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Monday, December 31, 2012

Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 15 (adult)

The holidays were approaching, and this put Todd and Blair into planning mode.  Wanting the celebrations to be special for their children as well as themselves and the extended family, they began to come up with ideas to make each event a success.

Thanksgiving was right around the corner, which Blair agreed would be hers, and Todd would take on Christmas.  Of course, they would be lending each other help and support, but it was easier to split the work to make everything just right.  

For the couple, things were still in an emotionally precarious place.  Todd might have his flashes and disturbed sleep, or might snooze straight through until morning.  Either way, he was determined not to let it upset her or interrupt her rest.  Blair, on the other hand, was still dealing with the loss of Sommer and the prospect of never having another child.  There was no predicting and no being prepared, and this put both of them more on edge in the evenings.  Todd's sessions with Ray were continuing, and little by little, he noticed, as did Ray, that the more he trusted Blair with it, the less he suffered.  It was as if sharing it with her, and her taking on half the knowledge, lessened the blows of the snapshots in his mind.  He didn't care to analyze it or question; he just wanted to be free of it and he wanted her at peace.

She was working on the Thanksgiving menu and the guest list when Todd came into the kitchen, and hugged her from behind.  She said, "Hey."

He said, "Hey.  How you doing?"

"Good.  Busy with this Thanksgiving thing.  You're not going to balk at us having Dorian, Cassie and Kelly, are you?"

"Nope.  Is that what you want?"

"Yes."

"Then how can I balk?"

"I guess you could."

"But why would I?"  he turned her to him.  "I want you to be happy, Babe."

"I know.  I want you to be happy, too."

"Good.  Then uninvite them.  Well, at least Dorian."

She playfully slapped his arm, and he pulled her in for a kiss.  "You too busy for me?"

"Kind of.  But, what did you have in mind, Mr. Manning?"

He nuzzled her ear, and kissed her neck lightly, and she smiled.  She kissed him, passionately, and said, "Maybe later?  I have to finish this menu, or I'm doomed.  It's only a few days away."

"Sure.  I have something to tell you though.  A really cool project, I think you're going to like."

"Okay, what is it?"

"Remember Jenna?  I told you about her."

"Jack's new little girl?"

"Yes.  I'm really bent on her having this art show, and of course, The Sun will be sponsoring.  And we're doing a story on her as a lead in to it.  That's my idea.  I'll have to meet with her guardian, and Jenna, too, maybe those teachers.  I almost have Jack agreeing to let Jenna know about our money situation and offer her the financial backing.  Starr even agreed to sing at the opening of the art show, which brings me to my next question . . ."

She looked down, and her lips frowned.  "I don't think I can sing, Todd.  It's hard to do that in person, at least, now."

He lifted her chin, "I'm okay with that.  But can you tell me why?"

"I don't think I could stand to be in front of people feeling how I feel.  I still feel lost . . . you know?"  He had forgotten that she had not performed in public in a long time. Grief.

He said, "Will you still sing to me?"

"Of course I will.  You know that."

"I'd die without hearing that again."

"Well, you don't have to worry, since I am going to be singing at you for a long while.  Back to what you said, I think the art show is a great idea, Starr singing is a great idea, you sponsoring is a great idea, and me singing is a not-so-great idea, at least right now."

"Okay.  You let me know if it changes.  It's going to be like, somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Like maybe December fifteenth or something."

"I think you'd better figure out that date."

"Yeah, first thing tomorrow, date."

She made a few notes.  "I think the menu is done.  Want to check it?"

"Sure."  He read it:

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, stuffed mushrooms, spiced pumpkin soup, broccoli, string beans, candied sweet potatoes, dessert and . . . I want you, now. 

She ignored him as he read it, and turned her back to him, facing the sink.  He said, "I really like this menu.  It sounds great," he said, walking up behind her, and putting his hands on her shoulders.  He rubbed them, and then dragged his hands down until he had both her hands.  In a move that excited him, she backed herself against his body, rubbing her bottom on his pelvis, and leaning forward a little.  

She looked back at him, over her shoulder and said, "What do you like best to eat on that menu?"

He was already working his hands under her skirt, and feeling the elastic to her panties, he slid them down and touched her, gently.  Since it was a school day, and the house was quiet, he went to his knees in front of her, and pushed her skirt up, which she helped by hiking it above her hips.  She sighed, parting her legs a little, as he used his mouth and tongue on her, and she took a handful of his hair in her fingers.  She moaned, and he closed his eyes, enjoying her pleasure.  She said, "Todd?"

He stopped, looking up at her from the floor.  "Yeah, Blair?"

She smiled, and he brought his mouth back to her and worked until she was barely able to stand any longer and went to her knees in front of him.  She said, "I want you.  It's the beauty of kids being in school nine months of the year."

He said, "I want you," and kissed her neck, opening her blouse and moving it off her shoulders, then watching it fall to the floor, he turned her away from him and entered her from behind.  She cried out his name, and he wrapped his arms across her stomach, reaching down to touch her, which pushed her into release.  He lifted her and turned her to him, pulling her legs on either side of him, so she was sitting over his lap, and she threw her head back and moved up and down on him, until he finished with an expressive moan.  He kissed her chest and her neck, and said, breathless, "That . . . was fun."

"That was fun," she agreed.  Then she said, "I love being with you."  

He said, "Me too, but we'd better get out of this kitchen before Shaun stumbles in here and gets an eye full."

She said, "Bath?"

He said, "Just what I was thinking."  

***

Neither one was sure how long they had actually been in the bath, but they were dozing, drifting in the water, floating in each others' arms for quite some time before they heard helicopter land, and the doors slam closed.  Shortly after, they heard the kitchen door close, and then footsteps on the stairs.  Todd opened an eye and said, "The boys are home."

Ray was in his pack and play that Todd had brought into the bathroom so they could see him and be with him and still enjoy the bath.  He was smiling from standing at the edge, and threw his toy, which landed with a plop in the water.  "How many times has he done that, six?"

"I think it's seven," she said, taking it from the water, and drying it off, she tossed it back into his play area.  She said, "Look at him, Todd.  He's so beautiful.  He . . . looks like you."

"He'd better not."

"Oh stop, Todd.  Come on.  You're very handsome."  

They heard Jack's door slam.  Sam came into the bathroom, and Todd said, "Stand back there Buddy, we're not decent."

"Okay.  Dad, Mom, Jack's pissed."

Todd snickered at the way Sam spoke, and Blair said, "What?  Sam, watch your language.  What happened?"

"I don't know.  He just slammed the door and came in all mad. I didn't say anything to make him mad, I don't think."

"It's okay, Sam.  He might have had a bad day."  Todd said.  He stood, grabbing a towel, and said, "I'll go see him."

Blair told Sam to go and do his homework, and he left.  She got herself out of the tub, and dried off, and Baby Ray was still throwing his toys into the tub.  She sighed picking up after him, and cuddled him in her arms.

Todd walked to Jack's room and knocked.  "Hey, Jack.  What's going on?"

"Leave me alone, Dad.  Okay?"

"I can't.  You're my son.  Who else is going to say how badass I am, and tell people about it?"

He opened the door.  "What, Dad?  Please?  I had a long day, all right?"

"Jack, what's up?  Can't you share that long day with your old Dad?"

"I don't want to talk about it."  How can I?  How can I ask you these questions and how can I hear the answers?  How can I  . . .

"Okay."  He got up, and walked to the door.  "I will listen, if you just ask me to."

No, Dad.  Shit.

He looked at the door long after his father was gone.  It was going to be a long night.

Why did I have to butt in, and read all that?  He couldn't shake the images from his mind.  His father.  Bound and gagged and in . . . it was too horrible to think about.  Who's Mitch Laurence?  Why would he do this . . . ?  His mother had thought his father was a killer.  That he killed Sam Rappaport.  Jack thought to himself that it had to be the Sam that his brother was named after.  But he knew, of all things he was, Todd was not a murderer.  Not that way, anyway.  Not without needing to protect his family, or himself.  But the coffin.  The crypt.  Since he had read about it, there was no escaping it.  It was in his dreams where he conjured up images of a rotting zombie next to his father, in the dark.  Was he scared?  It seemed like the thing he would fear worst in the world.  Would that be his punishment, someday, for the Morasco thing?  Would that be his personal Hell?

***

After midnight, Todd awoke, tangled in his own nightmare flashes.  It had been a long time since he saw Leona's cadaverous face, but this time, his hideous smile was showing as he pulled the chain on the single bulb in some distant ceiling.  Then, Leona looked at him and simply said, "You know where it is," and Todd opened his eyes.

He reminded himself where he was, and looked next to him, to see Blair, sleeping, her hair was hanging over one side of her face, and he gently brushed it back.  She stirred, and said, "My love, are you okay?"

He said, "I'm fine, just sleep."

She obeyed, and he heard a sound in the hall.  Quietly, he removed himself from bed, and went to the hallway.  Peeking out, he saw Sam, standing at the top of the stairs.  He whispered, "Buddy, what are you doing?"

"Shh."

Todd raised an eyebrow.  He whispered more urgently, "Sam!  What are you doing?  Go to bed!"

"I can't, Dad.  I'm spying!"

Todd rolled his eyes.  "Spying?  Come on, Sam, let's go."

"Dad, no!  I'm spying on Jack."

Todd froze.  "What do you mean, spying on Jack?"

"He's down there.  I think he's drinking."

Todd scooped Sam up.  "You can't spy anymore, Sam.  You have to go to bed," he brought him to his room.  "And can I trust you to be quiet about this?"

"Yep."

"I mean it, not a soul."  How will I tell her this?

"Yep."

"Go to bed."

"I love you," he said, suddenly seeming afraid.

Todd took him in his arms, and said, "I love you, Buddy.  So much.  Now go to bed.  Don't be scared, everything is okay."

Todd walked down the stairs quietly.  Jack was sitting in the dark, holding a bottle of tequila in his hand.  His eyes shone in the dark.  Todd said, "Hey.  You gonna get a glass for that?"

Jack froze.  "Dad?"

"Who else would it be?"

"I . . . I dunno."

"What are you doing?  Well, it's pretty obvious what you are doing, more importantly, why?"

Jack couldn't answer.  Todd went into the kitchen, snapped on a light, and got a glass.  He stood in front of Jack.  "You know, when I was your age, I was just coming into this great football career.  The anger from what happened to me worked out great on the field.  My so-called father used to drink with me.  He used to give us both a beer, and we'd sit there and drink it, while he pulled me apart and told me everything bad about myself and he planned his next way of humiliating me."

Jack offered the bottle to his father.  Todd said, "No, that was my so-called father, not yours.  I'm smart enough to know that anything he did with me was probably wrong.  I strive to do everything the opposite of him and I hope it's working."  He handed Jack the glass.  "Have the courtesy to be neat and use manners when you steal, Jack."

Jack looked up at his father, who stood over him, tall, strong and scarred.  Todd's shirt was off, and he could see the marks all over him, clearly.  He swallowed hard, enough that Todd could see it in the partial darkness.  Todd's outstretched hand still offered the glass. 

Jack wasn't sure what to do, so he handed the bottle over to his father again, this time closing the cap.

"Oh, you want me to take this?"  Todd said.

Jack nodded.  There's so many of those things on him.  So many.

"Now that I'm here, you want me to take this from you.  But if I wasn't here, you'd be drinking it."

Jack didn't answer.

Todd said, "Answer me."

"Yeah, I'd be drinking it."

Todd handed it back.  "Then drink it.  That's what you came down here for."

Jack didn't take the bottle.  He looked at his feet.  He said, "It's late.  I didn't know you'd be up."

Todd finally sat down.  "I think with all that has gone on for your mother and me, you'd better count on us being up, at least one of us, every night, for a while."

He saw his son grimace, and then wear a face of disgust, as if he smelled something bad.  Todd said, "What?"

"Huh?"

"What, Jack?  Are you going to tell me what all this is about or do I have to guess at it?"

"I just wanted to . . . sleep."

"You can't sleep?"

"I can't really sleep.  It takes long to fall asleep.  I just want the voices to stop, Dad."

Todd was, for the first time in his life, alarmed to the point of panic for his son.  "What do you mean by that, Son?"

"It's not like you think," he said, "I just hear words over and over.  Like, I can't get it out of my head or stop remembering.  I'm not hearing a dog tell me to kill someone, if that is what you're scared of."

"Hmf," he smirked, in spite of the situation.  "How did you know I was scared?  Because I was.  I don't want you to experience anything like this, like me, or have any demons.  I know that's silly, considering we all have them."

"I can't stop remembering."

"You can't stop remembering what?"

"I, can't say, really."

"I want you to tell me.  It's okay, no matter what it is.  Trust me.  I'm not badass for nothing."

Jack was hesitant; Todd realized how much pain he was in having to talk about it, and almost relented until the teen said, "I read something.  About you."

"All right.  Something terrible I did?  That seems to be the common article."

"No.  Something . . . I can't, Dad.  It's hard for me, and probably will be hard for you too, if I bring it back up."

"Shoot.  Try me."

Looking at his father in the darkness, Jack realized that with all his marks, and wounds and emotional scars, he was the strongest man he had ever met.  He swallowed.  "I read about your disappearance.  When I was little."

"Go on."  Todd was emotionless, and reacted with calm and care.

"Ever since I read about it, I . . . can't sleep well.  I get tired in school.  I fall asleep in class.  Stuff like that."

"Why didn't you tell me?  And, what made you . . . oh, wait.  The conversation in the car the other day.  You wanted to know about this."

"Yeah.  And I found out.  Now I wish I didn't know."  He looked up, and caught Todd's eye.  Jack's face was so filled with horror and sadness, Todd was tempted to reach out and hold him, but instead, he let him talk.  

He continued, "How can you do it, Dad?  I mean, what else could there be?  How did you . . . survive that?"

"The same way I survived everything.  You want to know the truth?"

"Yeah.  Yeah, I do."

"Your mother.  Starr.  You."

Jack looked confused.  "How?"

"In here," he tapped his bare chest, "and in here."  He tapped his temple.

"But, it had to be. . .it was bad, right?"

"Yeah, it was bad.  But there are worse things.  Being without my family was worse."

Jack was visibly having trouble with the idea.  "Worse than . . . lying next to . . ."

Todd gulped and got up, sitting now next to his son.  He wanted to grab him, and pull him close and hold him, but wanting to seem unscathed, and let his son get it out, he held back.  "Yeah.  It's worse than that to be without you guys.  The thing is, you could have asked me about it.  Instead of reading it. Not sure it would have helped, but you could have seen that I am okay about it now."

"I . . . I couldn't, Dad.  I just was scared to bring it up . . . and I drink because it makes me stop feeling.  I just want to sleep."

Todd's heart shattered for his son, and he couldn't help identify with his comments.  He said, "It's okay to feel, and to hurt.  If you try and be numb, you'll miss most of life.  I know, I lived that when I used to go inside myself.  Remember?"

"Yeah."

"But let's ask this question, is this working?  When you drink, you're numb and you forget.  How long?"

"A few hours."

"Right.  And at the end of those hours, what happens?"

"I remember again anyway."

"Right.  So, how does that work?"

Jack said, "I'm just tired, all the time, Dad.  I'm angry.  I want to smash something."

Todd let a small bit of air out, "Hmf, I wonder where you got that?"

"I have this feeling like . . . I can't even explain it.  I just want to hurt someone because Mom's hurt, or because you're hurt or because of things I did.  It happens all the time."

The kid is so much like me, and I wasn't even here to put it there.  "I can relate to that.  What about Ray?  Did that work?"

"I guess.  Not really, though.  It always came back."

"He's a damn good therapist, I ought to know.  If it's not working, it's because you stopped going.  You keep going, or you work harder.  You have to put in the work, Jack."

"I don't want to work to be normal, Dad.  I just want to be normal."

"You are normal.  As normal as can be in this world."

"I want to be able to sleep when I want to.  I don't want to be thinking of bad stuff all the time.  I don't want to have . . . these kind of dreams."

"I know.  I've been there.  But it happens, I guess we have to figure out how we can cope.  But if you're going to go and seek answers about your mother and I, and especially me, it's not going to be all beautiful."

"I feel like I want to know, and understand so much, and then when I do . . ."

"You want to know, but you don't."

"Yep."

"What if I told you that we're both going to be all right.  Mom and I.  What if I promised that?  Would that help?"

He thought of his dreams, the ones where he'd conjured up what the dead man looked like and what probably happened.  The problem was, and he was afraid to tell his father this fact:  he didn't believe him when he said they'd be okay.  "No."

"What could help?"

"Take it away."

Todd swallowed, and heard himself say, "I can't."

"Figure out who's to blame and kill the bastard."

His expression of surprise made Jack laugh a little.  "He's already dead, Jack.  Everyone involved, one way or another.  Most of them are dead."

"I guess, yeah."

"So what's next?"

"I don't know.  There's been a lot, Dad.  You've only been back like, well, almost two years or something?  And look at all that's happened to us."

Todd agreed.  There was too much for anyone to handle, let alone a sensitive kid who was pretending not to be, like Jack.  Just like he did, when he was a teenager.  Just like . . . was that Peter's hand on the pull chain?  "I don't know what to do about that, except leave, and your mother won't let me do that.  She'll chase me down and 'Tawd' me to death."  Then, more seriously, "I promised her, I'd never leave her again."

"I wasn't saying it's your fault, Dad, honest.  God, I don't want you to leave us.  That would be . . . the worst thing.  It's not that."

"It's okay, a lot of it is my fault.  Not that I caused it, but I brought it.  You never should have heard and seen half the things you did.  And sometimes, I told you things, because you wanted to know and I think that was bad judgement on my part."

"No, Dad . . ."

"Yes, Son.  It was.  It's not your fault you can't handle all this, I should have known better.  I guess I was thinking to what I was handling at your age and I sort of, misjudged it.  Your mother did, too."

"I wanted to know, though."

"You need help handling it.  You need help handling what happened to me, and your mom, and you.  What you did.  I think it's obvious what we have to do."

"What?"

"Get rid of all of the alcohol in this house, again, and get you to Ray Martino and try and work on making things around here less stressful for you.  That's all I can do now, the rest will be up to you.  You'll have to work at it."

"I'm. . . sorry Dad, for this," he said holding out the bottle.

Todd took it.  "You should be apologizing to yourself.  You're hurting yourself with this stuff.  Ask your grandfather."

Jack flushed in his face, forgetting about Timothy's alcoholism.  He said, "I forgot about that."

"Yeah, well, don't.  Almost took his life.  Almost took everyone he loved."

"Dad?"

"Yep?"

"Is Mom . . . is she all right, Dad?  Is she going to be happy, again?  I mean, really?  And . . .are you?"

He put an arm on his son, "She's all right.  I'm all right.  We'll have tough times, but we'll be all right.  All of us will.  Just trust me on that.  It might take time, but nothing's going to bring The Mannings down."

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Port Charles Chronicles: Chapter 43

         Starr had gotten up early and placed a call to Michael.  When she had said goodnight to her brothers the night before, she had been upset and curious at the same time.  Jack had managed to surprise her.  She was beginning to wonder if he might not have a point.  Why on earth would Tomas be in Port Charles and not seeking out their mother?  One answer was he was on assignment, but for some reason that answer was too pat.  It also brought up more questions.  Tomas had told everyone he wasn’t in the espionage business any longer, so why would he suddenly be out of town for the CIA?

        “Michael, could you meet me for breakfast?  I have a something I need to talk to you about.”

        “Sure, Starr, is this about your Dad?  He hasn’t had a setback has he?”

        “No, my dad is doing fine.  He’s out of the hospital I think, although I haven’t yet talked to my mom.  No, this is something else entirely and I don’t want to talk over the phone.  Can you meet me at Kelly’s in about thirty minutes?”
       
        “Okay I’ll be there, you’ve got me curious.  See you soon.”

         Starr hung up and got dressed.  Hopefully Michael could tell her more about Lorenzo Alcazar.

****

        Tomas was eating his breakfast when his phone went off.  He frowned when he saw the caller.  “What is it, Claude?”

       “Monsieur Flynn is in need of an update.  Did everything go as planned with Monsieur Zacchara?”

       “Yes, I have another meeting set up this afternoon to meet with Zacchara and some of the top men in his organization to let them know of the change in leadership.   You can assure Flynn that everything is going along like clockwork.  The programming worked like a charm.  Zacchara is a basketcase and ready to divest himself of the organization.  His main concern is keeping his secrets under wraps.  It’s quite amusing, given they’re actually my secrets he’s hiding.  By the way, are you currently in Llanview?”

       “Oui.  I had an unusual call from your sister.  She’s not very happy you are working for the CIA again.  Monsieur Flynn deemed it necessary that I work to smooth her feathers, before she draws attention to you.”

       “Good luck with that.  You better just give her the standard line.  If you try to placate her too much, she’s going to get suspicious and try and dig deeper.  Once Tea gets a whiff that something isn’t right she’s goes after the truth like a dog would go after a bone.  I need you to do something else for me while you are in town.  See if you can find out where Blair took her family.”

        “My friend, you need to forget that one.  She’s trouble and she’s too close to Todd Manning.  We do not want him finding out the truth.  At this point in time, too much is at stake.”

        “That’s my point, I want Blair far away from Todd Manning.  The longer she stays away the better.  Just see if you can track her down.  I strongly believe he won’t be a problem for any of us too much longer.”  Tomas smiled as he thought about Todd.  He might already be dead.  “But getting back to the original subject..  I’ve got Zacchara where we want him.  By tomorrow, the organization will be ours completely.  Pass that along to Flynn and tell him to stop worrying.”

****

         Michael walked into Kelly’s to find Starr waiting for him. “Wow!  Whatever you want to talk to me about must really be important.  I thought I would beat you here by at least fifteen minutes.”

         Starr looked at him puzzled. “Why would you think that?"

         “I was remembering how long it took you to get ready in the morning when you stayed with me after the accident.”

         “Hey, your memory is off, you took twice as long as I did.  The fact that I got here before you is proof of that.” She smiled sweetly, knowing she was right. “I’m glad you finally made it.  I didn’t know what you might want for breakfast so I just ordered mine.”

         Michael sat down and gave his order to the waitress  then turned his eyes to Starr. “Well, what did you want to see me about?”

        “This is going to sound strange but what do you know about a man named Lorenzo Alcazar?”

        “What?  Lorenzo Alcazar is dead.  Why do you want to know about him?”

        “I have my reasons.  I want you to look at this picture and tell me if you recognize this guy.”  Starr opened her cell phone and found a picture of her mom with Tomas.  It had been taken the night of Movie Premiere when her father reappeared in their lives.  She handed it over to Michael.

         Michael looked at the photo. “When was this taken?”

         “Last August.  Do you know that man?”

         “Last August, that can’t be right.  Lorenzo was believed killed in two thousand and seven.  They never found the body, but even my mother believes he’s dead.  Where was this and isn’t that your mother?”

        “Yes that’s my mother but the guy next to her is a man I know as Tomas Delgado.  He’s the brother of my Aunt Tea.  It was taken at a Movie Premiere in Llanview.  My mother’s been seeing the guy for over a year.  She met him in Paris.  You just identified him as Lorenzo, now maybe you can understand why I’m asking about Lorenzo Alcazar.  My brother said he’s in town.”

        “Wait a minute, this guy’s in Port Charles?”

        “Yes, or so my brother says, and last night I and my brother had a chance to read up on Lorenzo Alcazar.  I’m worried.  We were told that Tomas worked for the CIA, but that he had quit the organization a long time ago.  I’ve never been too happy that my mom was dating him because he’s the reason my dad went missing for eight years.  Now I find out there is another guy that looks exactly like him, that was an arms dealer and mobster. Michael, just who is this guy?  More importantly, what’s he doing here?”

****

        Alison stood outside the Metro Court hotel.  Miles had found out that his nephew Sam Manning had been brought by his mom to Port Charles.  She had volunteered to check out the circumstances for the trip and to keep an eye on the boy.  Approaching the counter she inquired. “Excuse me but are you hiring?”

        An hour later, Alison walked out of the hotel with a couple of uniforms under her arm.  She would start her new job in the morning.  Things were falling into place.  While filling out the job application, she had managed to get into the guest files and found out what suite Sam Manning and his family were in.  She wasn’t too happy to see that Todd Manning  was also on the guest list.  She would have to be careful not to run into him.  Flagging down a cab, she headed out of the city to Mile’s home.  She was anxious to tell him what she had found out.

       Walker was in his study when Alison arrived back home.   He made note of the garments she was carrying as she entered.  “I see you’ve decided my choice of clothes for you isn’t to your liking.”

       “No, Miles, these are for my new job at the Metro Court Hotel.  You said you wanted to know why your nephew was in Port Charles.  I got  the job so I could keep an eye on him until we can work out how to separate him from Blair Cramer.  You probably won’t like this, but Todd Manning is also staying at the Metro Court.”

       Walker already was aware of Manning’s whereabouts but he feigned surprise. “Oh no, that means Blair Cramer is trying to get back together with that scoundrel.  I don’t want Sam to have anything to do with that man.”  It wasn’t hard to express his anger.  Ever since Sam had told him he liked his friend Todd Manning and wouldn’t stop seeing him, Walker had vowed to find a way to keep the two of them apart. 

      “Miles, you needn’t worry.  We’ll find a way to get Sam.  Todd Manning is a pig and tried to kill Mitch several times.  You’re right to want the boy away from him.”

****

      Michael let Starr in on what he knew of Lorenzo while they ate.  He told how Lorenzo had kept his mom on a boat and everyone believed she was gone.  Then his father Sonny had found out where she was but by the time he got to her she was in labor with Morgan. “My dad thought Lorenzo was hurting her and he shot Lorenzo but the bullet also hit my mom in the head and when she recovered she had amnesia and didn’t remember me, Morgan, or my dad Sonny.  Instead she had fallen in love with Lorenzo.  She left us for a while and married Lorenzo.  Then she got her memory back and left him.  Lorenzo didn’t like it and the war between him and my dad escalated.”

       “So this Lorenzo guy really was an arms dealer?”

       “Yep and although he wasn’t in his brother’s organization to begin with, he later got back involved with his brother’s mob ties.”  Michael had been watching Starr while he told his story and he could tell she was upset with the tale.  “Listen, you said yourself that Jack didn’t get a picture of this guy.  He saw a picture of Lorenzo on the computer.   Maybe he just thinks this Tomas guy is Lorenzo because of the article.”

       “But that in itself is suspicious.  Tomas told us he was out of the CIA, he has no reason to be here.  Now supposedly he is here and I didn’t tell you what else Jack saw.  Tomas or Lorenzo was here seeing Johnny Zacchara.”

        Michael frowned. “What do you mean he was seeing Johnny?  How would Jack know Johnny?”

        “Your cousin Molly told him she thought Johnny lived in the area where Tomas was dropped off.   When he was headed back to the Metro Court, Jack saw a guy talking to Tomas or Lorenzo.  He looked up Johnny Zacchara on the internet and it turned out Johnny was the guy.  I’m not sure what to do with this information.  My dad is already upset because Johnny wants to go into business with me and help my singing career.   After what just happened I’m afraid to tell him that Tomas might even be in town.  My dad hates Tomas.  If he were to find out about this there’s no telling what he would do.”

        “What does your dad have against Tomas, other than the fact he and your mother dated?”

        “Oh, I guess I should have mentioned that.  Tomas is the reason my father was held and tortured for eight years.”  Starr thought again of the terror she had seen on her father’s face the day before.  She pushed her plate away suddenly losing her appetite.  “My mother said Tomas was sorry for what he did to my father, but I never really understood how she could overlook it.  You saw a little of what my father is going through.  He’s far from over it.  I’m glad my mom finally has come to her senses regarding Tomas, but now I’m wondering if there’s more to Tomas’ story.  I think I want to talk to Johnny.  Will you come with me?”

        “Absolutely, if there is any chance Lorenzo is alive, then my parents need to be warned.  But wait, you know today is Kate Howard’s trial right?”

       With everything that had been going  with her father, Starr had forgotten about Kate’ Howard.  She owed it to her daughter, to see what fate had in store for Kate.  “Johnny will have to wait, I need to go to the trial.  I want to hear what Kate is going to say.  I’ve got to come to terms with this first, then I’ll look into this mystery about Tomas.”

       “That’s what I thought you would say.  You have a right to see how this all unfolds.  We’ll go there and then we’ll go try and get some answers from Johnny.” Michael got up and offered his hand to Starr.  She smiled and took it, grateful for his support..
   
   


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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Devil You Know: Chapter 28


When the phone rang at Harry Redding’s home the next morning, it was the last person he expected to here from.  “Um, I may need a lawyer, if you can help out,” Todd Manning said on the other end.

“What would you need a lawyer for?” Harry asked. 

“Well, I can tell you over breakfast.  Meet me here in, say, an hour?” Todd asked. 

Harry thought about it and agreed.  One hour later, he was sitting in the hotel’s restaurant opposite Todd. “So, what do you need a lawyer for, now that I’m here?”

Todd handed Harry the papers Ric Lansing drew up a few weeks ago.  “When Peter died, he left everything to his last girlfriend.  At the time, I didn’t know I was adopted and I was furious.  A few months later, I found out I was Victor Lord’s son and left a trust of thirty million dollars.  When I was meeting with the trustees, they told me Peter was paid fifty grand a quarter from the time I was eighteen for my care.  The checks were cashed, but I never saw the money,” Todd informed him, his face clouding over with anger.  “Hell, I never knew I was even adopted until Peter’s lawyer found letter Bitsy wrote me for years afterwards.”

“So. You’re suing Connie Bensoncroft for the money that Peter got?” Harry asked.

“Yeah.  I want to use it to set up trust funds for my nephews.  Sam isn’t biologically mine.  He should be but he’s  not.  He’s my  brother Victor’s and Blair adopted him when his mother died.  Victor also has another son, Leo with his wife, Tea, who’s my ex-wife who I have a child with and Victor adopted…” Todd rambled on.  When he could tell Harry was getting lost, he simply said, “It’s a really long story.”

“You and your long stories.  You should write a book,” Harry joked.

“One’s already been done, and it doesn’t have half this stuff.”

“So, what do you need me for?” Harry asked.

“Well, you’re a lawyer, so, act the part today.  I’m gonna shove this papers at Connie…” Todd growled.

“Hold up,” Harry said, trying to calm him.  Sighing deeply, he said, “I will help you--”

“Thank you,” Todd replied.

“But we do it my way.  Now, as luck would have it, I now work in wills and estates, so this is my area of expertise.”  Harry perused the paperwork before he continued.  “Your lawyer did a very thorough job here.  It seems in order.  How were you planning on delivering them?”

“I got her address so I was just going to go over there and hand them over,” Todd said.

Harry shook his head.  “No, I think I have a better way of going about this,” he said as he laid out his plan to Todd. 

It was later in the morning when an older blonde woman answered the door at her home.  Harry was standing there, a pleasant smile on his face.  “Ms. Bensoncroft?” he asked kindly.

“Mrs. Finchner, now, Mr?” the woman replied.

“Harry Redding.  May I come in?  I’m an attorney and I’m here on behalf of my client,” he told her.  “This is something we should discuss in private.”  When he was seated in her living room, Harry continued.  “My client is suing the estates of Peter Manning for the amount of $1.4 million.  The records show that you where the heir to that estate.”

Connie took a deep breath.  “I took care of Peter in his last months.  Besides, he had no children to leave it to.”

“On the contrary, he had a son, Todd Manning--”

“Todd, the human waste.  Peter cut him off after he raped a woman.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he finally died in a ditch somewhere,” Connie spat out in disgust.

Harry smiled, shark-like.  “Mr. Manning is my client, Mrs. Finchner.”  He handed over the legal papers.  “He is seeking money owed by the estate of Peter Manning to the Lord trustees that Mr. Manning took for the care of Todd from the ages of eighteen to twenty-five.”

“The Lord trustees?  What are you saying?”  Connie asked uncomfortably.

“Todd Manning is the biological son of newspaper publisher Victor Lord of Llanview, Pennsylvania.  Peter Manning was paid fifty thousand dollars a quarter over those seven years, none of which the younger Mr. Manning ever saw.  He never even knew he was adopted until Peter was lying on his deathbed,” explained Harry. 

“So now, he want that money?  I’m guessing he inherited something from that father and he, what, blew threw it at last?”  Connie threw the papers on the floor.  “You can tell you client to go to hell.  Peter cut him off and he’ll never see one red cent from me.  I was owed that money.”  As she finished her rant, the bell rang again.  When she went to open the door, she found an older Todd Manning standing there. 

“Hello Connie,” he said as he sauntered past her. 

“What the Hell are you doing here?” she practically yelled.

Todd, for his part, gave her an innocent look, as Harry threw an annoyed glare in his direction.  This was not what they had discussed.  But Todd said, “Well, my attorney here was supposed to give you papers telling you I want that money Peter stole form me and my family.  But then again, it was the only reason he kept me around at all, isn’t that right?”

“Todd,” Harry cautioned. 

“So, what, you want the money?  Spent everything your real daddy left you,” Connie mocked.

Todd merely smiled.  “Actually, no.  I have a thriving business, gained from the thirty million I was left.  Publishing, as a matter of fact.  The Sun  family of newspapers in Llanview and Port Charles.  Manning Enterprises, which puts out fashion magazines and other things.  I have to say, I was pretty smart when I got the money.”

“Then why do you want a measly million?” Connie asked.

“One point four million, to be exact.  I have two nephews who I think can put it to better use when they’re older than you or Peter ever did.”  He looked at her with the same level of disgust she did all those years ago in Peter’s lawyer’s office.  Then he walked to the door.  “Oh, an I’m so glad I could make this trip to see you.”  With that, he left.

Harry looked back at Connie.  “I’m sure I will be hearing from you or your lawyers.  Good day, Mrs. Finchner.”  Then he was gone as well.

When they were back in the car, Harry turned to him.  “I’m guessing there’s some meaning to that last comment.”

Instead of replying, Todd asked, “You got a recommendation for dinner tonight?”

Much later in the evening, Todd and Blair walked into a local steakhouse and found Harry already there.  As they sat down, Harry informed Todd, “I already heard from Mrs. Finchner’s attorney.  They will be fighting the suit.”

“I wouldn’t have expected anything less from that bitch.  Whatever.  You’ll be continuing to represent me, though?” Todd asked as he perused the menu.

“Of course.  I wish I could have done more all those years ago, but Barbara would want me to do this,” Harry replied. 

“Harry, I don’t mean to be rude, but you always call her Barbara.  In all the years I’ve been with Todd, he always called her Bitsy.  Why?” Blair asked.

“That was Peter thinking he was being cute, but he was really putting her down.  After we got together, I called her that once and she broke down in tears.  I realized the meaning of it for her and I never said it again,”  Harry explained.  “By the way, these are for you.”  He handed Todd a gift bag with many of the framed photographs that had been out the day before.  “Your wife said you may want them for your home, so please take them.  Your mother would have wanted you to have them.”

A lump formed in Todd’s throat to the point that when he tried to speak, no words came out.  Blair took his hand and said to Harry.  “Thank you so much.  You have no idea what this means to Todd and I.”

Todd looked up at his stepfather.  “You know, between the two of us, our kids have like, five grandparents and only one who we’d even want them to acknowledge.  I mean, her mother is sweet and all, but she’s a little,” Todd pointed to his head and circled his finger there.  “I was wondering, but I’m sure you can’t, but it would be really nice if you could maybe be kinda like a grandfather to them?”

Now a lump was in Harry throat.  After taking a sip of water, he smiled and said, “I would like that very much myself.  I don’t have children, but I would love to consider your sons and daughter to be my family.”

Blair felt terrible for the man.  “You never had any children of your own?”

“No.  Barbara, of course, couldn’t have any and my first wife died before we were married three years.  The only thing I have that I could even consider family is a nephew and nieces she has from her sister.  But I haven’t seen them since that sister got married,” Harry said. 

“Well, then, you now have three grandchildren,” Blair declared. 

As the evening went on, they got to talking more about Todd’s mother.  Near the end, Harry asked, “When will you be heading home?”

“We leave tomorrow, as a matter of fact.  They boys have been out of school for too long, but this needed to get done,” Todd informed him.

“What are your plans for the holidays?” Blair asked.

“I usually don’t do much,” Harry said.

“You’re doing something this year.  You come to Port Charles and send it with us,” Blair said enthusiastically.  She looked to Todd, who was also nodding at Harry.

“Oh, I don’t know…” Harry began.

“In fact, come a week or so earlier.  There’s this fundraiser I’m sponsoring, my sisters are going to be there, you can meet them,”  Todd said.  “Look, we won’t take no for an answer.”

Harry thought about it and agreed.  They finished off dinner and headed back to the hotel, where Harry said good-bye to Starr, Jack and Sam.  He promised them he’d be seeing them shortly. 

With that, Todd saw him down to the lobby.  “Take care.  I’ll keep you informed about the suit.”  He shook Todd’s hand.  “I look forward to my visit with you.  Safe trip.’

Todd held his hand a minute longer.  “Thank you.  All this, it was really unexpected.”

“Why?  You are the son of the woman I loved.  If things had been different, I would have adopted you myself.”  With that, Harry left, a tear sliding down his cheek for the boy he had never had the chance to know, and the man he was happy to have met.     



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Friday, December 28, 2012

Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 14

Blair put her arms around Todd's waist from behind as he worked in the kitchen.  She said, "When did you become such a chef?"

"I don't know.  Since you weren't, I guess."

"Hey!"  she playfully admonished, "I'm the mother of your children.  I can't be everything."

He smiled, and touched her hand.  He said, "Your son's got it bad."

"Orinia bad?"

"No, different bad.  With Orinia, I really think he was just in love with love and wanting to save her.  He said as much, or tried to.  He . . . wanted what we have.  Believe that?"

"Yes.  I want what we have, too."

"Well," he said, turning, "you have it."  He looked directly into her eyes.  "Is it really what it's cracked up to be?"

She kissed his lips softly.  "Yes."

"Well then, we're in business.  And seriously, she's a nice girl and he's smitten."

"What's she like?"

"Pretty, talented.  He seeks out his mother, and he doesn't realize."

She raised an eyebrow.  "That's sweet, Todd.  Talented?  How?"

"She's an artist.  I saw some of it.  She's good.  The teachers at school want her to do an art show.  She can't afford it.  Of course, that's where . . ."

"You offered.  I know you, Mr. Manning.  Anything for your kids."

"Well, the obstacle is that he's not willing for her to know that we're . . . in the money."

"He's not, eh?  That explains the car rental."

"It does.  He's embarrassed a little and afraid a lot.  He doesn't want to scare her off.  My point to him was, tell her the truth."

"You suggested that?"  She elbowed him.

"Hmf.  Yeah, I did."

"And?"

"He's not biting.  Yet."

***

Jenna poked at the food in her plate.  Lynnette said, "Jenna, what's the deal?  You're not eating."

"I don't know, I guess I am distracted."

"Jack Manning?  The boy seems nice.  However, I've told you . . ."

"I know, Lynnie.  Please."

"This is not an easy topic, but you know how I feel about . . . well. . . things."

She looked at her sister.  Not wanting to cause her pain or bring up old demons, Jenna simply said, "I know."  Jenna still blamed herself, and didn't want to argue.

"He seems like a good kid, all in all,"  she took a bite of dinner, and through chewing, said, "it's just his father that I object to."

"You don't even know him.  Either one, actually."

"I know enough."

"People change."

"Rapists don't."

"How can you be sure?"  she said, and the moment after she said it, she wished she hadn't.  "I mean, why can't people change sometimes?  Jack said he's been through a lot.  Maybe it changed him."

Lynnette got up, bringing her plate to the sink.  Scraping the rest into the drain, she said, "I don't want to talk about this, or hear more about it right now.  You don't know."

Jenna watched her sister.  She was beautiful, but always alone.  She hadn't been able to reach out to anyone yet.  Jenna said, "I didn't mean to make you lose your appetite."

Lynnette braced herself on the sink.  "You didn't.  You're not to take the blame for any of that.  It's in the past.  You couldn't have known.  Remember?"

But it was her fault.  If she had shown up at the time she was expected, and Lynnette did not have to wait for her, nothing would have happened.  Everything would be different.  Just everything.

***

"Dorie.  It's me, Timothy."

"Yes?"  Her heard her voice over the line.

"I was wondering if you would do me the honor of another date.  It might be as soon as tomorrow."

"Might be?"

"Well, tomorrow, then.  I wanted to take in a little show at the dinner theater.  Are ya game?"

"What show is it?"

"Goodness, woman.  You'd think the time with the likes of a Broderick would be enough.  It's 'Bye, Bye, Birdie.'"

"One of my least favorites," she said, removing an earring to make talking on the phone easier.

"I see.  Well, it's eight o'clock, then."

"I'd love to," she said, and promptly put down the phone.

***

"Lord," the nun began, "I need your help.  I want to get through to this woman.  I want to be able to help her, and I need the strength and the patience to continue.  I'm asking ya to support me with your light and your guidance.  Give me the heart to withstand whatever comes.  Lead me to the answers that will help her.  And, God Bless my family, Timothy, Todd, Blair and the beautiful children.  Thank ya, Amen."

The nun turned over in her bed, and removed her glasses.  She was unable to close her eyes.  Her recent exchanges with Bea had given her quite a lot to think about.  She's an artist.  She has a vision, she expresses it in art.  Her thoughts, her words.  Lord, please let her trust me.

***

Jack, feigning a homework session, booted up his father's computer.  Having gotten permission to use it for research any time he needed, he wouldn't be suspected if seen in The Sun home office.  Quickly, he opened the research tools that his father had taught him about and began to search.

"Just don't let them come in, not now," he said aloud.  

Sam appeared at the door.  "Can I play on the computer?"

Jack was not in the mood.  "No, Squirt.  Not playing.  So, scram."

"What are you doing?"

"Homework."

"Homework?  You don't have any of your books or anything."

"Sam, come on, leave me alone.  Okay?"

"Okay, but you want me to get your bookbag for you?"

"No.  Go on, go play or something."

"I wanna play with you."

"I know, but I'm busy, okay?  I gotta do this."

"Okay."  Sam left, dejectedly, to go back to his room.  Jack, checking the doorway for more traffic, typed in his search.  Disappearance of Todd Manning, 2003.

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