~~~~Puerto Rico 2002~~~~

Chapter 1 – Fateful Meeting

Ashley Magnus sat in the back of the taxi clutching her bag to her. She stared out of the taxi window, her eyes scanning the passing building, market places, and pedestrians around her.

She had never been on her own before, not like this, not with so much at stake.

She was not overly nervous, as a 16 year old, her childhood couldn't exactly be considered normal; she had been around the stuff of nightmares since she was old enough to walk. Her mother had taken her to the most dangerous regions of Mumbai when she was 12. As a birthday present when she turned 14 she had gotten her own gun. But this was the first time she was on her own, really, and it was her mother that needed saving.

That was why she was riding a taxi in the middle of downtown Puerto Rico.

Her mother, Helen Magnus, had taken a solo trip down to Puerto Rico to meet a supposed collector of Abnormal Treasures, and he had asked, specifically, for Helen to meet with him. She had not been heard from since. The hotel she was staying at said she had left for a lunch meeting and had never returned, her chauffer said they met at a neutral location where she had entered a car and drove off, and all of the morgues in the state denied holding any bodies fitting her description.

The Sanctuary had gotten a tip off 3 days later from a contact that her mother was being held captive and she nearly ran out of the Sanctuary life a freed jailbird.

The same contact gave her the address of someone, in Puerto Rico, that was a supposed old friend of her mother, a Javor Dragoslav. He was going to help her retrieve her mother from where ever she was.

The name brought up no results in the database, in fact there were no legal records of a Javor Dragoslav in any database, so this 'friend' of her mothers was almost to sketchy too risk it. Big Guy, her self-proclaimed protector forbade her from pursuing the lead.

But she had, and she was prepared for the worst.

Henry, since he was 19 and had his driver's license, became her accomplice in the mission, and was keeping Big Guy out of the loop as best as he could as she snuck down to Puerto Rico.

Whatever psycho had her mother, she was going to find him.

The cab stopped in front of a nice hotel, beach side and she paid him while scooting out of the taxi, her bag, backpack, and gun in hand. She double-checked the address and then went inside the air-conditioned building.

Ashley walked cautiously over to the main desk.

"Hello miss, can I help you?" asked the manager with a smile.

"Um, yes, I'm looking for someone, he's supposed to be staying here, a Javor Dragoslav," she showed him the scrap of paper she had written the name on.

He looked at it.

"Yes, Mr. Dragoslav is here. May I ask who you are?" said the manager.

"I'm a daughter of an old friend of his," she said and he nodded walking out from behind the desk and waving her to follow him to the outdoor, beach front bar.

He stopped her near the entrance and went off, weaving throught the tables, chairs, and patrons. She examined all the men, and women, luxuriating in the shade of the bar's canopy. There was a group of hefty businessmen sitting, drinking scotch and martinis, a very tanned woman clad in a very small bikini sipping a cocktail and flirting with the bartender, a couple on their honeymoon making moon eyes at each other, and a lone man, in the back, his face hidden by the days newspaper, a glass of red wine on the table in front of him.

The manager walked straight over to him and whispered into his ear.

The man nodded his head and the manager bowed then came back to her.

"Come this way, he says he's been expecting you," Ashley looked at the man suspiciously but followed anyway.

"Madame meet Javor Dragoslav," said the manager politely before taking his leave.

The stranger put down the newspaper and looked at her with very inquisitive blue-grey eyes. She looked back at him with just as much scrutiny.

"You look just like her, you know," he said finally, retrieving his wine glass and sipping it.

"And who's that?" she said, still gazing at him.

"Your mother, Dr. Helen Magnus, of course, I couldn't mistake it," he gave her a cheeky grin.

"For a guy named Javor you don't have much of an accent," Ashley observed him.

He was peculiar, unlike the other bikini and speedo clad Hawaiian-shirt-wearing tourists sitting on the same beach as him, he was dressed in a crisp white cotton shirt and dark dress pants with a black vest unbuttoned. His hair was a dark brown with a cowlick at the front, and for someone vacationing in such a beautiful location his face was cleanly shaven, she could smell the aftershave; he looked like he had just gotten back from a huge business meeting and hadn't cared to change into his beachwear.

"Well when you travel enough, my dear, you tend to lose your accent," he said with a twinkle of amusement in his eyes.

"You know my mother then?" she said changing the subject.

"Yes, we are very old friends," he said calling over the waitress.

"You can't be more than your late 30's," Ashley scoffed.

"Yes, well, like your mother, I'm not as young as I look, chalk it up to health and a good moisturizer," he smiles at the waitress. "Another wine for me Isabella, and a sangria for the girl?" he looked at her with a big cheeky grin, and Ashley felt the incessant urge to slap him.

"Just water, please," said Ashley, glaring at the man.

The waitress nodded and walked away.

"Conservative, so very Helen, I like it," he leered at her and she crossed her arms at him.

"You said you know where my mother is?" she asked, growing impatient with him.

"Yes, she has found herself in the hands of local drug overlord Richter Von Hagen, and if you're thinking he sounds like a rich pasty white fat man, you couldn't be more right, he's just as fat as he is ugly and he's responsible for a certain drug cartel in these parts, selling exclusively to abnormals. Why? Who knows, he's kinky that way," Javor slides a picture across the table to her.

He was indeed in need of a diet.

"What does he want with her?" she asked.

"He wants her, that's the problem, aside from being an unsightly overweight and unattractive man, he is also delusional, he wants gold, power, and beautiful women, my sources tell me that she is being brainwashed into being his little harem girl," the waitress comes over with their drinks and sets them on the table.

"So you're saying Fat Albert is trying to turn my mom into his own personal stripper," Ashley asks incredulously.

"Yes, believe it or not, you can't deny his good taste," Javor smirked again.

"Why would he do that?" she glares at him.

"For power, for control over the Sanctuary Network, I don't know, maybe he just wants a really good lap dance, all I know is that he's not going to get it from Helen, not if I can help it," Javor took a swig of his wine.

"And why do you care so much? I don't even know if my mom actually knows you, let alone trusts you, what is your proof?" she glared at him coldly and he let out a sigh.

"I thought you were going to ask me that eventually," he reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a worn old picture and showed it to her.

She looked at the photo intently.

"Where is this?" she lifted it up to look at it more closely.

"London, 1938, I was riding out the depression for a few months, I was in quite a lot of debt at the time, she and I were very good friends back then, this was before World War II, we'd actually known each other a long time, shared lots together, we had that taken at a small fair just out of town, the night before I went back to America," he smiled fondly at the memory.

"Was that the last time you saw her?" asked Ashley, they seemed so happy in the photo, she could just imagine her mother's laugh.

"No, I saw her a few years later, we had a bitter reunion, I had done something she wasn't quite happy with, we haven't spoken since, regrettably," he looked down sadly.

"A-are you-"

"No, I'm not," he interrupted her, as if her had read her mind. "Just a friend is all I am, nothing more."

She sighed and handed the photo back to him.

"You care for her though, don't you?" she looked directly into his eyes.

"Yes, very much," he had sincerity in his eyes and in that moment Ashley decided to trust him.

"What's your plan?" she looked at him and he smiled his irritating smile again.

"I'll tell you, but first you must promise me one thing," he leaned closer to her, his elbows resting on the table.

"What?" she leaned in as well.

"You mustn't tell Helen I was ever apart of it…"

Ashley looked into his grey-blue eyes then nodded.