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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Devil You Know: Chapter 44


“Why does it always have to be so bright?” Todd asked to no one in particular.  He was always one to lurk in the dark, in shadows.  This brightness was a little too much for him.  He wandered around for a few minutes in the light, trying to shield his eyes.  He had a feeling he knew where he was, but he didn’t remember anything too fatal happening to him that would make him wind up here again.  All he did remember was staring at Blair as she sang to him.

“That’s just about what happened,” a voice told him.

Todd actually smiled.  It was a comforting voice, one he sadly hadn’t heard often enough in his life.  “So, what happened to bring me to you again?” he asked his sister Meredith.  “Am I dead again?”

Meredith smile, her red hair shining in the light.  “No, not dead.  Nowhere near it, this time.”

“Then why am I here?” he asked again.

“I really am not sure.  This is a different case from the times before,” she replied.  “The first time, of course, you were shot by, what was her name?  The crazy woman who helped you switch the babies?”

“That was Heather Webber, and if you were watching me that night, it was all her idea.  She had to really talk me into it,” Todd said, defensively. 

“Right, Heather,” she repeated.  Then she let out a sigh and gave him the same look Viki often gave him when she was disappointed in him.  “But you still did it, even though you knew it was wrong.”

Todd let out a loud sigh.  “Can we not go over my mistakes again?  Can we just get to the reason why I’m here again?”

“Fine, fine,” she retorted.  “Now, the second time we met, you were under for your back surgery.  How are you feeling, by the way?”

“Better, thank you.  Still need…” Todd looked down but found no cane in his hand.  “Guess I don’t need a cane here, huh?”

Merrie smiled back.  “Not here, no, but that bring me to now.  Can you remember what happened before you got here?” she asked, but it sounded like she knew the answer already.

Todd thought about it for a minute.  “Um, I was playing the piano,” he answered.

“Where?” she asked again

“Well, there’s this thing called the Nurses’ Ball.  It’s apparently a big deal in Port Charles, for AIDS and HIV research.  I funded the gala and Blair wanted me to perform at it when she learned I knew how to play.”

Merrie began pacing around Todd.  “And you did?”

“Yeah,” he answered. 

“Were you good?”

Todd thought back, but for some reason, couldn’t remember.  “I don’t know, I just remember…”  A flash played before his eyes, but he didn’t understand what it was.  He just said, “I don’t remember.”

“That’s the problem, I think, baby brother,” Merrie observed.  “It’s something you need to remember. 

“Well, I don’t okay!  God, just tell me WHY I’M HERE!” Todd shouted at his sister.  “And stop calling me ‘baby brother’.  You sound like Tina when you say that!”

“But Todd, that’s what you are,” she said.  “You and Victor are my baby brothers,” she said, before adding under her breath, “and boy, do you two act like it.”

“If you want to get technical, if you believe my bitch of a mother, I’m the older one by ten minutes or so,” Todd answered, perturbed.

Merrie offered him a sour look.  “You are avoiding my questions.”

“No I’m not,” he told her, then, with a mock quizzed look on his face, asked her, “What was the question again?”

Merrie answered him with a slap on the shoulder. 

“What it is with you and the slapping, huh?” Todd asked as he rubbed his shoulder.  Then he finally answered, “Fine, I guess I was pretty good.  I got a standing ovation…but it could have also just been for Blair.”

Merrie smiled at him.  “It wasn’t just for her.  I saw the look on Viki’s face, on your children.  They were proud and amazed.  And I saw you.  You were…brilliant.  It was glimpsing at…a different you.  A younger, more innocent you.”

Todd closed his eyes and could see, just for a minute, Starr and Jack with the biggest smiles on their faces.  “I guess I was good.”  In his mind’s eye, he also saw Tina, Cord, Clint and Tea.  Then he saw Victor.  “Ah, knew he couldn’t be happy for me.”

“Victor?” Merrie asked, but not really.  “He wasn’t smiling because he wasn’t proud of you.”  A frown formed on her face.  “He knew what was going to happen next.”

“And what was going to happen next?” Todd asked. When he got no answer, he looked around.  “What, he knew…?”

“Todd, you need to remember…more,” Merrie said.

“What more do I need to remember?” Todd asked, fearful.

She turned her back to him, unsure of how to proceed.  “What happened to you tonight is tied to something from your past.  You need to remember that in order to leave this place.  That’s how this meeting of ours is different than the other ones.  You aren’t physically wounded, but you are emotionally.”  She turned back to him and laid her hand on his head, then his heart.  “You need to heal here and now in order to go back.  You need to remember.”

He gave her a funny look.  “What do I need to remember?”

“What happened the night of the recital when you were seven?” she asked carefully. 

He stepped away from her.  “Peter beat the crap out of my mother.  It wasn’t anything new, I’ll have you know.  But it was…one of the worst.”

“And then what?” Merrie gently prodded.

“Bitsy…Barbara told me to run and I did.  Why did I run?  Why didn’t I stay and try to protect her?”  Todd’s guilt, his constant companion for so long, came rushing back to him, threatening to drown him once again. 

Merrie took his hands, trying to soothe the turmoil that was beginning to roil him.  “You ran because that was what she wanted you to do.  She was trying to protect you from a vicious bully who threatened to harm you.”  She took his face in her hands and made him look at her.  “Todd, you did nothing wrong that night.  You were just a little boy, doing what your mother told you to do.”

The tears were streaming down his face.  “But I should have stayed; I should have tried to get help.  And like the coward I am, I ran away.” 

Merrie took him in her arms and tried to comfort him.  “Todd, you couldn’t have stopped Peter that night or any other time he used his fists against you or her.  And she wanted to keep you safe and that’s what you did.  So you ran out of that house into the summer night.  Do you remember what happened next?”

The tears stopped immediately and Todd’s whole demeanor changed.  “What do you mean, what happened next?”

“You ran out of the house and then what?”

Todd looked perplexed for a minute, as if trying to remember.  “I just remember Harry finding me in the shed at his house.  It was daylight, I think.”

“Do you remember anything before that, but after you left your house?” Merrie feared Todd was shutting down, willing himself not to remember. 

Todd shook his head.  “No, nothing.  Sorry sis,” he said in his usual glib tone.  Then he looked around for a minute.   “Hey, I was hoping to be able to get out of here.  When’s that going to happen?”

Merrie’s shoulders seemed to collapse for a minute, as the weight of what was happening was taking a toll on her physically as it was on him emotionally.  “Todd, you have to remember.  If you don’t…”

“If I don’t, what?” he asked.

“Then you can’t go back,” she said at last, preparing herself for the explosion from her brother she was expecting. 

None came.  “Fine, then.  I don’t go back, I guess.”  Todd turned a walked away from here.  “Not so bad, when you think about it.  I can stay here; we can get to know each other.”  He looked down for a minute, and then continued in a low voice.  “My past doesn’t have to hurt anyone I love, like my kids or Blair.”

“Your past has never hurt any of them, not even when it was at its worst.  But you have so many people to go back to.  Viki and Tina and, yes, even Victor.”  She laid a hand on his shoulder.  “You have a wedding to plan, family parties to attend, even if you don’t want to, and an empire to grow.  And there is someone you will need to meet.”

“Really, someone to meet.  And who would that be?” Todd asked.

Merrie looked up into his eyes.  “You need to go back, Todd.  Believe me.  This time with you, yes, I treasure it, more so because we never had any other opportunity.  But I can’t stay here in this place with you forever.  I need to move on, to continue to watch over you and the rest of my family.”

Todd shook his head.  “Now, you are the one that’s avoiding the question.  Who do I need to go back for?”

Merrie closed her eyes.  “Just trust me when I tell you, you need to go back.  You need to remember everything that happened that night.  It’s the most important night of your life, if you can believe it.”

Now Todd was getting supremely pissed at his sister.  “Tell me why I need to go back!  Who do I need to meet?!”

The answer erupted from Meredith Lord Wolek’s petite frame.  “Your baby daughter,” she answered.


*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 41

"Lieutenant McBain, I trust you understand by now the nature of our rules here at Statesville?"

"Yes, sir."  He shook the warden's hand.  "Thank you for making these allowances for me.  It must be in private; I can't risk other inmates knowing I am talking with this guy.  For his safety, ultimately.  Also, you should know, he's got some mental issues."

"Oh?"


"Happens to be phobic.  Of a long list of things.  At times, the fear is completely irrational.  We've had to put him into solitary a few times because of disturbances that were caused because of it."


"What kind of fears?"


"One is definitely insects.  He can't tolerate them at all, not anywhere near him."


"Sounds like every woman in the state."


"This is rather extreme.  To the point of irrationality.  A few other things, kind of weird behaviors."


"Everyone's got their 'thing,'" John said. 


"I'll bring him in momentarily."  The warden left, and John, hoping for some kind of breakthrough, perched himself along the ledge of the only, small and elevated window in the room.  The door opened behind him, and in stepped the warden with a man, not much taller than Natalie, with a series of tattoos and a longish beard.  He was bald, and there was a scar along his head.

John extended a hand to him.  The inmate took it, and then said, "What's in this for me?"

"If you know something that leads to a real breakthrough, something can be arranged.  Somehow."

The warden sniffed, and put his hand to his waist.  "Hmf, I don't know what kind of bargain you're going to make with this one.  He's in for five counts of felony kidnapping and one count of murder.  Got off death row on a technicality."

The warden stepped to the side.  John said, "I'd like to talk with him, alone, if that's possible."

The warden said, "Not advisable, Lieutenant.  But, if you insist, I can make myself scarce for a minute or two."

"Please."  John said.  The blue of his eyes was no match for the blue of the criminal in front of him.  The man's eyes were a crystalline blue that was almost transparent.

John took the lead, sitting down.  The inmate sat opposite him.  John said, "So, I think you know why I am here."

"Yeah, but I don't know what you think I'll be able to tell ya or if I wanna."

"I can work something out, if you give me anything that leads to an arrest or even an answer."

"Why should I trust you, huh?  You're a cop."

John wondered to himself why, at that moment, he wished he had brought Todd Manning with him.  Instead, he went on.  "Yeah?  I'm a person.  A man.  Like you.  You're a man, we both want the same things.  Safety, comforts.  Freedom."

The inmate stared into John's eyes with his own, and said, "I know some things."

John leaned back against the chair.  "Like?"

"My cellmate.  The guy you're interested in,"  he leaned closer, "he's a weirdo."

"How so?"

"He thinks he's like this . . . what's that word . . . prophet or something?  He thinks he's 'The Messenger.'  Creepy, but nuts."

"What does he say about this message?"

"Doesn't make much sense, and sometimes I tune it out.  It's . . . aggravating."

"Makes sense to me, tuning it out."

"He has a couple of weird, like, fascinations."

"Like?"

"He has a thing for some red-head.  She's a cop, too.  Talks about her all the time."

John's ire and disgust was a challenge to push down.  He managed, and said, "Really?"

"Yeah.  Talks about fucking her, and killing her, in his temple.  Whatever."

Mitch had taken a turn to the more crazy, if that were humanly possible.  He knew these fantasties were about Natalie, and he fought to keep the seething anger inside.  He said, after a moment, "Go on."

"He's got other things he likes to think about, and he talks about them at night.  Says things like, 'Oh, Jimmy, you join my followers, and you'll have this and that, you'll be free,' stuff like that.  He says he's going to come into a lot of money.  Going to take someone's fortune out from under him.  These are all his strange fantasies.  He kinda talks them through sometimes.  He thinks he can trust me, I guess."

"So he promised you money?"

"Sorta.  More like, if I joined him, then later I'd be rewarded, that kinda stuff."

"Did you join?"

"Fuck no.  Who wants to be in some fake ass church?"

John shrugged, "Yeah, who wants to.  Anyone in here join?"

"Lotsa guys.  They say they're his followers so they can get money later, if by any chance in hell the fucker's really telling the truth."

"You know what they say, Heed the Messenger."  John said.

"He says that all day.  Anyway, did I give you anything yet?"

"Not yet.  Almost.  About this fortune he's going to steal . . ."

"He's really got it bad for that one.  That red-head, the fortune guy, and his church."

"Who's the guy?"

"Some ex-con, he's the publisher of that newspaper, The Sun?  Him.  Talks about him a lot.  Talks about the guys wife.  How he wants to rape her. . . said he dreams of it."

John swallowed.  "What did he say he was going to do to that guy?  Or how was he planning to get his fortune?"

"He never said that.  He just said his millions would be his and he'd be left with nothing, if his plan worked."

"Did he share the plan with you?"

"No, he just said it was going to work."

"Got one more question for you.  Did he get visitors?"

"Yeah."

John leaned forward.  "He did?"

"Yeah."

"How often."

"Just once in a while.  More often recently, like five or six times in the last few months."

"Did he talk about that?"

"No.  Seemed he wanted to just pretend they never happened."

John wiped his hand across his mouth.  "Really?"

"Yeah.  Once he jacked me up against the wall in the cell because I asked about it and who he was seeing."

"I'm . . . really glad you spoke with me today.  If this leads to something, which I think it will, I'll be in touch.  Of course, I have to find out that I can trust you.  That these are not lies."

"Why would I lie?  Where would it get me?"

"Attention."

"I don't need none of that.  We get plenty in here."

John went out on a limb, "If you think of anything else, call me.  Just ask for the warden and call my office."

"I'll be calling you.  I wanna see if anything I said brings me something in return.  Don't worry, you'll hear from me."

"You know, I don't even know your name," John said.

"Jimmy.  Jimmy Testa."

"Jimmy, all right.  Thanks."  John said, knocking on the inside of the door, which brought the warden.  

"Let's go, Testa."  

John found himself alone in the room and went back to the window. 

***

He froze.  The lightbulb in the ceiling . . . must be Peter's hand pulling that chain.  Chains, and cuffs, where . . . "Damn it!" he said aloud.

"Do you want to talk about something?" Blair said.  "I have to admit, you don't really start a conversation like that often."  

He walked away from her and toward their bedroom.  She followed.  "Todd?"  He went in, and ran the bath.  She stood, watching him.  "You're running the bath.  Is that your way of plying me?"

"Me?  No."


"Well, then, what do you want to talk to me about?"


"Ah, it can wait."


She folded her arms.  "What's wrong?  Are you hiding something from me?"


"I don't do that anymore.  Which is why I told you I have to tell you something without telling you.  That way I am not hiding it.  But it's hard to . . . speak on."


She went back into the bedroom and started to undress.  "So, when are you going to talk to me, then?"


"In a while.  At least you know there's nothing unsaid between us, kind of."


"Your logic amazes me."  She walked back into the bathroom in just her terry robe, and hung it on the back of the door.  She put her foot into the water, and said, "Just right.  You know just how to run these baths now, Mr. Manning."


"I'm an expert at it.  We've been doing it long enough."


"Not really, we're never doing it quite long enough.  I wish it could go on for weeks."


"You know what I meant," he said.  "Haven't you had enough of me today?"  He climbed into the tub and both sat, floating and soaking.  


"I don't think there's ever enough of you.  Haven't you had enough of me today?"


"No.  There's never enough of you either, I'm sure about that.  After going without you so long, I could never get tired of you.  Those dreams about you, making love to me, while I was there.  Sometimes I think they got me through . . .well, stuff."


She touched his face.  The scar was slightly rough under her thumb.  "You're all right, my love.  And here."


He sighed.  "I know.  And that's why I have to ask you, something."


"What is it?"


"I need you to. . . accept me, Blair.  As I am."


"I do, you know that.  I love you very much."


"I mean, fully.  I can't . . .I can't always. . . find ways to tell you what I feel.  I know I can't.  But I know I'll break it if I don't tell you, and I'm done breaking promises."


She got quiet, and sat there, thinking.  The bubbles from the jets were easing both of them into relaxation, and she suddenly realized how tired she was.  This fact ate at her patience.  "You're done breaking promises.  That I get.  But are you done leaving us, Todd?"


He put his hand on her head.  "Babe.  You know I love you, and those children."


"Those children are our children, Todd."


"I know that.  And I love them.  So much."


"I know you do.  I know you love them.  And I know you don't realize what your absence does."


"I'm not going anywhere."


"You could.  If you refuse to deal with what's in your head, you could leave us.  Worse, if you go after Mitch, you are going somewhere.  You're going into the depths of that all-consuming rage that you get, Todd.  That you've dealt with your whole life.  It's like a drug for you, you can't let go of it.  Even when you have the whole world right in your hand, it's not enough."  


She touched his face a moment longer, and then removed her hand, saying, "This could kill us.  All of us.  If those children lose you again, I don't know what will happen, Todd."  She stood, starting to climb out of the tub.  He watched her go.  "You spend all this time recovering from being separated from us. You say how much it hurt you to be away.  I don't know.  It's just that I see it one way."


He said, "Don't stop now, I'm listening."


"It's one thing to leave us because you can't stop it, or it's against your will.  It's another to do something to bring that leaving to us and plunge us into it like we don't matter."  She stepped out onto the bathroom tile floor, and reached for her robe.  Putting it on and pulling it closer around her, she said, "I won't go through it again, and I won't let my kids go through it.  It's time you make a choice."


"So, if I try and get the bastard, and implicate him in a possible crime he committed, after what he did to me, and Natalie, Viki, you're going to leave me?"


"No, Todd, I didn't say that.  I can't even imagine doing that."


He went under the water for a moment, and when he came back to the surface, his hair was slicked back and behind him like wet satin.  He said, "Then, what?  What if I have a plan that's safe?  Something that would take him down, legally.  Or something that would not involve you and the kids? I just want to talk to the guy, see if he knew Jenna's mom."


"Todd, don't you see?  The whole concept of a plan, and 'taking him down.'  What does that mean?  the guy is in prison for life, basically.  How much further down can he be, except to be dead?  And if you're talking about cold-blooded murder, Todd, how can you justify that to your boys, let alone me?"


His face darkened.  "So, would you leave me, or not, Blair?"  he said, getting out of the tub and grabbing a towel.  He wrapped it around his waist and took a smaller one to towel-dry his hair.  


She looked at him, so beautiful in the moonlight of the bath, and turned her head.  "I don't know how I could do that.  But if something happened to you, and you left us again . . ." her voice broke.


"It would be the last time.  Isn't that what you wanted to say?"


"Yes," she cried, "yes, it would be the last time.  I'd have to protect my children, and myself.  We can't do it anymore, Todd.  You have us.  Really have us.  And you have to choose to stay with us,"  she walked to him, and dropping her robe, she put his hands onto her waist.  "You don't need anything else.  You said that, yourself.  Just be with us.  Please."


He swallowed, and pushed his own emotion away, sliding his hands up the sides of her small waist and across her back to bring her to him.  The feeling of her breasts against his chest made him close his eyes.  "I am with you," he said, "I'm never going to leave you again.  I promised Jack, I promised you.   Heck, I think I promised Sam and Starr, too."


"Then that means 'no Mitch.'"


He remained silent.  "He buried me alive, Blair.  He might have that girl's mother."


"That means 'no Mitch,' Todd."


He looked into her eyes.  "That means no Mitch."


Pushing back from his chest, she smiled into his face.  "See, it wasn't so bad.  Revenge is overrated."


"Having you and the kids love me is the most important thing in my life.  Now, kiss me, before I forget the 'No Mitch' part."

***


Tina, sitting up in her bed, knitting, was waiting for just the right time.  I can't believe they won't listen to me.  I know that woman's face.  From somewhere.  I just can't remember where.  She's so familiar to me.  I'm positive I've met her somewhere before.  Oh well, their loss.


Now that her door was unlocked, like the other residents, she realized that she could leave any time she wanted to, and she planned to do just that.  She left it ajar, to bring in a breeze and create the illusion of freedom.  I'll wait until everyone is asleep, and then I'll make a break for it.  If Bea can do it, so can I.  I'll just go through the woods, and into Llanview Center.  Or, wait, is that how to get to Dorians?


She took a ratty map out of her bag.  "Let me see," she said aloud, spreading it open on the bed.  "Where is La Boulaie from here?"


She was examining the map carefully, when unaware to her, Sister Elizabeth Mary had show up at the doorway.  She cleared her throat.  "Good evening, Nurse Ratchet."


Tina took the insult in stride, "Good evening."


"What in heaven's name are you doing?"  she asked.  Her eyes had become slits.


"Looking at a map,"  she feigned ignorance.


"A map.  For what reason?"


"I like to study maps and know where places are."


"You just happened to have a map of Llanview?"


"Well, no, I. . ."


"I'm going to say goodnight, Dear."


"Okay.  Goodnight, Dear."


"See you in the morning," the nun said, closing Tina's door.  Tina listened and then heard the lock engage again, from the outside.  "Damn that Nun!  Okay, Tina, back to the drawing board!"

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Port Charles Chronicles: Chapter 52


         Sam was sitting at the desk in his room.  It was the first time he had been left alone since lunch.  He opened the computer and began searching for his brother on MyFace.  “Yesss!” he exclaimed as Jack’s page came up on the screen.  Taking his time, he started to write Jack a comment.  

Jack, I need help.  I’m with Dad.  He’s alive. You need to tell Mom.  

He paused when he heard footsteps outside his door.  The door was opening.  Shoot!  Sam shut the computer, turned on the TV and sat down in front of it.  The door opened the rest of the way, and his father stood  there.

“Come here, Sam.”  Walker watched his son get up and walk toward him slowly.  He scowled. “Hurry up, stop taking all day.”  Walker’s hands clenched and unclenched..  Calm yourself, this is Blair’s fault.  You’re his Dad, he’ll learn, if he knows what’s good for him.  

          Sam reluctantly picked up his pace until he stood in front of his father.  He didn’t quite know what would happen next, but he could see his father meant business.  His father had slapped him earlier and he remembered when he had gotten angry and shook him because he had made friends with Uncle Todd.   He needed to wait and not get his dad any madder.  “I’m sorry if I made you mad earlier, Dad.  I’m glad you’re not dead.  Why can’t we call Mom and Aunt Tea.  I just want them to know I’m alright.”

         Walker frowned. “I told you, I want them to believe I’m dead.  Your Uncle Todd hates me for taking his place all these years.  I’m not going to give him another shot at me.”

         “He..”  Sam stopped himself.  He bit his lip and looked down at the floor.  Saying anything good about Uncle Todd was just going to make his dad angrier. “Okay, but Mom’s going to be really worried,” he mumbled in response, continuing to look at the floor.

        Walker decided to change his tactics.  He spoke softly.  “Hey Sam, what do you say about a movie night tonight?  I’ve missed those and I’ve missed you.”   Sam’s eyes lifted to meet his and Walker knew he had succeeded.  

        “You missed me?” Sam said tremulously.  “I missed you too, Dad.  I put the star on the tree at Christmas, and made a wish for you.”

        Walker smiled, that was what he wanted to hear.  Sam had a big heart and a gullible one.  You just need to make him feel comfortable, a little encouragement will keep him on your side. Walker dropped down to Sam’s level and held out his arms.  “How about a hug for your old man.”

       Sam hesitated for just a minute, then rushed into his father’s arms.  This was the man he remembered.  He might not look the same any longer, but he was the man who had made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and held him when they watched horror movies. He hugged his dad.  He didn’t understand what was going on, but his dad was alive.  “I love you, Dad”

      Walker didn’t say anything but hugged his son back. You did it, the kid’s all yours.  Just keep remembering to use a few kind words with him and he’ll soon forget this nonsense about going home to Blair.

****

Dante  couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  “Wait a minute.” He looked at Jack and Molly, “Are you telling me, you guys went to Alcazar’s apartment building?”

Molly nodded.  She knew her mom was going to freak when she found out what she did but she refused to let her cousin intimidate her. Jack found himself feeling protective of Molly. None of this had been her doing.  “It was my idea.” he said.  If the detective was going to get mad, he could be mad at him.  “Molly just came along to keep me company.  I wanted to see if there was a possibility someone was living there.   It was just bugging me that Tomas might be here in town. We never expected to find him in Alcazar’s apartment.  We went there on a hunch.”

         Starr was listening, she was astonished the Jack had done something so dangerous.  Would he never learn? “Are you crazy, Jack?”

         Jack rounded on her. “Hey, you two guys were following Zacchara.  That was just as dangerous.  You both knew what that guy was capable of.  Shit, we had no idea anyone was even at the apartment when we went.  We stayed out of sight after we found out Tomas was there.”

        John interrupted the siblings’ squabble. “Enough, I want to know where these pictures were taken.”  

        All of them responded at once  “Johnny’s apartment.”

        “So let me get this straight.  Starr, if I understand you correctly.  You and Michael confronted  Zacchara about Tomas and he said he didn’t know him, but after you showed him a picture of Tomas, he left abruptly.   Is that  right?” John looked down at the information he had ascertained so far. 

         “Yes.”

          “But you didn’t like his answer, I gather.  Is that why you followed him?”

          "I guess.  It seemed like after he saw the picture, he was spooked.  Michael knows what I mean.” She looked toward Michael.  She was pretty sure he had sensed Johnny’s bewilderment too.

“She’s right. Johnny began the morning acting strange.  First, he showed up at Kate Howard’s trial and when Starr asked him about it he said he felt he owed Kate and Starr.  Then he went on about the music contract and wanting Starr to start working with him.  When she showed him the picture, he suddenly excused himself and said he remembered an appointment.  It was such a 180 degree turn from what he had been talking about, we decided to see where he was headed.” Michael said.

John rubbed his chin, something was off.  Zacchara saw a picture of Tomas, but he still kept his meeting with the guy.  That meant he believed Tomas was Alcazar and didn’t want to let on to Starr and Michael the nature of his business. 

        Dante spoke up. “ Why is this Tomas posing as Alcazar?’

        John  thought for a minute.  “Are we so sure that Tomas is posing?  What if Tomas is really Alcazar?   Michael said Alcazar disappeared in 2007.  If Tomas and Alcazar are one and the same, then Tomas has been playing on the wrong side for a long time.  Things got too hot for Alcazar and poof, he’s gone. Tomas could have simply taken back his real name and ended up in Paris.  Now for reason we don’t know yet, he’s back here and doing business with Zacchara.” 

        The bullet lying on the desk in front of him caught his eye.  Could it be possible?  If it is the, kids could be in danger. You need to stop their participation right here. John stood up. “Look, let Dante and I figure out what Tomas is here for.  I’ll put a man on Alcazar’s apartment.  You four need to stay out of this from now on.”  Jack opened his mouth to protest but John  cut him off.  “I know you’re worried about your mother. Don’t be.  We’ll handle it.  Go back home or the hotel. and stay away from this. Jack, I mean it.  Stay out of this.  Thanks for bringing this information in.” 

        Before Jack  could get a word out, Molly grabbed his hand and started pulling him toward the exit.  Starr grabbed his other arm and also maneuvered him out into the hallway.  Jack shook off his sister, but she stepped right up into his face.  “Enough Jack, we said we’d bring the pictures to John and we did.  We’re not the police or detectives.  It’s up to them now.’

       Jack’s phone went off in his pocket. He glared at Starr and reluctantly pulled his phone out to look at it. 

      “See who it is, Jack, maybe Mom is looking for you.”

       He tapped into his email and saw a message from his little brother . “Hey, it’s from Sam. He’s not supposed to be on my MyFace page.  Boy, I’ll read him the riot act when I get back.”  He opened the message and stared at it.  “What the Hell?”

        “What is it?” Starr asked.  Jack passed the phone to Starr.  

Jack, I need help.  I’m with Dad.  He’s alive.  You need to tell Mom.

Starr looked at the words, “What on earth?  Why would Sam type this?  What does he mean, he’s with Dad?”

Jack was seething.  “I don’t know, but it’s not funny.”

        Starr was puzzled.  “I don’t think he was trying to be funny.  We better get back to the hotel.  This isn’t right.  Michael, can you give us a ride there?”

       “Sure, then I’ll take Molly home.  Come on,” Michael said and led the way out.

**** 

       Todd and Blair stepped off the elevator.    As they neared the door he grabbed Blair’s hand.  “Hold it.  I’m not sure I’m up to this after all.”  

      Todd’s hand was trembling and he did look a little pale. Blair smiled.  “I’ll be right there beside you.  Sam’s going to be tickled pink.  He already thinks you’re the greatest.”

       “He’s not the one I’m worried about.  If we do this, you might end up on Jack’s shit list, too.”

       Blair shook her head.  “It doesn’t matter.  He’s our son and he’ll just have to adjust.  I want us to be a family again.” She leaned forward and gently kissed his scar. “He’ll just have to accept that I’m in love with you.”  

      He took a deep breath and calmed his fear. Man up Manning.  He’s your son,  You need to show him you’re not going anywhere this time.  He ran his thumb over the engagement ring and nodded for Blair to opened the door to the suite. 

      “That’s strange, the lights are off.  Momma, Sam, Jack , are you here?”  Blair reached inside the door and found the light switch . The entrance was now illuminated.

       The sound they heard in answer to her question was muffled.  “What‘s that?’  Todd was as bewildered as Blair but as they entered the main room, they both saw the source of the sound.

       A few steps away from them, lay Addie. She had heard them talking outside the door and tried to yell but she was almost hoarse from her earlier tries.

        Blair couldn’t believe her eyes. Addie was tied up and agitated. She ran to her mother . and tried to remove her bonds.  Todd knelt next to her as she struggled with the tape.

      “Blair, let me.”  He pulled his pocketknife free and cut Addie’s hands loose. Addie moaned as he moved them in front of her and rubbed them to get her circulation returning, then moved to her feet.  “Addie, hold still, so Blair can get the tape off your mouth.  Do it quick, Blair.  It will sting but it will be over fast.”  As he cut the taped binding Addie’s feet, he admired his soon to be mother-in-law.  She had nodded  to Blair, agreeing with him about the tape covering her mouth.

      Blair winced as she pulled the tape loose.  

       Addie cried out, but it came out a whisper.  She looked at Blair and croaked the word “Water”. 

       Blair ran to the bar for some water, and watched as Todd gently lifted Addie into his arms.

      “Come on Addie, lets make you more comfortable.” he said and carried her to the couch.  He went back to work rubbing her hands and feet as Blair held the glass and gave her some of   the water. 

      “Momma, take your time.”  She glanced at her mom’s hands. They were still very blue. and she knew they must be extremely painful, but Todd was stroking and rubbing them carefully moving the blood through her arms and hands until they started to pink-up again.

     “Who did this?  Momma, did you see the person?  Where are Sam and Jack?”

     Addie knew Blair was concerned but she needed to hear everything.  Addie sipped and tried to talk again.  “Sam...”

     “What about Sam?”  Blair was scared of what her mother might say next.

      Addie tried again.  “Sam was taken.  The maid did it.”



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Monday, February 25, 2013

Spidey Sam: Chapter 4


Todd was still sitting on the edge of his bed when there was a knock at his door.  He looked over at the clock, it was not even nine thirty. He got off his bed looked to the bathroom door. The shower was still running, Sam wasn't ready. Todd walked into the next room and walked to the door. He opened the door to find Blair and Jack standing in front of him, both with annoyed looks on their faces.

"You guys are early," Todd commented.

"May we come in?"  Blair asked.

"Yes, of course, please come in," Todd invited them.

Jack walked into the room.  Anger radiated off of him.

"Jack, you came."

"I didn't have a choice.  She made me, she said she would send me to military school if I didn't."

Todd shot Blair a "what the hell" look as she walked into his room as well.

"Where is Sam?" Blair asked.

"He is in the shower Blair, he should be out in just a few minutes."

"Why did he come to you Todd, did he say?"

"I think you should ask him, Blair."

"I'm asking you, Todd! You have been with him long enough I'm sure that he told you."

"You are right Blair.  He did tell me and when he gets out of the shower, he will tell you.  Besides, Blair, whatever I tell you, are you going to believe me?"

Todd turned his attention to Jack at this point, not wanting to fight with Blair before Sam even got out of the shower.  "I'm glad that you came, Jack."

"I didn't really have a choice it was either this or military school."

"I guess I'm that I'm flattered that you think I'm better than military school."

Jack said nothing to Todd's comment. He just took a seat to wait for Sam to come out of the shower. Sam walked out of the shower to find the room silent. Todd was standing in the corner looking out the window. Blair was standing on the opposite side of the room. Jack was seated looking bored and like he didn't want to be there. Blair was the first person to spot coming out the bathroom. She walked over to him and picked him up into her arms and hugged him like she hadn't seen him in a million years at least.

"Sam, baby why did you run away?" she asked. "Why, did you run away here to Uncle Todd?"

"Mom, please put me down, I'm not a baby. I got all the way here from Llanview by myself on Uncle Todd's jet."

Blair threw Todd an annoyed look at Sam's last comment.

"What Blair? I didn't have anything to do with this one."

"I'm sure you didn't. You never have anything to do with anything. You are always innocent."

"I never said I was always innocent, I just didn't have anything to do with Sam coming here on his own."

"You guys are already fighting, and I haven't even told on Tomas yet."

"Sam, what is there to tell on Tomas about?" Blair asked.

"Jack didn't give me a black eye mom, Tomas did."

 Blair gave Todd and Jack a confused look. Jack looked at Todd with almost a look of relief.

"Sam, what do you mean Tomas gave you a black and not Jack?"  Blair asked.  "You told Tomas and I when we asked you, how you got the black eye, that Jack hit you."

"I lied and I'm sorry that I did because now Jack hates me, but I have to tell the truth now."

"Todd!"

"What, Blair why don't you hear the kid out before you make that 'what have you done now, Todd' face?"

"Jack, is this true? Was Sam lying when he said that you hit him?"

"Why don't you do what Scarface says, Mom, and listen to the Sam and you will find out."

Todd shot Jack an annoyed look at his last remark.

"Mom, Tomas is the one that hit me not Jack!"

"Sam, why would Tomas hit you?  You know it not nice to tell lies about adults."

"I'm not lying mom, Tomas hit me."

"Sam, why don't you tell your mom why Tomas hit you."  Todd said.

"I don't know, Uncle Todd."

"You want to get Jack out of trouble right. You told me that is what you want."

"I'm sorry Jack that I lied.  Tomas said if I didn't, Uncle Todd would have to go away again."

"What Sam?  Tomas said what to you?"

"He said if I didn't lie for him Uncle Todd would have to go away again.  I didn't want Uncle Todd to have to go away again."

"Sam, I think you should start from the beginning, tell us why Tomas hit you."  Todd said.

"You are just loving this Todd!"

"No, Blair, I'm not loving this.  My nephew has a black eye and he says your boyfriend gave it to him!"

"You hate seeing me happy with Tomas!"

"Yeah, but not this much that I would want to see Sam get hurt so that you would wake up and dump the guy.  Forget about what he did to me, take a look at your son's eye! "

"I knew you would all fight, if I told the truth!"  Sam said.

"Sam, Buddy, look at me.  You have to tell us the whole truth, okay?"

"Why? Everyone is just going to get madder."

"Sam, no one is mad at you."

"Speak for yourselves he got me in trouble for something I didn't even do, don't I get in enough trouble with stuff that actually do?"  Jack said.

"Jack, give your brother a break!"

"Why, Scarface because, you say so or is because he lied to protect you?"

"I lied because I was scared!"  Sam said.

"Yeah, scared that Tomas would take your precious Uncle Todd away, never mind that he killed dad!"

"He was sick, Jack, when he did that!"

"He wasn't sick, Mom just told you that to make you not hate him!"

Sam ran into the only room in the suite with a lock on it - the bathroom. Todd, Jack and Blair could hear the little boy sobbing from the outside.

"That is great Jack! Really nice!"  Todd said.

"What, Scarface?  The kid needed to hear the truth sooner or later."

"Sam had something really important to tell us and you go and do this Jack! "

"All he wanted was to get you out of trouble Jack, he loves you."  Blair reminded.

"The kid almost got me sent to military school to save your lousy ass!"  Jack said.

"Jack, watch your mouth!" Blair said.

"Why Mom, because he is my so called father?"

"No, because your little brother is in that bathroom crying his eyes out."

"I know that is my fault right?  I'm out of here! I don't care what you do to me!"

Sam walked out of the bathroom without being noticed. He walked to the center of the room. He looked at everyone in the room and shouted.

"Hey! remember me the kid with the black eye? Would anyone actually like to know how I got it?"


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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 40

The Mannings were in the kitchen: Jack, Sam, Timothy, Todd and Blair, and Little Ray was in his high chair between his parents.  The Chinese food had arrived, and was steaming in white cartons all over the counters.  Each of them was filled with something fragrant and tantalizing.  Blair hit the dumplings first; Todd knew they were her favorite and had ordered extra of them intentionally.


Timothy stood behind Jack, in line for the goodies, and said, "How did you find that session today, my boy?"


"It was good, actually.  I met some really cool people.  We exchanged numbers so we can text and tweet and stuff.  And of course, Jenna was there."


"Text and tweet, eh?  Is that anything like going calling?"  Timothy asked.


Todd laughed, "Oh boy, Jack, you fell into that one."


Jack said, "Just cool peeps, that's all."


"I'm glad," Timothy said, patting his back.  


Sam said, "Jack's lying.  There's one peep he really likes."


Jack said, "Squirt, I'm warning you.  I'll toss you in that pool, and the water's like fifty."


"I can swim!  You don't scare me!" the little boy said, hitting Jack's back end and running.  Jack, handing his plate off to Timothy, chased Sam, and in two large bounds, grasped him, raising him into the air and heading for the back door.  


Blair watched, smiling, as Sam, kicking and screaming said, "Wait, Dad, put on the pool heater!"  as Jack threatened to bring him outside.  


When he reached the back door, Jack said, "You little runt, you take back what you said, or you go Polar Bearing."  He began to tickle Sam.     


Sam was squealing with laughter, "Okay, Okay!  I take it back!"


Jack finally put Sam down, who ran, jumped into Todd's arms and shouted, "Jenna!"



Everyone laughed, including Jack, and Little Ray, who appeared confused, tapped a march on his high chair table tray with his spoon.  Blair said, "Oh, I forgot his food, let me do that first."


"I'll get it," Todd said, "you go ahead, you've already got yours and it will get cold."


The family sat for the next hour, talking and bantering, and enjoying the Chinese food.  Jack, looking to start something, said, "So, Grandpa, how's Aunt Dorian?"


Blair choked and grabbed her water glass.  

Todd said, "Jack, we're eating.  I just threw up in my mouth a little."


Timothy smiled.  "She's well, thank ya.  Bridgette, I must tell you that your Aunt is quite a woman."


Blair, recovering from the bout with coughing, said, "She is, I know.  She's a Cramer, that's for certain."


"Now, Blair, your mother, I've met her, she's a gift.  But you're also close to your Aunt.  Did she help raise ya?"


"Dorian took care of me for quite a time, when Todd and I were first married, and with Starr and all."  She stopped.  "I suppose I don't have much family to speak of, or experiences that I'd talk much about from when I was a child."


"I'm sorry to bring up something less than pleasant.  This meal was a wonder, eh, Jack?"


"I like Chinese, it's okay," the teen said.


Todd watched as Blair slightly faltered, and grabbed the baby's hands to wash them.  He reached over, and put his hand over hers, which brought her eyes directly up and into his.  He drew his hand across hers, and back, and she slightly nodded to him, that she was all right.  None of this got past Timothy, but he went on chiding Jack and Sam and instigating more amusing conflicts between them.


Soon, it was bedtime.  The children had school the next day, and Timothy was tuckered out from his visit.  He said, "Thank ya, both, for having me."


Blair said, "Any time, you're welcome here, any day you like."


"Thanks to you, Bridgette.  Perhaps I'll make it a habit and pick up Sam once per week, say, the day of Jack's session?"


"That would be great," Blair said.


"Thanks, Pa," Todd stuck his hand out.


"Pa?  That one has to go, my Lad.  Pappy, is better, Dad is best.  Just don't call me late for supper."


"Okay.  Thanks again, for everything."  Todd said, putting an arm around Blair's waist.  They watched him go, then began the bedroom brigade.  Jack went to his room and his earphones for homework; Sam brushed his teeth and put on his Spiderman pajamas, asking Blair to sing;  Todd bathed the baby and put him to bed.  By the time Sam was sleeping and Blair's song was finished, she walked in on Todd, with the baby curled up on his chest, against his shoulder, fresh, clean and in a blue striped onesie, asleep.


Todd gently put the baby into his crib, and as he did, Blair slipped her arms around his waist.  She said, "There's nothing more sexy than watching you with that baby.  You're so gentle and strong at the same time, Todd."


"I was thinking the same thing about you, Mrs. Manning."


"You like to call me that."


"Yeah, I do.  It means that we're like this," he said, crossing his fingers.


"We are like this," she did it back.


He said, "Then you'll understand what I have to talk to you about."  


***


That evening, Sister Rebecca Katherine readied for bed, and after her prayers, she settled back, and took out the sketch pad to read what Bea had written.  She was in no hurry to read it; in honesty to herself, she dreaded what it might say, but knew it was something she had to do.  Her diamond in the rough would require a great deal more polish, and she needed to understand.


In turning the first page, there were a series of small drawings, again of large hands, in threatening poses, seeming to be causing harm or pain.  She turned the next page and saw a beautiful likeness of Jack, again.  It was similar to the first, but slightly different, as if Jack's features were not exact.  It was almost as if the woman had forgotten a little how Jack looked.  That was how Sister Rebecca Katherine explained it.


She turned another page, and the writing was there.  It was a jagged scrawl, in black pencil, but what amazed her was the straight and even distribution of the lines, almost as if Bea had used a ruler, which the nun knew she did not.  She began to read:


I get very confused.  I know, I remember being in this dark place I call The Jail.  It was dim and the lights were almost never on.  That is where I was before I came here.  The People Who Kept Us were not nice like you.  Most of them left us in our filth and never cared.  A woman I had a room with saw rats.  They were always there, on her bed, on her, but we never saw them.  She made them up.  I tried to tell her.  She did not listen to me. She said I made up My Angel. I said she made up her rats. 

There were four of us in a room with small beds that had metal legs and the mattress was thin like a couch pad.  All night, things would happen.  Nightmares.  Screams. The woman and her rats.  Noises. They would give us drugs.  Men in white came in and out as they pleased.  They would bully us and make fun.  One of them touched and hurt the youngest of us, almost every night.  She would cry.  I could not tell, because this was after The Time of Black and I could not talk. They did not give me paper. I could not write or draw.  One night, I scratched him and bit him to make him stop.  They put me in The Hole.  It was dark and I was alone.  They hardly fed me and my stomach would ache and cramp and roaches came.  After I learned my lesson, they would send me back to the other room to live.

This was the place that I was sent to by The Evil One.  I will tell you about him, later. I am scared and I am tired and I have not eaten my dinner yet, just so I could write this.  The People Who Kept Us were not nice, but they were better than where I was before. Better than The Evil One.  It has been a long time. I know why they sent me there. I will tell you. But will My Angel forgive me?


So this was the place I called The Jail.  The Jail was where I lived before now, without The Evil One.  The Jail is where I lived before I came to St. Anne’s.  I think that is what you called it.  I called it “The Place With the Nice Nun” until you told me today the name. Names are not easy.  

I don’t want to say more now but I will tell you more, Nice Nun.  I am tired.  Thinking of the bad times makes me tired.  Writing about them takes life from me. Now, will you help me find if My Angel is alive?  I must know that he forgives me.

The nun, overcome by her own tears, closed the sketch pad, and dabbed at her eyes with her family heirloom handkerchief that she kept by her bed. Looking at it, she realized what this start of the woman's revelations could mean and the probable horror that was to follow. She ruminated over the contrast between the legacy of this woman, Bea, and herself, and she wept bitterly.

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