't struck down someone else he'd dared to love...
And then, there she was, full of youthful enthusiasm and delighted to see him again. Her radiance was more intoxicating than any other stimulant. In his relief, he pulled her into a crushing hug as if making sure that she was indeed real. And his. Papa's girl.
While the girls went to freshen up and change their clothes, Daniel buttonholed Mrs. Dillamore.
"When we first met - er - yesterday - you questioned my intentions, and quite rightly. Thank you," he smiled. "You said, then, that I'd abandoned Serena. That wasn't strictly true. It's a long story, but basically Serena's father kept us apart and... I never knew of Serena's existence until you brought her to me - for which I can never thank you enough. You also said you didn't want her to be hurt... Did you know that her stepfather - er - beats her when she doesn't want to do what he says?"
Mrs. Dillamore looked shocked.
"No, I didn't," she said in concern.
"Yes, well, I guess it isn't something you normally bring up in conversation. You also won't know that he's trying to coerce her into marrying someone she doesn't want to - doesn't even like - to further his business aspirations."
"Gracious heavens!" Mrs. Dillamore exclaimed. "What's to be done?"
"Ah, well, with your permission - as you're in loco parentis - I plan to ask Serena to stay in America - with me."
Daniel pulled the print-out from his pocket.
"This is a preliminary report of a D.N.A. test which we had done for Serena. It proves that she is my daughter, so there's no legal impediment. As you know, I work for the U.S.A.F. - this is as a civilian consultant. If you need references as to my suitability to care for my daughter, then General Hammond, the base's C.O., and Colonel O'Neill, who commands my team, will be happy to vouch for me."
Recalling his little 'aberration' that afternoon, Daniel felt a little guilty about committing Jack to this recommendation. Fortunately, Mrs. Dillamore, or Luisa as she invited him to call her, didn't find it necessary to take him up on it. She was very pleased that Serena's quest to find her real father had turned out so well. He felt duly flattered.
Daniel had made a reservation at the Craftwood Inn in Manitou Springs and, as there were five of them, it was decided to go in Mrs. Dillamore's Chevy Trailblazer.
It had been decided over the Bittersweet Chocolate Paradise dessert, that Serena would make Daniel's apartment her permanent residence. To make it possible for Mrs. Dillamore and her family to continue their touring holiday early the following morning, she would move in that evening.
"Luisa, I'd like you to stop by as you leave tomorrow, and see Serena's new home," Daniel said as they arrived back to the Travelodge to collect Serena's things and pick up his car. "I'd like you to feel satisfied that she's going to be all right."
"Well, thank you, Daniel, that's most considerate. I'd love to."
"Oh, and any time you're in the Springs, please come and visit," Daniel smiled. "I'll always be in your debt for bringing Serena to me."
Father and daughter said little on the drive to Daniel's apartment, being comfortably relaxed after all the excitement. When they arrived at the parking lot, he was a little put out to find a car partially obstructing the entrance. It was dark by then, but it looked to be another Camaro. He wondered idly if they were breeding. And if they were all owned by idiots.
Daniel drove into the lot and parked up near the entrance to the apartment block next to a dark-colored transit van.
"I'll take you up to my - our - apartment," Daniel grinned as he switched off the ignition, "then come back and unload your things from the trunk."
As he got out of the car, he noticed an unfamiliar figure walking quickly towards the entrance.
Serena, still in the car, was half-kneeling on the seat, stretching to reach a large shoulder bag from the back seat.
Someone threw her door wide open. It banged into the side of the transit. Strong hands reached in - grabbed her round the hips - tried to drag her out.
Daniel, moving away from the car, turned - saw two big men. He headed round the back of the car - must get them off her - heard running steps behind him.
Serena kicked backwards - connected with something - heard a gasp, a curse - kicked again. The man staggered back, slid down the side of the transit, groaning.
Daniel found himself between the other assailant and the running man. Damn! He ducked, twisted round - swung a leg out low - tripped the running man - kicked and sent him sprawling.
Serena scrambled across the front seats and out of the driver's door, grabbing the bag by its strap as she went.
As Daniel, half crouching, turned back, the big man's hands grabbed him by the throat.
"Papa!" Serena shrieked.
The running man was getting up. Serena hurled herself towards him, screaming like a banshee - swung her bag hard into his face - kicked him the ribs as he went down again.
"Zio Niccolo?!" she exclaimed as light caught his face.
Daniel didn't play fair - reached out - found his target - squeezed and twisted - a harsh cry. The hands were no longer round his neck.
"Run!" Daniel wheezed, pointing to the doorway.
Serena was still staring down at the fallen man as if mesmerized. Daniel grabbed her arm and dragged her to the entrance. The men weren't following but Daniel wasn't taking any chances.
Chapter XV - The Other Guys
As they darted towards the nearby rear entrance, Daniel pressed the alarm button on his car key. He hoped the shrill screeching would encourage their assailants to leave. He didn't expect anyone would rush to his aid, but the men wouldn't want to push their luck, he thought.
Quickly, he keyed in the security code and pushed Serena into the hallway. There was an elevator car already waiting. They dived into it and Daniel hit the '8' button. The elevator clanked its way up to the eighth floor. The doors opened and he looked out cautiously. There was no one in the corridor.
Outside his apartment, Daniel tested the door handle. The door was still locked and showed no signs of forced entry. Signalling to Serena to stay away from the door, he carefully opened it a little, reached inside and flipped the light switch. He pushed the door wider. The apartment was exactly as he'd left it that morning. Before entering, he peered through the crack on the hinge side of the door to make sure no one was hiding behind it. Only then did they go in and Daniel shot the bolts.
He went straight to the 'phone and started to dial 911, then stopped and replaced the handset. The police might be more interested in Serena herself than in the attempt to kidnap her. Until she was officially his, he thought it better to keep them out of it if he could. He didn't have that much confidence in the police anyway.
He took a deep breath and forced himself to be calm. Time for a little threat assessing, the way Jack would...
One: Stefano was the prime suspect behind the attempted kidnap. He had the most to gain - and the most to lose by her absence. He would also want her back immediately - wouldn't want to waste time going through the courts, plus there would be the embarrassment of dealing with the reasons for her leaving home.
Two: Did it fit the time frame? Serena had been tracked down very quickly. How long had Stefano known about her flight to freedom? Certainly today, but that wasn't long enough. He knew Serena hadn't 'phoned her mother at the weekend for fear of Stefano's intercepting the call.
"Serena, when did you last 'phone your mother before today?"
"Friday morning, Papa."
So Stefano could have had three days to track him down. Emilia's parents would no doubt have given him Luisa Dillamore's address and 'phone number, but he would have drawn a blank there as she'd already taken the girls on a touring holiday.
Three: Stefano was definitely in Rome at lunchtime - Mountain time. So who was in charge of returning Serena to the bosom of her family? He recalled hearing her saying 'Zio Niccolo'.
"Who's Uncle Niccolo, Serena?"
"He is Stefano's younger brother. He lives in Atlantic city."
"He's a long way from home then," Daniel commented.
"He travels about a lot."
"You - er - you don't happen to know what sort of car he drives?"
"He has three cars that I know of," Serena replied, "um... a Buick station wagon, I think, and a Camaro and a Mercedes sedan."
So likely the two Camaros were one and the same, and Niccolo Peruzzi, having drawn a blank at the Travelodge, had come to his apartment in Mainland Street. That was bad news. He couldn't leave Serena alone here until he'd sorted out her family.
So what sort of threat did they pose?
The bungled kidnap seemed pretty inept. Presumably the gang had expected to meet with little resistance. Although Niccolo wasn't overly large, the other two guys were. No doubt they thought that with the three of them up against one teenaged girl and one archaeologist, it would be a breeze. After all, what is there to suggest that a doctor of archaeology - who by rights should be as aged and decrepit as his subject - would be six feet of muscle who'd had extra-curricula training from a U.S.A.F. black ops. colonel?
Would they make another attempt?
Serena was a valuable asset so far as Stefano was concerned. He'd invested a lot of money in her care for seventeen years. Just as he was about to reap the rewards of that financial investment, it had been snatched away from him. Oh yes, he would try again. And that little scuffle in the parking lot showed he wasn't concerned about using illegal tactics.
When, where and how would it happen?
Probably not tonight. One surprise attack had already failed, and now they were aware that neither he nor Serena, who seemed to have her father's indomitable spirit, were going to be a pushover. They would have to make a new plan - probably hire more manpower. Although they could make a second attempt tonight, reasoning that he might not be expecting it. The where was more problematical. It might be at their apartment, but then again, there were plenty of other possibilities.
He was thankful that, apart from the blackjack he'd caught sight of in Niccolo's hand, there had been no weapons. Stefano wouldn't want his 'goods' damaging. It didn't mean there wouldn't be guns next time, though, if only to threaten. He, of course, would be expendable... For now, he might as well unload Serena's things from the car before they regrouped.
Daniel went into his bedroom taking off his jacket and dropping it on the end of the bed. He went to the closet, took out his shoulder holster and strapped it on. He would need his hands free. Next, he took his HK-P7 from the drawer in his night-stand, checked the clip, and slipped the pistol in the holster.
He was glad now that Jack had insisted he have a gun of his own at home. O'Neill had swept aside his objections by telling him that the S.G.C. had to protect its assets and reminding him that, although he might think of himself as a peaceful explorer, it hadn't prevented him from making a few enemies back on Earth along the way. He guessed he'd just made a few more.
He slipped his jacket back on and returned to the living room. Serena was still standing there, looking... Damn, now the moment had passed, she looked as if shock was setting in. He went to her and gave her a cuddle. She was shivering.
"'S O.K., Sweetheart," he murmured, "you were great out there. I'm proud of you."
"Yes Papa," she said in a toneless voice.
He pulled back and looked at her pale face.
"You're not looking so good now, though. Come on, I'll take you to your room - it's all ready for you. Then you can lie down and I'll fetch you some tea when I've brought your things in."
Serena reacted then. Eyes wide, she hung tightly to him.
"You're not going back there now, Papa?" she gasped.
"I'll be O.K. They're probably long gone by now," he reassured her. "Come on, let's get you laid down under the comforter, then you'll be warm and comfortable again."
Reluctantly, Serena let herself be led down the passage to her father's spare room. He sat her down on the edge of the bed, knelt down, unbuckled the ankle-straps and took off her shoes. The heels, though not stilettos as such, tapered into sharp points. He wouldn't fancy being caught anywhere delicate with one of those, he thought, and gave a sadistic little smile.
Serena laid down, and when he pulled the comforter over her, clung to his hand, still looking fearful.
"Don't worry," he smiled, "I'll be back."
A wan smile crept across her face.
"You sound like the Terminator," she said.
"Hold that thought," he grinned, and left.
As Daniel crossed the living room, he pulled out the P7 and slipped off the safety catch. Using extreme caution, he made his way back to the parking lot, leaving the elevator a floor early and taking the stairs down to the ground floor. The car alarm had stopped shrieking and a glance around showed that the transit van had disappeared. He looked back towards the entrance to the lot and noted with satisfaction that the Camaro had gone too.
Having brought all Serena's baggage up to the apartment without incident, he went back to see how she was and found her fast asleep. Well, it had been quite a tiring day. He checked her pulse and found it normal and strong. Next he went back into the living room and 'phoned Jack.