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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Todd Revisited: Brink (Chapter 40)

The scene back at Victor's home wasn't the most welcoming one.  Blair was angry at him, in all her feisty beauty, for getting Starr involved in the escape, and of course, Starr's own decisions were not considered.  It was his fault.  He was almost overtaken at the sight and proximity of her.  But, he was trying to protect her and the children.  The thought of something happening to them, when he was so close to having them back, having her back in his arms, was too frightening to consider.  Drastic times required drastic measures.  So, he broke out, with Starr's adorable help, and ended up facing the music from his wife.  "I'll make everything right," he had told her, and left, but not before remembering the location of the chip, and capturing the ring off Tina's finger.


Tea, who was constantly trying to get his attention to talk legal angles, was also none the happier with his choices.  Tina, who he had not seen in years, was also present (imagine that, a will reading and Tina just appears).  His biggest shock had been two things; Victor's will said he left everything to Irene, and Jack called the police and turned him in.  So, this was what he reviewed in his mind while he made his way to the docks to meet his insane mother.  "This is what I get for making fun of Blair's nutcase side of the family all those years," he said aloud.  He stood, gazing over the ocean, his hair slightly moving in an almost-non-existent breeze, his eyes scanning the ocean for danger.  On his hand, middle finger, the appropriate one even though it did not fit, was his biological father's ring.  He knew he had once worn it, and that he had somehow lost it as well.  Trying to remember the loss of the ring still brought some mild pain to him; he was still not certain how he had gotten into what he had gotten into for the previous eight years.  It seemed his mind wasn't going to allow him to find out, either, at least not yet.


He thought of Jack, how pained he was, and how he knew it was his own fault, for in his own pain, he had given Jack away.  In his own self-loathing, and certainty that Blair could not really love him, or share herself with another man's child and him equally, he had taken the baby away.  Jack's knowledge of this had  to be part of his hatred.  There were few other explanations.  He wished he had that to do over again, so that he could make it up to Jack, somehow, and treat him how he always treated Starr.


Though he was not always perfect with her either, he had loved and bonded with Starr immediately and held her closer to his heart than anything else in his life.  He still could remember the day he left the clinic in Switzerland to board the plane.  He had been tired, from lack of sleep, and edgy with nervous anticipation, but he had sought Tom and Pete relentlessly, and neither appeared.  He had tried every trick he knew, including purchasing a lighter similar to his father's and attempting "the game."  He waited, in the airport that day, with one meager bag of his belongings, and several, shiny, pink and white packages for Blair and the baby.  Everything seemed to be positive ahead.  He would be reunited with his family at last, and was coming back whole.  Certain that Pete and Tom were gone, he had been able to rest on the plane ride.  Well, as certain as he could be without knowing the series of events that followed in 1996.


And, here he stood today, thinking the same kinds of things.  He would be reunited with his family soon, and wanted to be whole.  He wanted to be rid of the past, and rid of the threat of Irene.  He wanted to remember everything, deal with it, and move on from it.  He wanted to make a life with her, more than ever.  He wanted everything back.  Of course, he had nothing to offer them but his love this time, and hoped it would be enough.


Irene came around the corner suddenly, out of the shadows, and proceeded to hold a gun on him while insisting she get the chip, which was embedded in the ring.  At times, during the banter, he could not really wrap his mind around the fact that this was his mother who was holding him at gunpoint; that his mother was the one who was cruel enough to torture him for eight years and slice a scar into his unsuspecting brother's face.  If all of that were true, he still had no proof or memory.  But, this was his mother, who just admitted she had killed poor Louie and thrown him and the gun into the harbor.  In his astonishment, he felt Pete rising up, but cast him down and talked from his soul.


"Give me the ring, Todd, and we can be finished with this, once and for all."


"You sick, disgusting monster."  How many times had that word been hurled at him?  It was perfect for this occasion.


"Is that any way to talk to your mother?"


"You are not my mother.  You ma have given birth to me, but no mother would give her child to the likes of Peter Manning.  You had me locked up, you had me tortured, I was shocked senseless, I was bled white for eight years."


"I really wish you would let this go."


He began to lose composure.  "You kept me from my family.  From all the people that I love.  You took my brother and you just put him in my place..."


"And no one was the wiser."


"And now you've killed Louie?  Louie, who pulled me out of the water.  He saved my life when your goons shot me. Louie was a complete stranger, and he tried to help me, and look at you, you call yourself my mother, you're gonna kill me?"


"Please, Todd, it doesn't have to be this way."


"No, it doesn't!"  He put the ring in front of her.  "You want this so badly, this means so much to you?  Fine!  Go get it!" And he hauled back and chucked the ring into the ocean.


After carrying on for quite some time, screaming various versions of "no" and acting as though she was just murdered herself, Irene became wild-eyed and drew the gun forward toward him.  After a few more words that he shot at her, she boldly shot him, causing him to drop to the pier.  Blood seeped from the wound in his arm, and he struggled to his knees.  


She circled like a lion surveying prey, and held the gun toward the back of his head.  In his attempts to reason with her, he attempted to bargain more, not for himself, but for the fact that after he was dead, she was certain to kill his family, one by one, as promised, and he had to make it right.  Suddenly, just when he expected her to pull the trigger and end his life, he heard a distant ruckuss, reminiscent of the Guy Armitage boat incident.  


Hearing her subsequent words caused him to falter more.  He fought The Dark Mass with every ounce of him.  The pain in his arm was searing, the sound in his ears was deafening, as she explained it was the noise of the death of his family.  The Dark Mass was attempting to take over, put him into a nothingness of escape, while Tom pleaded and cried in the forefront.  Pete plummeted to the front, pushing by Tom and threatening to explode forward, but Todd kept him at bay.  If anything, he would have to do this himself.  Yes, Irene needed to deal with The Real Todd Manning himself.

Todd Revisited: Gone (Chapter 39)

Dr. Asper approached the bed as Todd was slightly dozing.  "Mr. Manning?"


He opened one eye, slyly, lifting an eyebrow. "I hate that name."


Dr. Asper smiled.  He LIKED this guy, regardless of all of the mess.  "All right, Todd.  You requested a session with me?"


"Yep."  Todd sat straight up, and fixed his blankets around him.  He ran his fingers through his hair, and cleared his throat.  "Ok, let her rip."


At this, Dr. Asper threw back his head and laughed.  "Todd, if you requested the session, there must be something you wanted?"


"I want to show you I'm ready to go home."


"Ah, I see."  The doctor paced a bit.  "And how would you do that?  I've already told you what I believe.  Your condition is a miracle and at the same time, it could be a deadly hindrance."


Todd knew his words were truth.  "I just feel the hindrance part is behind me now.  I am ready to go, and I'd rather have your blessing than leave without it."


Dr. Asper squinted a bit.  Somehow, he seemed to see something in Todd that Todd wasn't great at hiding.  "Is this for me, or for you?"


"Both, I am hoping.  So go ahead, take your best shot."


"I don't have a shot to take, we've been here already.  I told you my point of view."


"I want you to ask me things."


"What kind of things?"


"Ask me about . . . well, ask me about . . ."  He paused, seeking Tom and Pete.  Nothing.  "Ask me about my father."


"I've asked you about him before."


"Yeah, but I didn't tell you much."


"No, I suppose you didn't, did you?"


"No."


He sighed.  "All right, Todd, I'll bite.  Tom talked about The Big Truth.  You want to elaborate?"


Todd squirmed slightly in the bed.  Folding his arms over his chest, he spoke, "Sure.  All right.  The Big Truth is what I finally remembered while I was in Ireland."


"And that is?"


"And that is...."  He swallowed, "and that is that my adoptive father, Peter Manning, was a brutal, sadistic asshole."


"In what way?"


"He mistreated me, or us.  I guess me."  Todd stopped, checking.  Nothing.  "He abused me.  Often.  Different ways.  He used me as a punching bag, he humiliated me, emotionally tortured me, never showed me love."  He closed his eyes.  He said in his mind's eye, "Tom?  Tom, are you there?"  Nothing.


"Are you all right?"


"Yes, I am all right.  I need to finish this."   He paused a moment.  "He took everything from me.  He didn't let me sleep, made me fear night and cower from dreams.  He hit me, slapped me, beat me, burned me, tortured me.  He. . ."  Todd stopped, trying to gather his emotion.  No sign of Pete or Tom.  "He did everything someone can do to someone else out of hate."


Dr. Asper found himself lost in Todd's pain for a few moments.  He composed his thoughts as well, and responded.  "Everything?"


Todd knew what he was asking.  It was time he stopped speaking in euphemisms and just admit it.  For the first time, he had to admit it.  It wouldn't be Tom, it would have to be HIM.  His voice, his memories.  "Everything.  Even the worst things."


"You said he burned you?"


"My hands.  He burned my hands.  He made me hold them over flames.  It was one of his favorite games.  At the same time, he was some kind of sick, religious zealot.  He was a member of a cult or something.  He used to read pamphlets from this weird church.  He thought a lot of what he was doing would take the devil out of me.  Boy, was he wrong."


"I see.  You cooperated."


"Sometimes.  Most times.  And when I didn't, it got worse.  I have scars on my back to prove it.  A lot of them have faded but, the idea of them never will, I guess."


"Everything.  That's horrible, really, Todd.  I am sorry that this happened to you."  Todd's face twisted briefly with emotion.  "You must know, it's not your fault.  And you must know why the alters were created then."


Todd nodded.  "I think so.  Tom was born when I was six.  After an incident with my father, I was bleeding from both knees, and dragging myself across the kitchen.  Tom appeared in front of me, he took my hand and he said I would be ok, and then took over for me.  I was standing there watching him drag us to the bathroom, and watching him soak ourselves in a cool bath and put bandaids on our knees.  I noticed that it stopped hurting when Tom took over.  He would cry, but I wouldn't feel it anymore.  We used to take turns."  Todd choked up.  "He was the best friend I had in my whole life.  Without Tom, I am not sure . . ."  


Dr. Asper placed a strong hand on Todd's shoulder.  "A lot of people experience that kind of love for their alters.  It's natural.  They are real to you, and they have helped you survive, which is their purpose, isn't it?"


Todd, composing himself, smiled.  "Yeah, I suppose.  This alters stuff is so hard for me to accept, but I gotta.  Doc, I miss Tom.  I really do.  I call him, and he doesn't come.  This is why I know I am ready."


"Ok."  A long pause.  Both of them were silent.  "What about Pete?"


Todd looked up suddenly.  "What about him?"


"Is he gone?"


Todd searched again, almost wildly.  Calling to Pete, he opened his eyes.  "He won't come."


"When was Pete born?"


Todd ran his fingers through his hair again.  "He was born when my father . . .he was born to protect me from my father."


"You needed protecting a long time.  Why then?  Why wait until you were fourteen?"


Todd was glad that the doctor had gone there.  He waited for Pete to make an appearance, and braced himself to send him right back into the shadows, with Tom's help.  Nothing.  "Pete, come out!"  Nothing.


"He was born then because I was...my father...I was sexually abused for the first time then."


He held his breath.  In light of what he was used to, Pete was coming, and would be storming the place.  Still, nothing.


He opened his eyes again, looking at Dr. Asper.  "Please, let me go.  Please.  I need my wife. She quiets everything in me that's churning and storming."  He let it all go, and tears came.  "I need to be back to her.  I know Pete's gone and I can keep him that way, with her help.  Please.  I have a baby coming."


Dr. Asper sighed, a longer one than ever.  "I can't keep you here, I told you that.  You want me to say you're healed, you're integrated, no more Pete, no more Tom."


"Yeah, I do."


"You're afraid of Pete coming back and what he might do to Blair, and to the baby.  You're afraid that Pete will take over and that he will rape your daughter.  Isn't that what you're scared of?"


Todd closed his eyes.  Expecting a surge of pain and a raging hot flash that moved from his gut to his head, and Pete's growling response, he waited.  Nothing.


"He's gone."


"Who?"

"Pete.  Well, both of them.  They are gone.  There's nothing there, I've tried.  I called them, and I baited them.  Nothing."


"You want me to say you're ok, then?"


"Yes."


Dr. Asper picked up his clipboard.  "Todd, I can't keep you here, you can sign yourself out at any time.  You know that.  But I also can't tell you something that I don't believe to be true.  I do believe you want him gone, and I do believe that for now, he's quiet.  But I don't believe that at the first sign of trouble, he won't be there, again, in full force.  Do you?"


Todd refolded his arms.  "I have to go."


"Then I cannot stop you.  If you have to go, you have to go.  But I won't tell you it's over."  And with that, Dr. Asper placed the discharge papers, requiring Todd's signature, on the side table and left.  Todd didn't know then that he'd never see the doctor again.  


He turned, picked up the white sheet, signed it with determination, and leaped from the bed, grabbing his things and shoving them into the bag Lily had given him.  "You're wrong, doc, you're just plain wrong.  Pete's gone, Tom's gone and I'm gone - back to Llanview."


He sat up quickly when he heard the guard rounding the corner and clanging other doors to other cells.  Lunch was coming.  More baloney.  He rolled his eyes.  Stretching, he reminded himself of how his dreams were complex metaphors or remembrances as usual, but not as upsetting as they could be.  Then his lunch was slid under the bars.  He opened the meal, not excitedly, and found an envelope draped across his food.  It was addressed to "Todd Manning."


When he opened it, his heart leaped into his throat.  A death threat, penned in perfect penmanship by none other than Irene, his mother, was intent with leveling his family to nothingness.  He had to get out.


Just then, as if by fate, Starr came close to the bars.  Within moments, he had told her the threats and also requested her assistance in helping him escape.  She was beautiful, all of 20 years old, and standing there, with the same eyes she had years back when she wanted to please him and help him in some connivance.  She sparkled with anticipation as she organized her plan.


"Are you pre-med?"  He asked.


"I'm going to be a singer."


"A singing doctor?"


Before long, she had the plan in motion, and after dumping water on him to simulate sweating, she put on her act, crying to the guards and pleading with them to save her father from his heart attack.  


When he ever looked up from the floor and saw her holding a gun on the two guards, he was plain puzzled.  This little girl, his little girl, holding  weapon on two trained cops?  It was almost too much, and he stopped to wonder if he still was dreaming by chance.


What flashed in the next two minutes included him tying and gagging them at her insistence, them breaking out and Starr throwing the guns, unfortunately to him, into a vacant cell nearby.


He put his arm around her, and with pride embellishing his swagger, they walked off.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Todd Revisited: Endurance (Chapter 38)

Tea looked at him in that way she always did, that he now recognized as a tinge of disgust, some fear, and a lot of discernment.  He couldn't help but smile, since he'd gotten her to come there, and he knew it was his daughter Dani that made it happen.  He had gotten through to Daniella.  It meant the world to him that his daughter believed in him enough to get Tea there.  So, the smile cracked and brimmed over.  Since he returned, he had never been so happy to see someone standing outside his cell.


After some of his best flattery, cutest smiles and conniving comments about Dani, he had won.  She finally agreed to defend him, and that meant a lot.  He knew that if the widow of the man who was murdered was defending him, no jury would see him as guilty.  His strategy was still perfection, after all these years.  When she left, he sat alone, trying to be patient, for the time he would be set free and be able to pursue making things right with his family at last.  Being alone in the cell was not as bad now, since someone actually believed him, he sat back and rested his head against the industrial pillow and closed his eyes.


He was going to get out of this prison, this hospital bed that reminded him too much of Statesville and the hell he endured there.  A rapist in jail is not given too many breaks or thought of too highly.  He'd been through the worst, and more, but what could they do to him that he had not endured before?  After all, that was Pete.  He was going to get out of the clinic and return home, and it was going to be today.


The morning could not come fast enough for him.  As part of his plan, he intended to remain awake all night, meet with the doctor in the morning, spring himself, and sleep on the plane home.  The last time he had been on a plane was his private one, on the journey to save Marty.  His heroics now sickened him.  He had wasted so much time.  He had left his wife and baby daughter behind to help Marty.  He knew why, but it still made no sense now, after all that had happened.  He didn't even know, as he sat in the pristine whiteness of the Swiss clinic, if Marty even made it back in time to give Paloma the Pooka.  But, he would find out, eventually.  Something about the little girl had tugged at his heart, despite the fact that she was dying.  She was ALONE.  Like he was at her age.  No mother to care for her, and no one else who gave a damn.  


He had a long time to wait.  It was just getting dark, which meant at least 12 more hours of waking.  He was an expert on avoiding sleep, and somehow trained himself to get 1 or 2 hours at a time, as not to get into deep sleep and dreaming.  It started when he was a kid.  he'd try and stay awake so Peter would not come in and scare him awake.  He'd be prepared.  And, when he was older, he stayed awake to make sure Peter didn't hurt him again, The Big Truth way.  Pete had kept a baseball bat next to the bed, and was primed to beat Peter's head in if he so much as approached the bed.  He didn't sleep much and learned to live without it.  No one even knew, not even Todd, that Pete was in charge from the time he was fourteen until the day Suede Pruett died, and later, at his mother's cabin, when he broke down with Rebecca.  That was Todd.  He still slept very little, but after marrying Blair and finally feeling "happy," he learned to sleep a bit more.  He was still always awake after her and up before her.  


For a moment, he lost himself in the thoughts of her, in the sunlit room, waking and bringing him a tray of breakfast in their bed.  Her hair was hanging, shining, and she reached and tucked his behind his ear, stroked his cheek, and told him she was glad that he was the one she found.  And though things were never perfect with them, he loved her just the same, his heart overflowing with the knowledge of it.  He had to get out of this prison and return to her.


It had been a long night, waiting for morning and Dr. Asper.  His thoughts had taken hold and occupied him for most of it.  He did sleep, but carefully only two hours or so.  He had gotten out of bed and walked the halls, no one even noticing.  It occurred to him that he could have easily gotten away, but it wasn't like he was being held against his will.  He had to make certain that Pete was gone, so he could not come out and harm Blair and the baby.  


Deep down, he believed that Pete wouldn't harm them.  Blair had brought him so much, made him see so many things.  She saw things, also, that other people didn't.  She saw him in a way no one else did, too.  He did believe that Pete would spare them, but he knew he had to be certain.  Which brought him to his plan.  


He knew Dr. Asper would try and bring Pete out; he'd done it intentionally before to get Todd to see he was not in control.  Todd had spent hours working it through his mind.  He knew he could contain Pete, and would also have to contain Tom.  Neither could exist without the other, at this point, unless one was in control, then the other was always waiting in the wings.  With both of them pushed back into the shadows, he was in full control and could protect his family. He hadn't seen or heard Tom or Pete since he sent Tom away for the last time.  It still brought a lump into his throat to think of it, but what was done was done.


The sun through the panes was making patterns on his bed.  It warmed him, and felt good, and safe.  He had a good feeling about this day, he was pretty certain it was going to lead to his return to his family and his home.  He missed the penthouse, with the wall of glass overlooking the city.  He missed Blair, and her accepting arms and body.  He missed the baby he did not meet yet - heck, he missed it all.  Determined, he folded his arms and waited for Dr. Asper's appearance.