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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The End of Blame: Chapter 22

John hung up the phone from Zeus and said aloud, "Well, at least someone's headed for closure.  Wish I could say the same for Manning."  Zeus, in response to the information from John, had decided to come to Greece and meet with Agathangelos, even though he had no memory of her.  John suspected that brainwashing had a great deal to do with it, but decided the story would play out.  Zeus was a grown man, and would have to take whatever came his way.  Somehow, John thought, based on what he had already learned of Agathangelos, the ending would be a very pleasant one.

His next order of business was to pay a visit to The Mannings.  He sauntered to the honeymoon suite, now familiar with it, and knocked quietly.  He knocked a second time, hoping not to disturb them but also wanting to check on them.  Upon the second knock, the door pushed open.  Without his noticing, it had been left ajar.  This alarmed him to a certain degree, but he entered, gingerly, and passed through the bedroom, which was still unmade; the sheets were tousled and there was a box of tissue at the head of the bed by the pillows.  He continued, until he came upon them on the top deck.  They were in one lounge chair, she behind him, and him with his head against her middle, and she was stroking his hair.  They looked like any other, contented couple in the Grecian sun.  He said, "Sorry, I, uh..."

She ended his sentence, "No worries."

He said, "Todd?  What's up?"

Todd opened one eye.  "I've got my one-woman harem waiting on my every need."

John smirked, and said, "Not bad work, if you can get it."

Todd closed his eyes again, and John could see he was physically and emotionally tired.  He was shirtless, which was not a common thing for Todd Manning, and John's eyes could not help but rest on the scars and wounds.  He said, "I have some news about the Zeus thing."

Todd didn't open his eyes or move, he just said, "Spill it."

"He was there.  I met the woman who raised him.  He doesn't remember her, but she was like his mother for 18 years of his life."

Todd pushed out a sarcastic laugh and bitterly said,  "He doesn't remember her?  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.  How could he?  They wiped his brain clean."

John swallowed and Blair, looking at John and then back to Todd, said, "He's overtired."

"Yeah, John, I'm overtired.  This was the first sleep longer than two hours I've had in weeks.  Now I feel spoiled, and I want more."

"I got it, Manning."  John said.

Blair added, "Ray called.  He's prescribing something called Topamax.  He thinks it might help.  It's proven to help people with nightmares sometimes."

"Sounds like a plan," John said.

Todd said, "I'll give it a try."

"Is there anything I can do?"  John said.

"No, not really," Todd said.  "I appreciate your concern, though."

"I think you ought to go back to Llanview, Todd.  I've got this."

Todd sat up, and said, "Nope.  This is about my life, too.  Do you know what it feels like thinking I started this whole thing with Hesser and Zeus?  That's one thing I could use taken off my back."

As he sat up, his back being exposed revealed more scars.  John fought to disengage from them, and said, "I can relate to that, seems logical.  But what about your family?"

"That is where I come in, Detective," a voice began from behind them, "and I'll be doing whatever is needed to take care of my boy."  It was Sister Rebecca Katherine.  "Now, let's get this meeting going, Jack can't care for those two hellions alone for very long."

"Sister, we.re reconsidering.  We want to send the boys back home.  Viki has not left yet, and we're thinking she can bring them."  Blair said.

"Of course, if that is what you want.  But what about you?  Both of ya can use a rest from all this."

"I can't go without him.  And he's not leaving.  I've tried."  Blair explained.

"Todd, you're being pig-headed again are ya?"  She said, then clasped her hands in prayer, "I'd hoped you would see the light in getting back to Llanview and Ray Martino."

"I can't go, Sister.  I have to hear the rest of the truth unfold about Zeus.  A day or two more won't change things all that much."  Todd said.

"Ah, yes, but will the days turn into weeks, my boy?"

"I hope not," he said.

Blair said, "We're trusting Addie will get them back to school and we're asking you to stay with Little Ray and us."

"You can trust this old granny to do anything you like.  But can ya trust yourselves to know when enough is enough?"

Todd said, "Ahh, that's a cinch!"

Blair playfully smacked the top of his head.  "Let's hope you listen to yourself, Mister.  You're just feeling good because you slept five hours without interruptions."

"You gave away my secret, Blair."

John said, "We should be able to close up the Zeus thing in a day or two at most.  Then, Todd and Blair can go back home and get back to their lives."

"I'll be all right, all of you.  I'm doing better.  See?"  he stood up, and made a muscle, "I'm in tip top shape."

In reality, he appeared to be thinner, and his face showed signs of extreme strain and exhaustion.  He became suddenly self-conscious and pulled on his t-shirt.  Sitting back down, he said, "John, can I get you a drink?"

John said, "No, I really should be going.  I just wanted to check on you guys.  Blair said you had a rough night."

"It was.  But I think it was a rough night after ten or fifteen rough nights.  That made it rougher.  Last night was only the dead baby dream.  Not quite as bad as the others."

John looked to Blair, and the nun, who all gave each other knowing glances.  John replied sarcastically, "Well, only that, then, you should be just great."

Todd said, "Nah, it's not great, not at all.  But nightmares are better than being dead.  Look, I know all of you are worried about me.  But I'm going to make it.  I'll see Ray as soon as we get home.  A little lack of sleep is not going to do me in.  Look what I've been through, and I'm still here to tell about it."

The nun said, "Just take care of yourself and don't push too hard.  Nap, if ya can, or rest.  When ya feel tired, try and sleep. And get this medication in ya, it's going to take a while to kick in, Lad."

"I gotcha.  Thanks, Sister."

John made his way to the door, and Sister Rebecca Katherine followed him with her eyes, saying, "If I were only twenty years younger."

Todd and Blair looked at each other and then back to the nun.  Rolling his eyes, Todd said, "Sister, thank you for helping."

She said, "Jack is going to want to stay.  You're set on him returning?"

"Yes, he has to go.  His junior year is starting."  Blair said.

"It's settled then, let me go roust the youngsters, and they'll be off and running tomorrow."

Blair said, "It won't be long.  Todd says we'll be home soon, and I need to be with him.  My place is beside him, he needs me right now."

Uncharacteristically, Todd was not arguing or putting up a fight about this.  He knew his sanity would be more fleeting without her.

Sister Rebecca Katherine hugged them both and then went on her way to get the boys ready.  They would depart later that day, in the private jet, pick up Viki and head for home.  Todd left instructions for the jet to fly back afterward and wait for them.

Blair said, "Todd, are you sure?"

"I'm sure.  Let's not talk about it anymore, okay?  A few more days, and we'll be home to Unforgettable."

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The Devil You Know: Chapter 4

Todd opened the door and called to his family, “I’m home!”  When no one came, he grumbled his way through the foyer.  Reaching the library, he saw Blair and Sam working on something together.  “Hey, buddy, what’s are you doing there with your mom?”

“It’s a project for school,” he said as he gave Todd a hug.

Todd returned it, smiling at Blair as his did.  When Sam went back to his work, Todd asked her, “Where are Jack and Starr?”

“Jack’s got homework he should be doing and Starr’ll be here soon for dinner, which I need to go check on,” she said as she walked into the kitchen. 

Todd sat at the desk, going over papers when his phone rang.  Seeing Spinelli’s number, he let out a deep sigh.  The kid was a good PI, but Todd still couldn’t get use to his way of speaking.  Todd decided to stop the caller before he started.  “In English, tell me what you found…Okay, what about…well, keep looking.  It’s more important to me to find her than him, but thanks for the information you do have.  Call me when you have anything.”  With that, Todd abruptly ended the call as Jack came down the stairs. 

“Hey, Dad, can I go to the movies with Molly tonight?” his son asked.

“Actually, we need to have a family talk at dinner.  If you can sit through it, you and your girlfriend can go tomorrow night on me,” Todd offered.

Jack raised his eyebrows.  “Sounds fine.  Thanks.”  As he sat on the couch, the question was asked, “What do we need to discuss?”

“When we sit down, I’ll tell you,” Todd said, smiling at his own son’s impatience.  It was definitely a trait Jack had picked up from him.

Eventually, Starr arrived and they sat down at the table.  As they were eating, Jack looked over at Todd.  “We’re all here now.  What is it you wanted to talk about?”

As Todd took a drink from his glass, he began with, “First, I talked to Lansing, who said Alexis agreed to let Molly come to the wedding if she wants to, so you can ask her when you see her next.  Now, I know Michael is coming and I thinks Sarah was going to ask her boyfriend, Dillon.  They’ll all come with us, but the original Port Charles residents will have to find there way back home after the wedding without us.”

Starr’s eyes narrowed.  “Why, we’re not coming back here?”

“No, well, not right away.”  Todd looked at Blair than at each of their children.  “When I was still in the hospital, I told you that if you had any questions about me, my past, my childhood, I would answer them.  In conjunction with that, I also want to take you all to where I grew up, Chicago.  I haven’t been there since you were little, Starr and I think it’s time I go back.”

“And we’d go after the wedding?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, that was the thought.  I know November in Chicago isn’t the ideal time of year, but I figured we could all have a little fun while we were there,” Todd said.  “I also went looking for some people and, well, I found one of them:  Bitsy’s last husband, Harry Redding.  We’ll go and drop in on him when we’re there.”

They continued to talk some more before clearing the dishes.  When the kids had retreated to their separate corners of the property, Blair found Todd at the desk in the study.  She wrapped her arms around him.  “I know this is hard for you, facing your past like this.’

Todd turned in his chair and held her face in his hand.  “It’s something we should have done a long time ago.  The last time I was even there was before I found half of Llanview in Cleveland,” Todd said.

Blair smiled at the memory, remembering seeing Todd after more than a year.  He had just whacked Max with the lid of a garbage pail and she was worried about her then husband.  Then, seeing Todd, she was more worried her ex-husband would try and take back their daughter. 

That was the start of their last reunion that had led through three marriage attempts, one successful ceremony, the birth and presumed (on her part) death of their son and eventually ended with his disappearance  for eight years.  She thought about that time he had been away from Llanview, leaving his family because of yet another stupid stunt.  “You went to Chicago way back then?” she asked finally.

“Yeah, but didn’t stay long.  I went to Bitsy’s grave, wanted to show her what her son had become,” Todd said.  “I hope she would have been proud of me.”

“From anything you’ve ever told me about her, I think she would have been,” Blair replied before leaning in for a kiss.  It was long and deep and would have been taken farther, had the doorbell not rung.

“Reg, who’ve it is, tell them to leave,” Todd bellowed.

The butler walked over to the entrance to the library.  “You remember my policy when your sister shows up,” he grimaced as Tina rushed past him.  When Reginald had first met Tina, he had told Todd that no amount of money he could be paid was enough to make him deal with Tina Lord Roberts.  Anytime she showed up, the Manning butler opened the door for her, and hurried off to another wing of the house.

Tina eyed Reginald as he scurried away then turned her attention to Todd and Blair.  After Todd’s shooting, she had made a promise to Cord and herself that she would be nice to Blair.  She had seen how worried the other woman had been through the whole ordeal and finally realized how much the former gold-digger really loved her baby brother.  Because of that, she held her tongue whenever she was in the other woman’s presence.

“Tina, you’d better have a good reason for interrupting Todd and I,” Blair remarked snidely.

Tina chose to ignore the blonde.  Instead, she focused on Todd.  “I spoke to Viki this morning after the conference call,” Tina informed him.  “I wanted to go over some plans for the wedding.”

Todd rolled his eyes at Tina.  “Did Viki put you in charge of the wedding? Hmm?” he asked snarkily. 

Blair knew how this conversation was  going to go and decided the best thing was to step out of the way.  “I need to go make sure Jack and Sam are finishing up their homework.  I’ll leave you two to talk.”

Todd watched her go and turned his annoyed eye back to his sister.  “Andrew told us today that you were already nosing around in this whole thing and I’m sure Viki has asked you not to, right?”

“As a matter of fact, I am not doing any planning for the wedding,” Tina stated firmly.

“Then what the hell do we need to talk about?”

Tina took a deep breath.  Sometimes, it was the only way to deal with her brother.  “I’m planning the rest of the weekend.”  When Todd eyeballed her again, she explained, “Look, Viki is having a whole big Thanksgiving dinner for the whole family on Thursday.  On Friday, they’ll be having the rehearsal.  That night is what I’m planning, and I need your help.”

Todd was almost afraid to ask what she needed his help with, but he did so.  The plan she laid out was ridiculous and he told her so, but she would not be swayed.  At last, to get her out of his house, he agreed to help her, but she would have to get the third party’s help in the scheme. 

When she finally left, Blair came back downstairs.  “So, what did Tina want?”

“Unfortunately, I can’t tell you, because she wants it to be a surprise,” Todd said, but he leered at her as he added, “There may be a way to get the information out of me.”

“Really, what way would that be?” she asked him, suggestively.  Then she began to back out of the library.  Todd got up and followed her as they made their way to the bedroom. 

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Port Charles Chronicles: Chapter 22

        Blair watched him drift off to sleep, satisfied if she was staying.  She prayed it was just a twenty-four-hour flu bug, he had been through enough lately.  She slipped the towel off that had been covering her, pulled out her lounge set and got comfortable.  It was likely to be a long night.

        Her stomach growled and she realized she hadn’t eaten, so she called room service and had some fruit and soup sent up.  While waiting for the food, she headed for the bathroom to clean up.  She gathered up Todd’s clothes and then noticed a card had dropped to the floor.  Picking it up she read Dr. Kevin Collins: Psychiatrist.  It didn’t seem possible.  Todd didn’t like doctors, especially “shrinks” as he called them.  Why would he have such a card?  She turned the card over and got another surprise.  Todd had an actual appointment with the man.  This really was a first.  Todd had supposedly tried therapy with Rae Cummings many years before, but he considered her a joke and had never taken her seriously.

        Blair walked out of the bathroom and looked over at Todd.  “Is that where you were this morning?  You told me it was something you had to do for Hallie.”  She put the slacks down and walked back to the bed.  “I know you called me from the docks today. Why does that place draw you?  The other day I had a feeling you were thinking of jumping in.  That isn’t what you were thinking, was it?  You wouldn’t do that, would you?“  She sat down beside him and tenderly moved some hair off his brow.  Her eyes were drawn to the ear with the bandage on it. “You’re scaring me.  This thing with Irene is getting to you, I know it is, and now someone’s trying to kill you.  Why?”  She didn’t expect an answer to her musings, Todd was oblivious to her.  He had started sweating profusely and was beginning to get restless.  Blair was startled by the knock on the suite door and then she remembered room service.  She grabbed the towel she had used to dry him off and took a corner of it to wipe some of the sweat off him, then got up and went to the door to get her food.

        Throughout the night, Blair kept watch over Todd, keeping cool cloths on his head when his fever threatened to get out of control again.  She finally laid down beside him and dozed off when he seemed quiet.  She felt his movement beside her and awoke, he seemed to be dreaming.  Getting up, she looked at the clock, it was morning but early.

        Todd was running, desperately trying to stay ahead of the flames.  Whoever was after him had made a mistake when they lit the fire.  The whole forest was going up.  What was Bo thinking?  He wasn’t  going back to that prison.  He hadn’t done anything.  Why were they chasing him? He stumbled and fell, a thorn bush snagging his ear.  He pulled free noting the blood dripping down his neck.  He couldn’t stop, the flames were getting closer.  He could feel the heat, it was all around him.  In the distant he heard shouting.  “You don’t have to die Manning.  Just tell us where it is and we’ll get you out of there.”  Damn it why couldn’t they get it through their heads he had no idea what “it” was.  He couldn’t trust them.  They had lied to him before.

        “Don’t listen to them.  Come to me.  I can make it all go away.”   Amidst all the flames, he suddenly felt chilled.  That voice scared him more than the other.  He stopped running.  That voice had sounded close.  God, what was he to do.  Behind him were the flames and  “she”  was ahead of him.  The flames engulfed him and he was on fire, he needed to find water and fast.  Stumbling and beating at the flames, he burst into a clearing and found himself standing at the edge of a calm lake.  All he had to do was dive in.  He hesitated and the pain from the fire seared through him.  He plunged in and the flames were extinguished, but suddenly he felt a cold hand grip his ankle and start drawing him down into the water.  “You mustn’t fight it.  It’s safe down here.”  Todd found himself giving in to the sense of peace that was settling over him.  She was right.  It was safe. There was no more pain.  He stopped trying to hold his breath, there was no need to breathe anymore.  Then a soft hand grabbed his and started pulling him back toward the surface.   A face appeared before him.  She smiled, beckoning him to follow her.  He kicked free of the  cold dead hand pulling him down.  The woman in front of him promised him warmth and life.  Now he was struggling for breath, would he make it back to the surface in time.  The face swam toward him.  She kissed him and her breath flowed into him.  It was enough, he burst out of the water gasping.

        It was close to six when Blair walked the tray out of the room and put it outside the door.  She didn’t want to be gone too long. Todd was getting restless and she feared his temperature might be going up again.  She walked back into the room and heard an almost inaudible gasp. She looked at Todd and he appeared to be struggling for breath.  She ran to him to help when he just stopped breathing. “Oh my God, Todd!”

         She sat on the bed shaking his shoulders.  “Wake up, breathe, damn it!” There was no response, he was limp and turning blue. She felt for a pulse.  There was a faint one but it seemed to be fading. “You’re not going to do this to me.  Do you hear me?” She was crying as she felt his face.  He had gone from burning up to feeling clammy and cold. She removed his pillows and laid him flat. Okay, Blair, you know what to do, this is why you took those stupid classes. She knelt beside him on the bed and began.  She put pressure on his chest then began breathing for him. She worked over him, getting more frantic when he showed no sign of reviving. “Come on. It’s me, Blair.” She whispered into his ear after once again breathing for him.  Then she felt his breath expel, warm against her cheek.  He was breathing on his own.  She sat down next to him, her hand on his chest, feeling it rise and fall.  Her heart was going a mile a minute and tears made tracks down her cheeks.

          Todd opened his eyes to find Blair above him.  She was crying and she began kissing him.  It was fierce and delicious and he returned it gladly.

          Blair was so glad to see his hazel eyes looking up at her. She planted her lips on his, determined to taste them forever. “You’ve got to stop doing this,” She said softly.  She had had all the sorrow she could stand. She couldn’t stop her tears and they were flowing freely. Her lips wandered away from his and kissed the familiar scar and then she found his ear which she caught and bit lightly before trailing her lips back to his.

           He wasn’t sure what had happened, Blair was crying and driving him crazy with her lips.  “Babe.” He tried to get her attention but his voice was barely a whisper and his chest hurt. “Stop doing what?”

          Blair pulled away a little bit and looked down at him.  “Dying on me.  How much do you think a girl can take?”

         He looked at her puzzled. “Dying?”

         “You stopped breathing.  I’ve been doing it for you these last few minutes,” she smoothed his hair back off his forehead again.  He had tossed and turned so much it was slightly blocking his beautiful eyes.

         Todd rubbed his chest, “Is that why I’m so sore?”

         Blair leaned over and kissed where he had rubbed. “I’m sorry, I had to do CPR.”

         “You know CPR, since when?”  He found it hard to believe.

         “It was after you disappeared.  Starr went into the river while rollerblading and she almost drowned.  I told myself I wasn’t going to be helpless like that again and took the training.  You should be glad I did.  You’re still here.”

         Todd frowned,  “What were you thinking, letting Starr go rollerblading down by the river?”

         “She was supposed to be skating with River, but he changed his mind and she went off on her own.  She was stubborn, like someone else I know.  Believe me, she learned a lesson that day.” Blair met Todd’s eyes and laid her hand back down on his chest.  “I was terrified when I realized you had stopped breathing.”

           He covered her hand with his. “Hey, let it go.  Like you said.  I’m here.”  He rubbed her thumb absently.  “You’ve been saving me a lot.  I didn’t want to scare you yesterday, but someone...”

          “Tried to kill you.  I already know.  Todd, what do you remember about last night?”

          “I remember getting mad at Johnny Zacchara in the lounge, then sitting down to have a few drinks while you were swimming.  I was getting up the nerve to tell you about the shooting.”

          “You don’t remember seeing me in the lounge, getting upset with me and leaving?”

          Todd laid there trying to recall, and he had some vague image of Blair standing there telling him something important.  The only thing important to him was if she was going to stay and live in Port Charles.  That was it.  They had been talking about that.  Dread filled him. “You told me you couldn’t give me an answer.  That’s why I was upset.”  It was all coming back to him.  He had surprised her with his sudden decision to relocate and caught her unawares.  After his session with Dr. Collins, and the happenings at the dock, all he could think of was making sure Blair stayed in town.  In his need to keep her there, had he inadvertently pushed her away. “I was  drunk last night and I guess, sick on top of that.  A lot happened yesterday and it scared me.  I can’t go home and I can’t survive without you.  I need you to breathe, literally I guess.   When you’re not around, something takes over and I’m finding myself drawn to it.”  Todd stopped talking, as the image of a cool calm lake beckoned to him.  He shuddered as a chill came over him. The sudden warmth of Blair’s hand on his face pulled him back.

           She had been letting him talk, breathing a sigh of relief when he had  begun remembering events of the previous night. Then he lost focus and shivered, she reached for his face to make him see her. “Last night I told you I needed to think.   I followed you, thinking you had returned here but you were nowhere to be found.  You were gone for several hours and I became worried you had done something stupid.  When John showed up here and told me about the shooting and where it took place, I became more frantic.” She paused and put both hands on his face, making sure she had his full attention.  “I don’t know what happened yesterday morning before the shooting, but I’m scared too.  I’ve seen the effect Irene has on you.  I’m not going to let her win.  Do you hear me?  If you want to live here, then we’ll all live here.”  She kissed him, her lips touching his gently, to let him know she meant what she had just said.

           Todd felt her lips and knew she was telling him the truth.  His hand reached and traced her lips after she lifted up to catch a breath. “I never ever wanted to scare you.   From the moment we met, you stood up for me and never let my past affect our relationship.  Now, my past is tearing me apart and you’re the only one holding me together.  I know my decision to stay here was sudden.  It wasn’t right for me to put the pressure on you that way.  Shit, it hasn’t even been an entire week since you showed up here, and came back into my life.  I guess I’m grasping at straws here, but I keep expecting to wake up and find I’m all alone.”

          Blair kissed his fingertips and hugged him, “I don’t know any other way to make you understand that I’m not going anywhere, but this.”  She got off the bed and knelt down beside it looking directly into his eyes.  “Todd Manning, will you marry me?”

         “Okay, now I know I’m dreaming.  I knew all this was too good to be true.”  He looked away from her and put his forearm over his eyes.  He wasn’t sure if he wanted this dream to continue.  All his wishful thinking was getting the best of him.

         “Todddd, you’re not dreaming.”  She reached up to feel his forehead, afraid the fever might be making him deny things but he was still fairly cool.  She pulled down on his arm. “I’m real and this is real.  All you need to do is answer me.  What do you say, Todd?”

          Todd had only one answer. “Yes.”

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Friday, September 28, 2012

The End of Blame: Chapter 21

The morning was a dull, lifeless one.  She stirred at the buzzing of her cell phone against the side table.  She felt more tired than she had remembered being the night before.  Todd was sleeping, finally, somehow looking so peaceful, that no one could have imagined what he had endured just hours before.  His face, sans the dark bagged circles under his eyes, was a picture of serenity.  His hand was still over her stomach, and his fingers lightly wrapped around her waist.  She answered the cell phone in a low voice, as not to wake him.  "Hello.  No, John, not now.  It has to be a few hours more.  Bad nightmare,  He's sleeping now.  Okay, I'll call you."  She hung up, turned to look at her husband's resting face, and burst into tears.  She cried, alone, next to him, watching him slumber, uninterrupted.

She took the cell phone back into her hand, and pulling herself together, she called Ray Martino.  Leaving a message, she asked for him to prescribe something for Todd to help him sleep, and hopefully arrest the dreams.  After hanging up, she realized it was well after midnight in the states and she hoped she hadn't disturbed him.

It was noon before she opened her eyes again, and Todd was still sleeping next to her, his hand still over her body.  She was grateful that he was sleeping, and still did not want to wake him.  She was afraid that moving would stir him, and she desperately wanted him to get as much sleep as he could, uninterrupted.  She had read everything there was to read on PTSD and nightmare disorders, and realized that his condition was becoming chronic and disabling.  Soon, he would be so exhausted he would not be able to function in the day.  She knew if he did not receive help soon, it could even damage his health.   

She hoped that she'd hear from Ray, and be able to give Todd some relief from his torment.   She looked back to him, and gently touched his hair.  He was, still, the most beautiful man she had ever seen.  She loved him with so much of her, there was nothing left outside that love.  She continued to let him sleep, and let her mind drift to their lovemaking from the night before, how beautiful he was when he longed for her, and how good it felt to be with him.

John went to the home of Agathangelos without Todd, figuring it was best to leave well enough alone.  When Blair did not call him back, he took that to mean they had a very rough night.  She sounded worn, defeated.  He was concerned, and when finished, he would head over to the hotel and visit them, see if there was anything he could do to help.  He also had put in another call to Ray Martino, who had been out of town in Aruba and was hopefully returning.  If Manning had a breakdown, it would be another emotional setback for the family and for the man.  He hoped that somehow, he, Blair and Ray could ward that off a bit longer before all hell broke loose.

He knocked and a woman, in her mid sixties, came to the door.  She was well-kept and had a sparkle in her eye.  "May I help you?"

John flashed his badge, and said, "United States police, Detective John McBain.  Just a few questions."

"Certainly, officer, please come in."

Her home was neatly kept, clean and well decorated.  She offered him tea, he refused.  Sitting on a couch across from her easy chair, he said, "Very nice place you have.  Beautifully kept."

"Thank you.  What can I do for you?"

"I wondered if you could take a look at these pictures, and tell me what you make of them."

She took them from him, and immediately, her face changed.  Her hand went to her mouth, and her eyes were wet with tears.  She simply said, "Zeus."

John said, "Yes."

She said, "I raised him as if my own.  I was his caretaker.  He was raised at the The Sanctuary of the Children in Pollonia.  I am sure you know that.  He was brought to us in the early 70s.  Such a cute baby,"  she composed herself.  "I named him."

"You must care about him very much."

"I love him.  He was like a son to me.  Most of the babies get adopted or leave, for various reasons.  Zeus was there until his 18th birthday."  She got up, "I have baby pictures and other things from his youth.  I've kept them."

She brought out a small folder, and John looked through the items.  Some young pictures of Zeus reminded him a great deal of Little Sam.  He said, "Very nice."  He could not bring himself to tell her, at this time, that Zeus no longer looked like himself.

She said, "Is he in trouble?"

John was not of the mind to tell her anything about Zeus.  That would be for the man himself to do, if he chose.  But why didn't Zeus remember her, or mention her?

"Nothing like that.  Just trying to help him out, bring together some pieces of things for him."  John answered.

"I see.  I hope he's well.  Is he married?  Does he have children?"

"Yes, he's married.  He does have children."

She cried, and then smiled, "I am so glad.  He loved children when he was here.  He used to help often with the younger ones."

John swallowed.  "I am sure he did.  I have a request.  Can you think back to who brought him to you?"

Her face darkened.  "I will never forget that man."

"What can you tell me about him?"

"He wasn't much of a figure, physically.  He was quite small, with a mean glare.  He didn't want to say much.  He gave the owner a large sum of money, and left the child, nameless.  He would not even tell us his name or the name of the child's mother."

"Was this the man?"  John said, extending to her the picture of Carlo Hesser.

She barely looked, "That's him."

"Can you tell me anything else?"

"Not that I can remember, if you're asking about that man.  About Zeus, I am certain I could fill a book.  He was a wonderful boy, Mr. McBain."

"I am sure."  He stood, "I thank you for your time.  I am sure you'll be hearing from me again, soon."

"I hope so, and if you see Zeus, please, send him my love.  Tell him Agathangelos loves him.  I said that before he went to sleep every night.  It was our job, Detective, to make sure the children felt loved."

"I am sure they were fortunate to have you," he said.  Leaving, John thought, "Zeus might have his family after all."

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

The End of Blame: Chapter 20 (some adult)

Blair was sitting in the waiting area at the airport and got the taste for a latte.  She took her things and went to seek out a coffee shop, and finding one, she sat down with a book and a cup.  "They'll be here soon," she thought.  Finishing a chapter, she decided to relish the bustle around her and the ability to become no one in the crowds and sip her latte and people watch.  A man carting a large briefcase.  A woman with two children on 'leashes.'  A couple, so entranced in each other they could barely walk.  An elderly woman dropping her cane, and stopping to use her foot to pick it up.  For a moment, she thought she spotted someone familiar, by the restroom door.  "Orinia?"  she said to herself.  "Can it be?"

She planned to follow Orinia, and then also realized she shouldn't risk losing her if it was her, so she dumped her latte and headed to the ladies' room.  She made no sound when entering.  She could see three pair of feet under the stall doors.  As she waited, she texted Todd quickly what her suspicions were.  She waited quietly.  A young woman opened the door, but it was not her.  Finally, after a few minutes, another stall opened, and Blair was face to face another young Greek woman who looked similar but was not Orinia at all.  "I must have been imagining things," she said to herself, and texted Todd,

False alarm.

After a few minutes, she made her way back to the courtyard area, to purchase another latte, when she got a text from Todd.  

Some kind of false.  She's missing.

With that, Blair became slightly alarmed.  "Maybe I did see her."  She decided to forget the latte, move toward the private jet hangar and wait there.  Sure enough, as she entered that waiting area, she saw someone slumped in one of the plastic connected chairs, and a hat pulled down over her face.  She texted Todd again. 

Have her right now.  The private gate.

She approached the young woman quietly and pulled off her hat.  "Orinia!"

The girl just looked up at her, and smiled.  "Yes, Mrs. Mahnning.  I was able to get away.  I am going to America, on your jet with you."

Blair thought quickly.  "You are?  You mean you finally got away?"

"Yes.  It was difficult under grandfather's watchful eye, but I managed,  Today, after breakfast.  No one was the wiser."

"That's quite an accomplishment.  Where are you off to?"

"The states.  I am going to stow away on your jet.  This way, I can get to the states and start my search for my son."

Blair sat beside her.  Wishing she could text to Todd again, she held off.  "You know, Mr. Manning and I have lost two children."

"Yes, I know.  I am so sorry for that.  Jahck told me."

'When Sommer died, she died inside me.  I felt her die.  She was shot."

The girl's face twisted with emotion.  "That is horrible.  I am sorry."

"I knew she was dying.  It was the worst feeling I've ever had.  And you'll never guess what I did?"

"What?"  The girl was wide-eyed, listening.

"I was certain she was alive.  I blamed Todd for stealing her from me, and from letting people cut her out of me and take her away.  I blamed him, and it was cruel, because he was so sad losing her, too."

The girl's fingers began to pick at the bag she was carrying, unraveling some of the wicker edging.  "You thought she had been taken, and that she was still alive?"

"Yes.  I was sure of it.  I screamed, I carried on.  I blamed Todd, I said terrible things to him.  He was suffering so much.  And there I was, putting the blame onto him.  It's strange how the mind plays tricks on us."

"He forgave you."

"He did, I am lucky.  But Sommer was dead, I just wanted her to be alive so much, that I made it that way," she touched the girl's temple, "in my head.  In here."  Orinia became very quiet.  Blair continued, "No matter what anyone said, I wouldn't listen.  I kept believing that she was alive, until a very close friend of mine told me that I had to let go.  Sommer was dead.  No one was lying to me, no one took her, and Todd would never hurt me, because he loves me.  Like your grandfather.  He wouldn't hurt you.  He loves you."

The girl was silent, her arms folded over her chest, and tears were streaming down both sides of her face.  Blair said, "You know your baby is not alive, don't you?  He died.  Just like my daughter, Sommer.  He's dead.  You saw him buried.  You made them open his casket.  He's not alive.  No one lied to you, except yourself."

"No, you're wrong." Orinia said.

"No, I'm not wrong.  You saw that little baby, dead.  Did he have a name?"

She wiped her tears, frustrated, "Yes.  His name was Adrian.  He was the most important thing to me.  He was all I had."

"I understand.  I had other children, but Sommer was the most important thing to me then.  You know somewhere in here," she pointed to Orinia's heart, "that Adrian's gone.  Up here," she pointed to her head, "wants to convince you he's alive.  So you don't have to face the pain of losing him and the emptiness of his death.  But your heart knows.  If you'll only listen.  Can you listen to your heart?"

Orinia did not answer.  Blair went on again, "You know, it's sad we cannot have other children."  The girl turned her head and looked at her.  "But, did you know that Sam was adopted?  He's not my birth son, or Todd's.  He's ours though, in so many ways.  We love him dearly.  He's as important to us as our biological children are.  And you have first hand knowledge of what those adoptions can do for babies.  Look at all of those in the orphanage without parents to care for them.  There are babies everywhere, waiting for someone to love them.  What about the baby's father?  How does he feel about all of this?"

"He's not involved.  He was an older boy, he didn't care for me, and I didn't either, for him.  I just wanted Adrian."  Blair was stuck on the words the girl just said to her, but continued to try and deal with the present as the young woman said, "I will not give up.  Adrian is out there.  I heard him cry,"  she began rocking.

"No, you didn't.  I heard Sommer cry, as well, or thought I did.  It wasn't real.  I almost lost my husband, the man who loves me most of all, because I was too sick and sad to face this.  It took a while, but we faced it together.  You have your grandfather to help you piece things back together."

"No, no.  He's not dead, he's not,"  she rocked more quickly.  "You're a liar, you're just like him."  She began to shake, all over.  Her tremors were visible to the eye.  "Everyone wants to lie to me.  Why does everyone lie to me?  I'm going on that plane with you.  I'm going to the US.  I am going to find him, and no one can stop me!!"  Blair let silence fall between them for a moment.

"You know, you're right.  You can go to the US.  If you don't go with us, you can find another way.  But you'll find out when you get to the states that there's no Adrian there, either.  You can search for him high and low and you'll never find him.  He's in the ground, behind your grandfather's orphanage.  And he's in your heart, where he will always be."

She looked at Blair and made eye contact at last.  "No.  No, Mrs. Mahnning.  I want my baby.  I want Adrian."

"I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry," Blair said and went to hold her, when she pushed Blair away with great force, and began screaming and yelling.  She ran from Blair, as if to leave the terminal, and raced directly into John, Todd and the doctor they had brought from the orphanage.  John grabbed her arms to steady her, and the doctor injected her with a sedative.

Todd went to Blair, immediately, and put his arms around her.  "Are you okay, Babe?"

"Yes, I'm okay.  Todd, she's so sick.  She's so..."

"Shh, I know.  It's all right.  She'll get help, now."  He rubbed her shoulders.  "You did great."

"How come I don't feel so great?" she said, sniffling.

"Come on.  You kept her here long enough.  Good thing the airport is pretty close to Pollonia."

She looked to her hands.  "Todd, it's a mess.  She was pregnant because she just had nothing.  In her mind, she had no one."

"It's all right, Blair."

"My God..."

Just then, the gate opened and out ambled Sister Rebecca Katherine, Jack, Sam and Ray (in his carrier).  The nun said, "You can't!"

Jack said, "Oh yes I can."

"Can't" she said.


"Oh quit while you're ahead, Lad.  There's your mother and father!"

The kids ran to Todd and Blair, and Orinia, having passed out from the injection had just been carried off to an ambulance waiting outside the airport.  Over Jack's shoulder during an embrace, Todd watched her go, and hoped she would get the help she needed.

Tracing where his eyes went, Blair touched his cheek.  She said, "I know."

Sam said, "Mom, guess what?  Jack challenged Sister Rebecca Katherine to an eating contest.  Hot dogs."

"My goodness, what in the world would make him do that?"  Blair asked.

"I was just telling the lad how many hot dogs I can eat when I am good and hungry, and he insists he can eat more than I can.  Rubbish!"  the nun bellowed.

"Can, too!"

"Can't, you whippersnapper."

Todd said, "Okay, hold this down to a roar, will you all?  Let's go to the hotel, and get hotdogs for dinner and see."

"Put your money where your mouth is, Garmhac!"  Sister Rebecca Katherine said, saluting. 

"What the heck is that?"  Jack said.

"Grandson, what else?"  she answered.

Jack rolled his eyes, and took Ray's carrier from her.  The family proceeded to the limo that Todd had waiting to transport them to Melian.

In the car, Todd filled Blair in on the things that Thaddeus was able to reveal to them.  There was a baby, with no known parents on record, delivered to the orphanage near the date of Zeus's birth.  Thaddeus and his family were not the owners at that time, but the closest thing he could recommend was a woman who worked there for over 40 years, who was recently retired and still lived in the area.  Thaddeus was able to tell them that she was there, at the time of the drop off of this "American baby boy," and gave John and Todd her whereabouts.  The plan was to go and see her the next day and try and piece together something about Zeus.  John would have his team send a photo of Zeus Zelenko, from the 90s, and try and de-age it, to show how a child may have appeared.  Since he was at the orphanage until he was eighteen, John suspected that the most recent photo of him with his original face could give someone an idea of his appearance.  Of course, his appearance today was nothing like his natural one, which posed a strange situation.  They planned to return to Pollonia anyway, and seek out Agathangelos Metaxas and see what information she could provide.

John held the cell phone to his head while lying on the bed in his hotel room, at last.  He said, "I miss you.  I miss Liam.  I have to stay, though, just a while longer."

He listened to her voice, imagined her beautiful, red long hair, and her smile.  He said, "Manning's losing it, I want to be here for Blair. . .All right, and him, I guess.  There's also this case, might tie something in to Zeus' story.  We're investigating that."  He closed his eyes.  "I wish I was telling you I'm coming home . . . it's just not the right time for that. . .I'll talk to you tomorrow. . . Kiss Liam for me . . . I love you."  He hung up, and put his cell phone back onto the nightstand.  He pulled out some paperwork and began to read, when he realized his eyes were getting heavy.  He closed them, but he could only think of one thing:  Manning and his moment remembering the abuse of his mother.

No matter what John tried to do to get the image out of his head, he couldn't.  Could something like that damage the psyche of someone so much that they might not intend the harm they do?  Manning was a puzzle that he could not solve, and this frustrated him.  Being the detective he was, he was able to piece things together easily and had had a great deal of practice.  But Manning was truly a mystery, and one he could not easily grasp.  Once more, he reminded himself of Manning's past crimes, and once more he reminded himself that he liked the guy.  Maybe learning all he had about him, first hand was a way to end the blame?  He wasn't positive he could ever get past the criminal offenses, but he was certain of one thing; the guy had paid.  He would make it his business that no one in Llanview continued to make him pay for the crimes he had paid in full for.  That was the least he could do.

Blair rested on Todd's chest in the hot tub atop the hotel roof.  His breathing was just coming down from their lovemaking, and his heart was still racing a bit as she listened to it, encased in his beautiful flesh and skin.  She ran her hand over his stomach and around him.  He looked down at her, just opening his eyes.  "Hey."

"Hey," she said.  "You haven't lost your touch."

He laughed, "Why, were you expecting I would?"

"No.  You're still King of the Hot Tub Sex."

"As long as I'm King of something that has to do with you, I'm fine."

"Turn up the jets, and make it a little hotter."

He did as she asked, since his long arms could easily reach the controls.  She changed her position and straddled him again, and looked into his face.  "Let's buy a company.  I feel like getting mean,"  she said, matter-of-factly.

"Buy a company?"

"Yeah, like the old days, you and me against the world, remember?"

His voice went soft.  "How can I forget?  The best time of my life.  Still."

"That's why we need to do it again, you know, get back those great times.  Get ourselves into something challenging."

"Like raising these kids isn't challenge enough."  He smiled, "But if that's what you want.  Got a company in mind?"

"I've heard of a few.  That Crimson, in New York, that one sounds like a good one.  Not too far from Llanview either."

"I'll look into it.  You're something, Mrs. Manning."

"And you are too, Mr. Manning,"  she kissed him.  He ran his hands over her back and she said, "Round two?"

"Whatever you want, Babe," and he swung her around in the water, which made her throw her head back and laugh.  He said, "On top of the world."

She said, "Quite literally, up here."

"You're my world, anyway."

"And you're mine."  She moved her legs around him until they wrapped his waist.  She crossed them behind him, and pulled herself closer.  She was slightly above him, and she looked down into his hazel eyes and said, "All mine.  I wouldn't have it any other way."

With one shift and a little lift of her in his arms, he slid into her again, and closed his eyes as she moved slowly up and down.  He said, softly, "I know I keep telling you to leave me, but don't."

"I'm not," she said, picking up speed.   He helped her along by lifting her up and down as she did her own movements using his shoulders as leverage.  "I won't."  Without warning, she pushed herself faster and faster onto him, until she heard him cry out in pleasure and shake, pulling her closer and kissing her breasts.

She kissed the top of his head and forehead, and as he lowered her off him, she stood on her feet in the center of the tub, looking up to him.  She said, "I want to make you happy."

"Too late."

"I mean really happy.  I want to make you forget everything."

"You do, even if it's just for a while."

"No.  That's not good enough.  You have to get to the point where all of this pain and horror is behind you.  And I'm just the one to do it.  I know what the secret weapon is."

He laughed slightly, and then said, "Okay."  Inside, he was not convinced that even she could do such a momentous thing.  "What's the secret weapon?  Sex in a hot tub?"

"No, silly.  That's a strategy.  The weapon is standing right here.  It's you.  You're the key to all this terror and sickness being gone.  You."

"So you've said, before."

"I have.  And until you believe me, it won't go away.  So it's my job to convince you.  Don't you see?  You deserve love, Todd."

"You've been saying that since Starr was a baby.  Maybe before."

"You deserve love, and you deserve forgiveness from yourself," he began to say something and she stopped him, putting her fingers to his mouth, "You stand in your own way.  Always have.  Now don't say anything, just love me, and love us."  She kissed him again.

"Not sure I can do round three."

She playfully slapped his arm, "Let's get out and sit by the water and watch the moon."

"Yeah," he said, "Let's."

She said, "Let's get something to drink, you know, take the edge off."

"There's an edge?"

"You know what I mean."

For the rest of the evening, they sat, together on one lounge chair, looking at the ocean and the moon, drifting in and out of waking, making love and holding each other, until they fell into the dark of sleep.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Devil You Know: Chapter 3

Blair sat at the restaurant waiting for Cassie and Andrew when Carly caught her attention.  She waved at her friend and watched  her come over.

“Meeting someone for lunch?” Carly asked.

“Yes, my cousin and her ex-husband are stopping in town to visit before they go to New York to see their son, then they’ll be heading to Llanview to visit some more.  Andrew’s also going to be officiating the wedding of Todd’s sister,” Blair explained.

“I can tell you’re close to her,” Carly stated, a bit of envy creeping into her voice. 

“Yes, her mother, my Aunt Dorian, made sure we all, Cassie and her sister Adrianna, my cousin Kelly and Dorian’s foster daughter Langston, remained tight-knit, despite lots of conflicts we’ve all had over the years,” Blair told her.  “Todd calls us all the Crazy Cramer Coven, but then again, Todd has no room to speak about crazy families.”  It was then that Blair noticed someone behind her and waved them over.  A dark-haired woman and a man in a priest’s collar embraced her as Blair introduced her friend to the couple.  Carly shook their hands before leaving them.

“Blair, it’s so wonderful to see you!  It’s been so long!” Cassie exclaimed.

“Yes, it has been,” Blair agreed.

“How has everything been lately for you?  Mother told me about the shooting and Victor Lord, Junior‘s return,” her cousin continued.  “How has Todd been?”

“You know me, Cassie, I always bounce back,” Todd’s voice could be heard from behind.  When Cassie turned around, she was met with the man she had known for all these years.  His face had changed little and, by the comment he had just made, she could tell the attitude was still the same as well.

Blair gave him a look and he merely smirked at her.  Then he bent down, giving Cassie a peck on the cheek before shaking Andrew’s hand and taking his seat.  “Todd, you said you’d behave,” she cautioned him.

“What?” he asked, befuddled.  “This is me behaving.”  Todd sat down and they proceeded with lunch.  All manner of topics came up, from Senator Dorian to Starr’s musical career. 

As the meal was winding down, Andrew brought up the Buchanan wedding.  “I spoke to Viki and Clint about it a few days ago.  She had said they want it small, just the family and some friends.  But before we arrived, I got a call from Tina.”

Todd let out a loud groan.  “She’s started already?” he grunted.  When Blair and Cassie gave him a look, he went on to explain.  “The call Viki wanted me in on this morning with Tina, well she asked her to be her matron of honor.”

“Well that is sweet of Viki to asked her sister,” Cassie commented, Blair nodding in agreement.

“Yeah, but I knew the minute she left my office, Tina would take over the whole thing.”  Todd looked at hiss watch.  “That’s fast work, even for her.”

Cassie threw Blair a long suffering look and she and Andrew, noticing the time, excused themselves.  They had be down in New York City for dinner with River that evening and needed to be on the road.  Both said goodbye to the other couple and left.

When they were gone, Todd scooted over to sit next to Blair.  “You didn’t hear the best part of the call from this morning,” he told her as he gave her a goofy grin.

Blair returned the expression to him.  “Okay, mister, what was the best part?”

“Well, Tina’s the matron of honor, right?  Bo-Bo’s going to be the best man, Viki and Clint’s kids will be part of the bridal party, but guess who’s giving away the bride?”

Blair’s expression softened as she realized who he was talking about.  “She asked you, didn’t she?”

His expression changed to one of mild disgust as he said, “Well, me and my evil twin.” 

Blair was the person who knew Todd the best and she could see how touched he was by Viki’s request.  Though she had little memories of Viki’s wedding to Ben years ago as she was beginning to suffer a breakdown, she knew Todd had eventually come around and supported Viki on that day.  And, knowing Todd’s feelings about the Buchanans, she was pleased he would be there for his sister on this special day.  “Its will be wonderful seeing you walking down the aisle, I know that.”

“Dad’s walking Aunt Viki down the aisle?” came the question from Starr.  Blair and Todd turned around to see their daughter standing there with her boyfriend, Michael Corinthos III. 

“Yeah, Shorty, she asked me and Victor to do the, you know, thing…” Todd said, almost sheepishly. 

“Oh, that is so sweet!” she exclaimed, giving him a hug.  When she stepped back, “It’ll give a practice run.”  Then she flashed a mischievous smile.

Todd shot Michael a look and the young man held up his hands immediately.  “No, Mr. Manning, it’s nothing like that!”

Starr let out a sigh as she sat down, Michael walking behind her to avoid Todd.  “I meant, Dad, that if I ever get married, which won’t be for a while, I can promise you that, you’ll know what to do,” she explained at last.

“Better not be for a long time,” Todd muttered under his breath.  Then, looking across the table, he asked the young man, “Will you be joining us for my sister’s wedding or has Starr not asked you yet?”

Michael cleared his throat.  “Well, she did ask, but I just want to check with my mother,” he answered.

“Check with me about what?” Carly asked as she returned to the table.  Michael, Starr, Todd and Blair explained about the wedding weekend that was being laid out in Llanview and that Michael was invited to attend as Starr’s guest.  Carly saw no problem with that.

“Now, all we have to do is ask Molly’s mom or dad if she can come as Jack’s guest,” Starr said. 

Todd looked at his watch.  “I guess I can do that when I talk to Lansing.  I have to a meeting with him in a few minutes.  Better get to it now,” Todd said as he rose from his chair.  He gave Starr a hug and Blair a deep kiss and left the restaurant. 

When Todd arrived back in his office, Maxie got up from her desk.  “Ric Lansing’s in there,”  she said as she chucked her finger at the door.  “And he’s not very happy.”

Todd looked at the door.  Before entering, he said, “Get your boyfriend on the phone for me when Lansing leaves.  I have a job for him.”  Todd went in and said, in a overly-cheerful voice, “Ricky-boy, how are you today?”

“I’m fine, Todd.  What’s got you in a good mood?” Ric asked.

“I’m always in a good mood, Ric.  But today, my sister asked a favor of me, I managed to sit through a lunch with one of the Cramer Coven and not want to kill her and now, I have a job for you I that I know I’ll love, if you can pull it off, but know you’ll love even more.”  He paused for dramatic effect,  “I want to sue someone.”

Ric’s ears did perk up at the sound of that.  With an oily, almost clich├ęd lawyer smile on his face, he asked his client, “Who do you want to sue and why?”

“Well, this is the tricky part,” Todd began.  He lowered his voice as he explained, “When I learned about the trust fund Victor Lord set up for me,  the guy who administered it told me that from the time I turned eighteen, my adoptive father, Peter Manning, was paid $50,000 a quarter.  It was for my upbringing.  But I never saw a dime of it.  So, can I sue his estate for the $1.4 million he stole from me and the trustees?”

Ric got out of his seat and poured a glass of water.  “How long has it been since you came into the money?”

Todd leaned back in his chair.  “It’s been almost twenty years,” Todd answered.

Ric looked pensive.  “Who inherited the estate when Peter died?  It obviously didn‘t go to you.”

“His latest girlfriend, Connie Bensoncroft, cold bitch that she was.”

“I’ll have to look into the statute of limitation on a case like this, but if it’s not up, I don’t see why not.  But here’s my question:  Why didn’t you do this all those years ago?” Ric asked him.

Todd looked beyond Ric as he remembered.  “At the time all of this happened, I had just gotten married, I was going to be a father and I was suddenly worth $30 million.  I figured Peter had screwed the trustees at the time, but that wasn’t my primary concern.”  He got up from his chair, and leaning on his crutch, walked over to a picture he had of his family.  “Now, I have the time to think about it and if I can get the money, I want to set up a trust fund, for Sam and Leo.  Put it to better use than old Peter Manning ever did.”

Ric nodded.  “I will look into the matter and get back to you,” Ric said as he picked up his jacket.

“You do that Lansing.  Oh and before you go, I’d like to have Jack invite your daughter to come with us back to Llanview.  My sister Viki is getting married and she has both Starr and Jack with a plus one.  Jack wants to bring Molly, but I wanted to clear it with you before he asked,” Todd said.  Then he gave the lawyer an evil grin.  “What do you say?”

Ric eyed the man.  He could tell this wasn’t really what Todd wanted, but he was asking nonetheless.  Thinking for a minute, he answered, “Let me check with Alexis.  If she has no problem with it, then I have no problem with it.”  Ric turned to leave, near walking right into Damien Spinelli.

The PI jumped back immediately and moved out of Lansing’s way before walking into the office.  When he closed the door, Spinelli said, “You called, I come.”  At Todd’s scowl, he amended,  “I stopped by to visit the Maxime…Maxie.  She informed me you needed to see me anyway.”

“I’ve got a job for you,” Todd said.  “I need you to find two people for me.  Let me know if they’re alive and where I can find them.”

“And do these people have a name, Mr. Manning, sir?” Spinelli asked.

“Yeah, Connie Bensoncroft is the first and Harry Redding is the other,” Todd replied simply.   

“And who are Ms. Bensoncroft and Mr. Redding?” the younger man asked.

“Redding was my adoptive mother’s last husband, and Bensoncroft is the bitch I’m looking to sue,” Todd informed him, glee creeping into his voice.

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