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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Way Back: Chapter 35

Earlier that evening, The Impostor had found his way to the warehouse again, and using the combination, unlocked the special room where he and his father always met.  There was his chair, ready for him, opposite the one his father sat in across from him, for their chats.  "Soundproof, waterproof, sunproof, lifeproof," he thought.  He sat and waited.  Though he had placed a phone call to his father earlier, it was unlike him not to be there at the arranged time.  He waited.

Finally, he heard a noise behind him.  "My son."

He turned.  His father leaned to kiss both sides of his face.  "Father."

"Why did you summon me, my boy?"

"DelGado is dead, father."

"Yes, yes he is.  I know, my Son."

"I didn't want..." his face contorted, and he began to cry.  The older man became angry.

"Why are you blubbering?  This is what you wanted.  You wanted him out of the way, to preserve your identity.  You want to hold on to that pretty little Spanish girl, don't you?  And, just as we thought..."

"I don't want to," he began, then breathing hard, "I don't want to be like you."  The anger on his father's face frightened The Impostor, but he continued.  "She loves me."

Cruelly, "You are forgetting my son, that there is only one person who truly loves you, and that is your father.  She does not love you.  She loves him.  She loves Todd Manning, and believes she is loving Todd Manning, not you.  She believes she is wrapping her svelte, supple legs around him, not you."

"No," he rose up from his chair, "No.  She loves me.  She knows I am not Todd Manning.  She knows I am someone else.  She knows it.  She told me.  She told me just today.  She loves me."  He cried, enraged, and spitting and sobbing in his hurt.

"Sit down."  His father ordered.  He stood, stolid.  "I said sit down!"  he bellowed, backhanding him across the face, and the younger one fell into the chair.  He felt the bands lock around his ankles and wrists.   Two henchmen came into the room, one accidentally leaving the door ajar behind him.

Wide-eyed, he begged.  "No, father, no.  I'm sorry for being insolent."

"Too late.  This is the family business, my boy."

"No, father, no!"  His breathing heightened, and his first screams were drowned out by the shutting of the combination door.

***

When John McBain arrived, Blair was on the couch, facing the windows, disoriented and mumbling to herself.  "Blair?  Blair can you hear us?"  Viki said.  Both of them had gone to her side immediately after entering the penthouse.

"No, no, Viki, no, please."  She rocked, repeating assurances to herself.  "He's not gone, he's not.  He's not.  God.  I just got him back.  He's not gone."

Viki looked to John, "Oh my God.  What happened here?"

John crouched in front of his ex-wife.  "Blair, look at me, it's John.  Look at me." She turned her view to match his eyes.  "It's John, Blair.  What happened?"

She began to cry, and her words were slurred and slow.  "I don't know John, he said he wanted to be alone for a few minutes after you left, and I went upstairs to wait for him, and then, John, he was gone.  He's gone.  Oh my God, no."  She fell into his arms, and he held her for a moment, motioning to Viki to call 911.

"She's in shock,"  to Blair he said, "Blair, did anything happen?  Anything strange?"

She held out her arm.  "These.  These two little marks.  Oh John, they look just like his, don't they?"  She was slurring more and unable to support her own weight as she keeled over onto the couch, unconscious.  At that moment, he put the pieces into place.  Pulling out his cell phone, he called Natalie.  "Hey, can you get over to the Manning Penthouse right away?  There's something strange going on here.  Could be an abduction."

He examined her arm again, and sat her up.  She stirred, wavered, and swayed.  Viki came back to his side, "What's wrong with her?"

"She's been drugged.  At least, it looks that way."  Within minutes, the paramedics rushed through the door to the penthouse and examined Blair, placing her on a gurney for easier transport.  "Run a toxicology on her, right away, it's either slow acting poison or a drug of some kind.  Find out.  We're not losing her."

Natalie came in, and hearing the last statement, went to John.  "Drug?  Poison?  Who would do this to Blair?"

"I don't know.  It was either an intruder or Manning himself."  John said.

Blair, from the gurney where she now lay, said, "No.  No, not Todd.  No.  He would never.  Viki!  Viki!  Please.  Tell them Viki.  He would never leave us again, he wouldn't, Viki, he wouldn't ever leave us.  Not again.  He'd never hurt..."

John tried one last time, "Blair.  Please, think.  Can you remember anything, anything different, out of sorts or strange that happened?"

She squinted her eyes, "No.  Not Todd.  It's not Todd.  Slice and Dice."

***

Todd woke up in a familiar place.  He was clothed in all white.  Across from him sat The Slice and Dice.  He was tapping his blade.  "Welcome home, Manning."

In his dread, he hawked back and spit into the other man's face.  Even with his hands and ankles banded to the chair, he smirked.  "Long time no see.  Oh, I mean, actually see.  I've seen you often, in my dreams, heck even when I'm awake.  And when and if I get out of my head, I'm going to find you and f#cking kill you."

Todd's stare was so cold, that even The Slice and Dice hesitated for a moment.  "Your head?  Is that what you think?  You think this is some lucid dream?  Watch it.  You don't want to go there already, do you?" Todd continued to stare him down.  Refusing to let his eyes leave the man's face, he projected every ounce of hatred that he had onto him.  The knife beat faster in his palm.  "Now, make nice with me, for old time's sake, eh?"  He started to stand up, approaching.

Though his heart was beating, and sweat was on his brow and body, he continued to stare him down.  "Make nice for me.  Apologize."

Todd looked up, and his face softened.  "I'm sorry." he paused, "For this," and he spit again, only harder.  The Slice and Dice tore open a section of Todd's shirt, and he fought to keep the scream from erupting.  Suddenly, the door to the room opened.  It was Burly.  "The boss said nothing yet.  He has another thing planned."

"The boss won't have to know.  Just once, for old time's sake?"

Burly stepped forward, "The boss said nothing yet."

The Slice and Dice retracted his knife and wiped his face with his sleeve.  Before walking away, he punched his hand into Todd's stomach.  Unprepared, he doubled over in pain, throwing up his scotch and light dinner.  The Slice and Dice laughed, sneering, as he walked out of Todd's room.  Burly stepped closer.  "Todd.  Remember me?"

Todd could barely sit up.  The pain was hollow and long.  He wiped his mouth on his sleeve.  Looking up finally, he said, "Yeah, I remember you.  How can I forget?  You've made some appearances in my mind before."

"This isn't your mind."

"Sure it is.  I have these all the time.  And I'm starting to get good at it.  Soon, it will get black and then brighten to another place.  I'll come out of it later when Blair calls to me.  I'm getting better.  It just took time."

"This isn't your mind, Todd."  He looked at Burly's expression.  "Blair's not coming.  This is real.  You're here pal.  You're back."  Todd looked at Burly, and starting shaking his head.  "They plan to get you to talk, whatever it takes.  I just wanted to give you a heads up, so you know what's coming."

"No.  It's not true," he panicked.  His breathing began to hasten.  "Blair?  Blair?  Wake me, Blair?"

Burly approached him, and hauling back his hand, slapped his face.  "She can't wake you!"  he yelled.  "She can't wake you because you are awake.  You're here.  It's real, Todd."  And for some reason, Burly developed a conscience, "I'm sorry."

The door pushed open, and in walked The Grim Reaper, and Todd's eyes locked on the figure, who extended a lighter toward him.

Blackness was welcome.  Todd was gone, once again into his safe place.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To Journey's End Part Twelve



            Todd had been on pins and needles all through dinner. Sam’s cryptic remark about his past made it hard to even swallow down his food. He was certain that Sam had found out something horrible and he wasn’t sure if he could take another shock. He was watching Beth and Sam as they worked to clean up the mess left by Baker and Kent around the front door. Beth had ordered him to take it easy while they worked and Todd found himself controlling an overwhelming urge to leave. Just sitting there, while they worked gave him too much time to think. Just what had Sam found out? He said he wasn’t going to sugar coat things, that sounded bad.


           “Okay Beth, hold it right there.” Sam ran a strip of duct tape down to seal the opening.


Beth kept glancing over at her patient. His hands were fidgeting as he cleaned his nails for the umpteenth time, and his bottom lip was getting chewed on constantly. His eyes had darted around the room so many times Beth had lost count as he tried not to look at them. “Sam finish this up, he can’t take much more waiting?” she whispered through the door.


Sam looked through the panes of the door and saw what Beth had been watching. “Damn it. Why didn’t you say something sooner?” Sam frowned at her through the window.


“Because you were all concerned about the safety of this house and I knew until you had that off your mind you wouldn’t switch to another subject.” Beth said smiling at him.


“Am I really that single minded?”

            “Yes, but I love you anyway. Now are we finished?”


            “Just one last strip. Hell, I figured he wouldn’t want any bad news. That’s why I’ve been stalling.”


            Beth wanted to laugh. “Sam, I thought you were a better read of people. After you told him he was Todd Manning, you turned around and dropped a bombshell on him.”


          “What do you mean? I didn’t tell him about anything. What bombshell? “ Sam looked at her with a puzzled looked on his face.


         “Sam, If you were dying to know any news about yourself and I told you I had some information on you and I would tell you but not sugar coat it. How would that make you feel?”

         She watched her husband’s face as he realized what he had done.  


         Sam looked with alarm at Todd and knew without a doubt that Todd was in agony and he had just been torturing the guy, keeping him waiting. He looked at his wife and put the tape down and walked back into his living room. “Todd, I’m sorry.”


         Todd looked up at Sam and heard his words but it took a minute to absorb them. “What Sam? Why are you sorry?”


         “Look, just wait a minute, I’ll be right back.“ Sam turned around and left the house. He ran around to the driver’s side of his car and opened the door reaching in for the file sitting on the console between the seats. He had debated telling Todd everything on his way home, then had decided to hold off until the man was stronger. He was sorry he had even mentioned it. Now Todd had been sitting there anxiously waiting for the news Sam had told him about. It was going to tear the guy up but he needed to know. He bounded back up onto the porch and entered the living room. “Here, I’m sorry I made you wait.” Sam handed Todd the information he had managed to get from IAFIS and the Internet.


         Todd took the file with shaky hands, Sam had assured him he was Todd Manning, but he still had way too many blanks in his memory. He took a deep breath and opened the file.  The top page was the fax from IAFIS stating that the fingerprints had been identified on file in Llantano County, Pennsylvania, belonging to the convicted rapist of one Marty Saybrooke. Todd stared at those words “convicted rapist” and he closed his eyes. An image of a terrified, long haired strawberry blond filled his mind, “Oh God, Marty!” He was lost for a moment as more pictures flooded through his mind. Pictures of a fight with a man and the man falling and dying. His tear filled eyes looked at Sam. “I raped her...a man died because of me. What kind of monster am I?”


Beth had quickly covered her mouth at his words, sitting down abruptly, her legs unable to hold her as the words struck home. Todd was a rapist. It had to be a mistake, but Todd seemed to be remembering it and he believed it. There had to be more to his story.


Sam sat down and pulled his chair closer. “The kind of monster who’s also a man. Keep reading Todd.” Sam too had been alarmed at first when the result of his fingerprint check had come through, he had tried to picture the man in his home doing such a violent act but it was hard. The man sitting in front of him right then didn’t seem capable of that kind of violence, yet the papers didn’t lie and Todd had just confirmed it, but Sam knew he was a different man now. Sam had heard the love in his voice when he talked about his friend Sam and his family, a career criminal he wasn’t, even though the papers made him out that way,


Sam had looked up the whole story and seen all of it. Todd had been in college when he had committed his crime, his victim had managed to get a confession from him and he had been sentenced to eight years in prison. He had escaped prison and during his rampage of revenge, a man named Suede Pruitt had died. Subsequently after being recaptured and on his way back to prison, Todd had found himself freed again because of a car crash.  Instead of escaping when he could have, he had stuck around and saved four lives, one of those had been his rape victim.  No, there was a lot more to him than his crimes.


Todd continued to read through his tears. He found an article that Sam had printed telling the story about hospital rapes and his part in capturing the real perpetrator. Another article named him as the Lord Heir, there was a picture of his sister Viki and Todd found himself tracing her features on the page. I trust you above all others. He remembered a scene in a tomb. It was his father’s tomb, the night before he was to marry Blair, he recalled Viki’s torturous revelation that their father had raped her as a child. She had convinced him that he wasn’t his father, and he had married Blair.


Todd’s tears dried as he looked at other articles. The article of the death of Publisher Todd Manning shortly following his marriage to Blair Daimler, then another article about his miraculous return.  Next he found an article stating how he had held half of Llanview hostage, among those held had been Blair and Viki.  Later, another article about an infamous DID trial and the fraud perpetrated on the citizens of Llanview as Todd Manning once more escaped punishment for his many crimes. At this point, Todd had read more than enough to convince him he was the scum of the earth and deserved everything that had happened to him. He finally found himself reading an article about the death of his mentor, Sam Rappaport, and his own disappearance in connection to Sam’s death. Todd crumbled that article and turned as pale as a ghost. “I didn’t kill you Sam. It wasn’t me. Mitch had me.” He flung the file to the floor and turned into the couch as his tears for his friend overwhelmed him.


Sam looked on and reached a hand out, patting Todd’s shoulder to once more offer comfort to the man in front of him. He knew that the man was in for another shock, but Todd needed a moment to digest what he already had seen.


Beth picked up the papers looking at them and then one article caught her eye. “Todd Manning Returns.” The article talked about the new look of Todd Manning after his harrowing escape from the man known as Mitch Laurence. She couldn’t believe what she was looking at. The man looked nothing like Todd. “Sam, what’s this? It doesn’t make sense.”


Sam looked at the article Beth was holding up and shook his head, “I don’t know what to tell you. There’s more.” he indicated she look at the rest of the clippings.


Todd stirred, “What doesn’t make sense Beth. It’s all there in black and white. I’m someone you folks should have left to die. It’s obvious isn’t it. One crime after another, but I swear I didn’t kill Sam.  Please tell me you believe me.  I know I didn’t kill him.  He was the closest thing to a real father I had.  I loved him.”

           Beth carried the papers over and sat next to Sam. “We know you didn’t, Todd, it turns out someone named Lyndsay killed him.”


          “That’s Sam’s ex- wife.  Why would she kill him?” He didn’t know how he knew that, but it had just come to him. Why would a detail like that be so easy to remember and yet other things were taking forever to access?


         “The papers said it was accidental. That she was mentally disturbed and thought he was someone else. Todd, you should know there’s something here that’s probably going to confuse you because it certainly has us confused.” She handed him the article proclaiming the new Todd Manning.


         Todd read the article and slumped back on the couch. “It can’t be, I’m Todd.. You said I was Todd. How can he be me?” Beth handed him the rest of the articles that Sam had copied. Todd sat there and felt like he had dropped into another world. His breath caught as he read the next clipping in front of him. “Todd Manning Found Guilty in the Rape of Wife.” he couldn’t believe what he was reading, “Blair” he whispered. He rubbed his eyes, his stomach lurched as he thought about someone hurting Blair the way he had hurt Marty. Sam had stapled another paper to the article and Todd gingerly turned the page over to see the one underneath. The attached copied paper, stated that Blair had misinterpreted the actions of her husband due to a brain tumor and the guilty plea was overturned.


Todd was shaking and Beth took the rest of the papers from his hands. “I think that’s more than enough for now. We’re not going to solve this tonight.” Todd had received too many new shocks and she was concerned he would have a relapse. She should have put a stop to everything earlier when he had gotten upset about his friend.


Todd grabbed her hand. “Beth, I need to know everything.”


“I don’t think this is doing you any good. Whatever you’ve done, I don’t believe you deserve what was done to you. Your wounds tell me you were indeed held for a number of years and if you’re truly Todd Manning, than there’s much more going on here.” Beth closed the file.


“Beth’s right. Those men came here looking to take you back. That means they don’t want you returning home. If they can’t take you back, they want you dead. Neither of those men showed an ounce of sympathy when they thought you had died. You’re a problem that needs to be resolved, and I’m betting if you get back to Llanview, you’ll be interfering with a plan already in place.” Sam knew he had Todd’s attention now. “For now, they have no proof you’re alive. Stay here, get better, and we’ll work on getting you home.”


Todd looked from one to the other. “You’re serious. After what you both know about me now, you’d let me stay here?”


“This is what we know about you. You’ve been tortured for a number of years and I’m guessing by those newspaper clips, it’s been at least eight. You love your wife and children and just want to get home. Nothing I’ve seen or heard from you indicates to me that you’re dangerous or delusional.” Beth leaned over and whispered in Todd’s curly ear. “Besides I’m still waiting for a chance to go down on you.”


Todd was not sure he heard her correctly and said, “What?”


Beth smiled “Just wanted to see if you were listening.” She watched as Todd blushed clear to his toes.


Sam looked at Beth. “What did you say to him, hon?


Beth just sauntered over to her husband and said “I’ll tell you later. Why don’t you go take that shower you were wanting earlier, I’ll keep Todd company.” She turned and winked at Todd and laughed when he lowered his eyes from hers.


Todd couldn’t believe it, but Beth was actually turning him on with her outrageous suggestion.


Beth watched as Sam left the room. She turned back to her patient. Her stomach was fluttering as she realized she was about to do something she had never done with anyone, but her husband. She wasn’t sure if it was the knowledge that he had once raped someone and was dangerous, or the knowledge that her husband could catch her, but something in her wanted to help the man lying on the couch. She quivered knowing she was totally turned on. She walked back over to the couch and knelt down on the floor beside him. “Todd let me do this for you. I know it’s been a long time but I want to make you feel better.”


“Beth, you’re serious aren’t you?” he was shocked, never in his wildest dreams did he think this generous and loving woman would make such an offer. She had just found out he was a convicted rapist, yet she was offering to make him feel better. He wasn’t sure any of this was real anymore. He watched fascinated as she undid his zipper and reached in to free him. The stroke of her soft hands around him was unreal. Beth began stroking and kneading him and then she brought her mouth down on him. The sensations were incredible and he knew he wouldn’t last long.


As a doctor, Beth knew all pressure points to get the best response, besides she had had plenty of practice on Sam. She looped her tongue around him, teasing him and felt him shudder against it. Beth could hear her own heart beating faster as he began to softly moan and she knew he was going to climax soon. She gripped his hips, as she placed her mouth to fully encompass him, her fingers relishing the tight muscles beneath the surface. He was in excellent shape but she had already seen that. Now she realized just how toned he was.


His body was overpowered with feelings rushing through him, he knew he should stop her, but it had been so long since someone had cared about him at all. His body was starved for affection and Beth was giving it too him. He gave into the urges, unable to fight any longer.


Todd suddenly caught her head as he gently pushed deeper. Beth relaxed to let him, continuing to massage him with her lips and tongue. Suddenly he came inside her mouth and from long practice, Beth swallowed and then slowly withdrew from around him, his hands had dropped their hold on her and were laying across his chest and by his side. His breath was quick and uneven and his eyes were closed. She kissed his firm stomach enjoying the tremor and slight moan that escaped from Todd. She carefully zipped him back up. and leaned closer to him, wiping his brow and making sure he was all right. ”You should call it a night.” she said as his eyes opened and met hers. She got ready to rise, when he grabbed her hand.


“Wait.”


Beth remained alongside him a moment longer. She was at peace with her decision. He had been so strung out after all the revelations, he had needed an outlet to release the tension. She was glad she had been able to do that for him. She sensed he was more relaxed and it was good. Now he might be able to get some sleep.


Todd sat up and slowly leaned toward her. Gently kissing her, he said. “That was the nicest present I’ve been given in a very long time. Thank you.”


Beth smiled and put her arm under his shoulder. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.” Todd got his feet under him and with her help retired to his bed. Sleep took him quickly.


Beth smiled as she left his room.


Sam was coming out of the bathroom, and asked.”Is he going to be all right tonight?”


She nodded, “I’ll be in to join you after my bath.” she patted his arm and shoved him toward their room, “you better be awake when I get there Mister.”


Sam began humming as he headed to his room, the twinkle in Beth’s eyes told him he was in for some good times that night.





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The Way Back: Chapter 34

"Good evening, Todd."  McBain said, standing at the door of the penthouse.  "I know it's late."

"What's up John?  Don't you call first?"  Todd said, with just pajama pants and an a-shirt on, as John helped himself into the room.  Blair was frantically pulling herself together, pullling down her camisole and tucking her hair behind her ear, smoothing it.

John took note of everything in the room.  Two glasses of wine, a plate of cheese and fruit, and a tousled blanket.  A fire was going.  "Sorry, I seem to have interrupted something."

"No, John, what can we do for you?"  Blair said.  Her silk pajama bottoms were a bit twisted at the waist.

"It's about the death of Tomas DelGado," he began.

"I told you, Todd was with me," she said.

"I realize that, but I have to ask again, just to be sure."

Todd was watching carefully, to see if McBain was just doing his routine or if he truly believed he was a murderer.  "I was here with Blair.  She's telling the truth.  You don't really believe I killed Tomas, do you?"

"What I believe is not important.  What happened is.  Do you own a gun, Manning?"

"No.  I used to, but I don't anymore.  Not sure if you noticed that I traveled light for the last eight years.  Most of the time, people had weapons on me, not the other way around.  I really thought you were different, John.  Seems to everyone, I'm still a criminal, a convict."

Blair moved to her man's side, touching his arm.  "John, he was here.  That should be enough, both our words."

"It should.  It won't be, for some people, so I want to make certain it's airtight.  Did you leave the penthouse at all, Todd, during the night?"

"No.  I was here.  We were upstairs, together."

"Blair, you can attest for every minute?  He never left you?"

"Yes, and no, he did not."

"All right."  Officially, "Manning, did you kill or have any knowledge of who killed Tomas DelGado?"

"No."

He has to be telling the truth.  She was here with him.  He's been through a lot, perhaps Blair's right, he can only focus on his family right now.  Besides, look at the guy.  John's eyes roamed Todd's shoulders and arms, where there were healed marks and some that still were healing.  They ranged from circular burns, scrapes, needle punctures, and odd skin markings to the bands on his wrists that John knew also were on his ankles.  "Manning, I know you've been through a lot.  I have to ask because there's pressure on the DA's office from someone who believes you had reason and are the killer.  So, I had to make certain.  There's no reason that camera footage would catch you leaving here, or around the Manning Place?"

Todd's face took on a sarcastic shape.  "The Manning Place?  Huh.  Nope."

John looked at Blair, "I'm sorry, Blair.  I just have to be sure, cover all the bases.  And while I'm here, can I see that lighter?"

Todd looked at Blair and she returned the look.  "Sure, John, but...."

"Can you tell me where it is, please?"

Blair lead John upstairs to their bedroom, which was still in disarray from the morning when they had rushed off to their day.  Todd, alone in the living room, used the curving railing to steady himself.  He rubbed his forehead and squeezed his eyes closed.  In front of him, stood The Slice and Dice, as he called him, holding his oddly shaped skinner in his hand.  Todd backed away a few steps.  The Slice and Dice was a short man, much shorter than Todd, with broad, muscular shoulders and a thin waist.  His face had a scar like Todd's, only smaller and across the chin.  He tapped the blade of the skinner grotesquely against his own palm to a rhythm only he and Todd could hear.  He knew that beat; it signaled the terrible thing to come next, when he would take that blade, and use it.  The pain would be white hot like a match head being put out at first, and then agonizing as his flesh was exposed.  All of them, all of his "handlers" liked to make him scream, and The Slice and Dice was no exception. 

He said in a surprisingly calm tone, "No," and backed away, as Blair and John descended the stairs, with the lighter in a plastic evidence bag, chattering.  Blair looked to her lover, and saw something terribly wrong in his face.  Is he in another place?  "Todd?"

His head turned to her immediately.  "Yeah?"  He was quivering, she noticed sweat on his brow and above his lip.  His chest was heaving.  He realized that her voice had ended the episode before it even got going.  I am getting better.  I can do this.  I can face it.

"Todd, are you all right?"  she went to him, gently touching his shoulders to steady him and look into his eyes.  Unable to repel the pain of the memory that was interrupted, he broke down in her arms.  "It's okay, it is.  Shhhh.  Remember what Ray said?  It's going to get better.  You fought that one, you didn't go away, you're here."

"And now I just have to feel it.  It's just so hard,"  he said through tears.

"I know.  Shhhh."

John made himself inconspicuous in the background.  He was almost positive, in his deepest gut, that Todd Manning was not a killer.  But other questions loomed for him.  He waited, back turned to the two of them, until he heard Todd's voice again, and not in sobs.  "McBain, I'm sorry.  I'm just working through some things in therapy," he sniffed a bit, and being Todd, he wiped his brow and tears on his own arm. 

"That's quite all right, I am the intruder here.  I just wanted to ask you about this lighter."  He was careful not to raise it into view.  The poor guy was just pulling it together.

"Yeah, what about it?"

"Who has touched it or held it that you know of?"

He thought, "you mean lately?  Ever?"

"Ever."

"Me, Blair, my adoptive father Peter Manning.  Sam Rappaport might have, way back.  Those are the only people I've seen hold it.  Excuse me," he said, taking a drink of water from the bar and then rethinking it, and though it was nearly bedtime, he poured a shot of Scotch and downed it.  Wincing, he took three deep breaths.

"Manning?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm sorry you've been through such a living Hell.  And I'm sorry I added to it today, but I had to come over.  Just doing my job."

He nodded, sighing.  Blair said, "We know, John.  Just what is this interest in the lighter, though?"

"I am checking to see if someone is gas lighting your husband," John said, walking toward the door.  "I'll let myself out."  And he was gone.

Todd looked at her.  "At least he knows you're my wife, even if you're not."

She slid her arms around his waist, "Always your wife, Mr. Manning.  Upstairs?"

"In a few minutes, I was thinking...I think I need to be alone for a few minutes."

"All right."  She kissed him softly, gently, with the tenderness and passion that he had missed so much.  "I'll be up there, you take all the time you need."

A few hours later, she felt someone move next to her.  "Are you all right?  Todd?"  A voice said something, but the words faded into darkness as she fell back into sleep.

***

"Tomas is really gone."  Tea said with resolve, as her husband wheeled her into the foyer of their home.

"Yeah,"  he said.  He was never the best at comfort.  "I'm sorry."

She took her hand and intentionally crashed a vase with flowers to the floor.  "He did it!  I know he did!  That monster!  He hasn't changed,"  she raged.

She looked at her husband, "Help me onto the couch and sit across from me, I want to look right into your face when I say this."

He did as she asked, and sat across from her.  She pulled his face to the front with one hand and said, "Todd Manning."

He looked back at her, emotionless.  He'd had a lot of practice numbing himself.  "Yes, Tea DelGado Manning?"

"NO!"  she cried, "Todd Manning is the monster who did this, and you..."  she sighed and sniffled, her tears flowing, "you are not him."

"Oh yeah?"  he yelled back at her, "Then who the hell am I, Tea?  You doubt me, now?"

"You're a liar!"

"I'm not a liar.  I'm me, your husband.  You've been through a shock, I understand, but this is ridiculous.  The DNA test, you know who I am."

She laughed in that way she did while crying.  "No.  No I don't!  Why do you keep lying to me?"  she started to scream, and pounded his chest, "Why?  You're not Todd Manning.  You're not him!"

He moved back from her assault and his look became very cold.  She sobbed, and then caught his glance and froze.  "What, are you going to kill me?  Hurt me?  The one you are supposed to love?  The one you profess to love more than your life?  I've known.  I've known since the first time you made love to me, wildly, passionately, right there in that foyer, that you were not Todd Manning."

He did not respond.  Instead, he watched her, with a callous stare, his fists were balling up on each side of him.

She brought down her voice, "I love you.  Does that matter?" She saw him unclench his fists.  She continued, "Do I matter?  What if you're not mister high and mighty Manning?  What if you're not and I know it.  Would it matter that I loved you, still?"

Without warning, he grabbed both sides of her face, pulling her mouth to his, and kissed her, licking her lips and tongue, and accepting hers against him.  She couldn't fight it, and wanted him, more.  He continued to tongue her, and moved his hands from both sides of her face to her breasts, where he roughly squeezed at her nipples, and then, he pulled back.

He made a move to go, backing off and starting to move away, then standing and backing away from her.  He watched her as he went.

"No, don't do this!  Don't go off away from me!  You know how I hate that!" He just continued stepping backward, watching her, tears in his own eyes, and heard her again, screaming, "Who are you?  Don't leave me!" she sobbed, as he slammed the door behind him.

***

Blair awoke with a start.  The room was pitch black.  She felt for him, next to her, and he wasn't there.  Looking at the clock, the numbers 3:15 glowed in the darkness.  She felt groggy, tired, and disoriented.  She called out, "Todd?"  No answer.

She got her robe, and put it on.  Checking in the kids' rooms, she remembered that they chose to spend the night at La Boulaie with Addie, Sam, Hope and also Dorian, who was in town visiting.  "Blair, come on, everything's all right."  She assured herself.

Descending the spiraling staircase in the dark, she used the graceful railing as a guide.  "Todd?"  she called again.  The house was too dark.  She felt foggy, tired.  If there was one thing about her man that she knew, was that since his return, the dark was not a pleasant place for him.  He would have a light on.  He would.

The fire was only embers, and a few of them glowed blood-orange.  She fumbled her way to the wall switch and turned the overhead lights on.  Todd was not in the room, not by his windows, not in their bed.  Running to the kitchen, she returned to the living room and to the phone.  "Viki, Viki I am sorry.  Is Todd there?  No?  He's gone Viki, he's gone.  I woke up and he was gone."  She ran her fingers through her hair and her eyes caught a suspicious mark on her forearm.  Looking closer, she realized what it was.  Oh my God!

"Blair?  Blair what is it?"  Viki called to her from the other end.

For some reason, she was slow to react.  "Oh my God, Viki," Blair began to panic, and fought against her own atrophy, "help me.  Please.  Call John, please?  Please help us, Oh Viki,"  And she hung up, collapsing to the floor in sobs. "No, God, please.  Please don't let this be true.  No, not again.  Todd!"

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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Way Back: Chapter 33

"I told them.  Finally.  I told Blair, Starr and Jack."  Todd said.  Ray sipped his coffee, and offered Todd a cup.

"No thanks, I am jittery enough right now.  I feel like...I feel like I'm jumping out of my skin, sometimes, Ray."

"That's perfectly understandable, because it's hard being in your skin right now, Todd."

"I told them everything, almost.  I mean, I didn't describe every moment of Hell, but I let my kids ask me questions."  He reflected, "Starr, she just wanted to know if I would stay with them this time, not leave like I used to."

"And?"

"I told her yes.  I never want to leave them again."

"Well, this last absence had nothing to do with you, Todd.   It was never your choice."

"In a way, maybe.  I was bullheaded enough to think I could face and get the best of Mitch Laurence.  I was very wrong."

"This brings us back to the crypt, right?"

"Can we talk about Jack first?"

"Sure.  We can talk about whatever you want, Todd."

***

Having dropped Todd off at therapy, Blair drove to the Manning Mansion, determined to get her husband back his ring.  Husband.  She smiled to herself.  Have I ever not thought of him as my husband?  I think I even saw him that way when I was married to someone else!  She laughed, in spite of herself, and turned into the drive.  Walking to the front door, she realized it was already open.  Tea was sitting on the staircase, crying, and The Impostor had his arm around her shoulders.  Dani was cradled in Shaun's lap, crying and clutching a teddy bear.  He was rocking her.  Blair attempted to take in the scene, and wasn't sure what to make of it, at first.  Behind her, she heard the sirens of police cars blaring, and then, the doors of vehicles slamming shut.

"Tea?  What happened?"

Tea looked at her, lifting her head from The Impostor's shoulder.  "It's Tomas," and she broke down.

The Impostor looked at Blair, and said, "Tomas was shot and killed on the back patio.  Dani found him."

Blair sprung to life.  "Oh my God, Tea, I'm...I'm so sorry."  Turning to Shaun, she went and took Dani from him, and comforted her, while Shaun readied to talk to detectives.  There was McBain, standing in the doorway in black (did he wear anything else?), with Brody, in police clothes.

"What happened here?"  John attempted to make his voice inaudible to Tea and Dani as he moved Shaun and Brody into the living room, facing the doors that lead to where Tomas' body was.

Shaun explained the events of the morning; they had been awakened by a piercing scream, that came from Dani and continued for several minutes.  Racing down the stairs, Tea had fallen and hurt her ankle, it was swollen and needed medical attention.  'Mr. Manning' had run to the screams and found Dani frozen, staring at her uncle.  He had taken her in his arms, covered her with a blanket and handed her off to Shaun, and attended to Tea, as she limped through the foyer and into the living room, seeing her brother dead on the patio stonework.  Shaun assured John that Tomas had been dead overnight.

"The kid's going to need serious therapy,"  Shaun said, watery-eyed.  Dani was crying but unresponsive in Blair's arms.  She was shushing, and rocking the child, close to her chest.  Tea's ankle was the size of a huge grapefruit.  John went to her.

"Tea, you have to go to the hospital."

She was shell-shocked.  "Where's my daughter, I have to go to her."

Blair got up, carrying Dani, who had adjusted herself over Blair's shoulder.  "She's right here, Tea.  Oh my God, I'm so sorry,"  Blair said, handing Dani to her mother.  Supporting the child's weight on her lap, Tea kissed her forehead, at which Dani broke into hysterical sobs.

"Mommy!"  She cried, and from the side of her, The Impostor stroked her hair.  Tea was shaking all over; the pain from her ankle was second to the pain in her heart from the loss of Tomas and the despair of her child.

John watched as The Impostor took the child into his arms, and magically quieted her.  "It's okay, sweetheart, everything will be okay.  Here," he said, pulling a coin from his pocket, "look at the coin.  Are you watching?  You remember this one?"

"Yes," she spoke.  John breathed a sigh of relief.  The girl was speaking, she was lucid.  A good sign.

"Watch it carefully."

"It's going to disappear."

"It just might.  Watch."  The Impostor moved the coin like liquid through his fingers without hesitation.  Suddenly, it vanished, seemingly into thin air.

Dani actually smiled.  "I love you, Daddy."  She said, resting her head on his shoulder.  John made a mental note of both the magic act and the way the child loved this man.  There had to be some good in him somewhere.  Then, he drew his attention back to an unlikely place.

"Blair, what are you doing here this morning?"  he said.  Everyone in the room looked to her for an answer.  The Impostor was the exception; he ignored Blair and was entertaining Dani by bringing the coin back out from behind her knee.

"I was..." she cleared her throat, "I'm, uh sorry John, I am just taken a little for a loop, here, I was once very close to Tomas."

"I recall.  So, what brought you here today?"  he repeated.

"I came to confront him," she nodded her head toward The Impostor.  Another mental note for John:  She can't call him Todd.  She added, "For going off and scaring Sam for that vacation they took.  Sam was afraid he was gone and never coming back, and I wanted to talk to him about that.  Sam is his son, after all."

"Yeah, after all."  John said.  He flashed on his last conversation with Todd and Blair, in his office, when she revealed that Tomas was responsible for his capture, confinement and torture for the last eight years.

Blair was thinking of the same scene in her mind as John was, and pieced together where John's mind was probably going.

The Impostor paid them no mind whatsoever.  He was now bringing Dani over to Tea, and watching as paramedics checked her ankle, all the while soothing Dani and demonstrating overt concern for his wife.  The three of them headed outside to get into the ambulance; Dani needed to be checked out for shock and hypothermia; and Tea clearly had a broken ankle.

Blair called after them, "Tea, can I do something?"

Tea said over her shoulder, "I don't know," she was still crying, "Maybe hang around and make certain the police don't ransack the house too much."  Then, to her husband, "Look at me, I'm worried about the house when my brother is dead!"  She broke down again, starting Dani to wailing a second time.  Tea vanished into the ambulance, and The Impostor, cuddled and spoke to Dani in low tones, outside, before loading her into the SUV to follow.  The entourage drove off.  Blair stood in the doorway, watching them go.  She was crying, covering her mouth with one hand.

"So, Blair, what have you and Todd been up to the last day or so?"  John asked.  Brody, the forensics team and Shaun had already moved into the patio area.

"John, don't start this, okay?  For the last few weeks, I've been grateful for your ability to see Todd as more than a common criminal or someone to despise.  Please don't ruin that now."  He was not budging.  Impatiently, "He was with me, at the penthouse.  Last night we spent the whole evening making love to each other, if you must know.  He's been through a lot."  Her eyes clouded.  "And before that, he spent several hours with me and our children, answering any questions they had about him and his life and disappearance, which lead him to admit to anyone aside from himself his own rape and sexual abuse at the hands of his adoptive father.  Is that enough detail for you?"  Her voice was elevating and a tear made it's way down her face.
He put out a hand to steady her.  "I'm sorry, Blair, for what he has been through.  In light of this murder, you know I had to ask."

She stayed silent.   

"Was he with you every minute last night?  I've been married to you, Blair, you're a heavy sleeper, especially after...a busy day."

She rolled her eyes and folded her arms, "Yes, I am positive.  He can't even be anywhere without me right now, as a matter of fact, except for therapy.  He's so damaged..." her breath caught in her throat, "he's so damaged that he can barely face the world alone.  He did not do this, if that is what you are asking."

John backed off, "Okay.  Another thing, did you know that the other guy did magic?"

"No, today was the first time I saw him do that.  But what does that matter?"

"Nothing, at least not for now."

Brody called from the other room, "Lieutenant, you'd better see this."

As John went off, Blair quickly ascended the stairs.  She knew just where to find the ring, and she had to move fast.  To her delight, it was precisely where she thought it would be; the jewelry box on the bookshelf in the master bedroom.  Perfect.  She shuddered a moment, thinking how that same room was not only Tea's, but could possibly have been Marty's.  She made it back to the foyer before John returned.  He sauntered in from the living room, holding something in a latex-gloved hand.

"Blair, what do you think of this?"

She looked at the bloodied sketchpad with her image on it.

***

"So, it seems your admission of your own pain and your own secret helped your son to do the same."  Ray summarized.

"I suppose it did."

"How did it feel to actually say the words about your own rape, Todd?"

He fidgeted.  "It was...it was really hard, but after it was out, and I saw them all feeling the pain with me, and then it brought Jack out, I actually felt better admitting it.  I was always afraid to admit it, my whole adult life, thinking people would see me as less, somehow.  That women would shun me, that everyone would think I was weak."

"And?"

"That didn't happen.  Blair, well, she knew.  She always knew.  I never even had to tell her, and she knew.  I think she knew from the first time she and I made love that Christmas."

"And she always accepted you.  She accepted you as a person and as a lover.  As a man."

He teared up.  "Yeah.  She never once....Blair always loved me, I guess, I just didn't see it.  Other times, I was too screwed up to be able to accept it.  I always wanted to, but I hated myself a lot.  All the time.  That made me make some really shit decisions, you know?"

"I know.  I'm just glad you do."

"Yeah, I do.  Giving Jack away was probably the worst one, the others, there are too many to name."

"Now what, Todd?"

"Now, I guess I face what my father did to me.  I continue to try and move past it, right Ray?"

"Sure that's a start.  What else?"

"Face all of the torture, everything.  Face all of the lost time.  Face all I've done?"

"Yes.  You're not totally free of it yet.  You've got to face every bit of it, what they did to you, who they were, what each one of them brought up in you.  It's not over, but it's getting to the last act.  I know you're not one hundred percent ready for it yet, but it's got to come."  Ray looked up, "Ah, look who's here?"

Blair was gliding across the lawn, in a white ensemble, and the way in which the sun hit her made him want her so much he was certain Ray knew.  Within a few moments, she was at their doorway.  She wasn't smiling, though, and he caught the red puffiness around her eyes.  "Blair, what's wrong?"  He said, going to her and bringing her into his arms.

"Tomas.  Tomas is dead."

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Message from RKarena, at Passionate 4 Todd

To My Readers: My Apologies

             To all who have been gracious enough to read my books, I apologize for the long time between recent Chapters.  Some of it was due to the fact that I've been having health issues, the first was a broken right wrist which is also my good hand.  The second issue that has plagued me is an inconsiderate kidney stone.  The medical issues are now resolved for the time being and I'm trying hard to put out the next installment of 'Don't Shoot the "Messenger.'  Therefore, I beg your indulgence and hopefully new chapters will be forthcoming at a speedier rate from now on.  Thank you again for your viewership.

Message from Cloud

Hi all,
I've been remiss at getting to your comments. I write and write and sometimes miss them, since we're moderated and I can't see them unless I come and CHECK for them.

I appreciate all of the comments and praises some of you have left for me about "The Way Back." Your kindness and interest have encouraged me to keep going.

I have a few comments to make about this story and I hope they will address your comments and emails as well.

  1. First, it's my idea of what could have been during Roger's return, and, sorry Ron C., what should have been for much of the tale.
  2. Also, yes, I have chosen to go with things that did not happen on screen and and this lead to taking a little bit of extra liberty with characters like Jack, John and Dani. I did return Dani to her proper age and no, she's not Todd's child. I did make Jack more of Todd's son than The Impostor's, and more accepting, less bratty. John is going to be Todd's friend if it kills me.
  3. I have also chosen, as I've believed, that Todd was abused in all of the ways possible by his adoptive father. This might not be popular, but for me, thought the validity of his DID was always in question, this part was not. In this story, it will play a part in the whole scheme of things with the events that happened during Todd's captivity.
  4. I apologize for never completing the previous book, "Todd Revisited." I had a specific goal in mind, and it was paralleling the show. Then, the show took a different spin and my project just died. That taught me a lesson! I'm sorry about that. Yes, that story included DID as a real affliction. Personally, I've never been 100% sure about that either way, but it's fun to speculate.

Hope I've answered some questions and clarified some things. Also, hope you accept my apology for the incomplete "Todd Revisited." Who knows, I may 'revisit' it someday.

You can comment on the chapters or email me at kaycloud0110@gmail.com

Thank you!





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