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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Devil You Know: Epilogue

Seven and a half months later, Todd, sitting on the edge of a hospital bed with Blair by his side, marveled at the sight of his newborn daughter.  A brief cloud appeared, remembering Jack as a newborn, but the brilliance of this little girl chased it away.  She was perfect, ten little fingers and ten little toes.  The only problem he was having was the bright red hair.  He usually associated it with the more annoying members of his family, Tina or Natalie.  But, for a brief instant, he thought he felt as if someone swatted his arm and he smiled, knowing this baby’s namesake was admonishing him still.



“Red hair,” Blair pointed out, a smirk playing on her lips. 



“Yeah, well, she’s a Lord.  Sadly, I kind of figured that was how it was going to be,” he answered. 



“I’m sure everyone is waiting outside to meet her,” his wife said.



“Let them wait.  I want a little bit of time with just the two of you all to myself.”



As if to protest his words, the door opened and in stepped Starr, Jack and Sam.  “We can’t wait any longer,” his firstborn said.



Todd smiled and nodded for them to come in.  Sam, naturally, jumped up on the bed, but Blair calmed him down and he settled against her.  Starr stood next to her father and Jack leaned against the bed.



“Hello there, you beauty,” she cooed.  In response, the baby opened her eyes and looked at her sister, green orbs staring at Starr in detached curiosity.  “She has mom’s eyes!”



“And hair as red as Aunt Tina’s,” Jack commented.  “You know that’s what she’ll think.”



“Let her,” Todd growled.  Despite his wedding vows, there were still a few family members who he would always barely tolerate and Tina was at the top of the list. 



As if reading her father’s mind, Starr reached into her bag.  “I thought the baby would like to be able to, well, ‘meet’ her namesake.”  Out came a picture from the mantle, of another red-headed Lord. 



It was Sam who spoke up.  “This is our aunt.  She’s daddy’s sister and his guardian angel.  And we named you after her!”



“I still can’t wait to see Aunt Dorian’s face when we tell her that.  You know she’s gonna have a comment or five hundred on it,” Jack remarked.



“Well, then, I’ll just have to tell her that the baby’s middle name was my idea.  That may shut her up,” Blair told him.   



“You really think that will stop Dorian?” Todd asked in a sarcastic tone.



Blair shrugged her shoulders.  “There’s always hope.”



After another fifteen minutes or so of the Mannings alone with the new baby, Viki poked her head in.  “I don’t really want to disturb you or your time with the new baby, but…”



Todd let out a sigh and looked down at his daughter.  “I guess it’s time for you to meet the rest of your crazy family, kiddo.”  Todd handed the baby to Blair and repositioned himself on the bed as Viki was followed in by Clint, Cord, Tina, Victor, Tea, Jessica, Natalie, Joey, Sarah, CJ, Dani, Cassie, Dorian, and surprisingly, Larry and Dan Wolek.  Todd eyed his sister and she smiled, signaling him her reasons silently.  “Okay, in order, this is your aunts Viki, Tina, and Tea, your uncles Clint, Victor and Cord, your cousins, and the one right there is the head of the Cramer Coven, Auntie Dorian.”  Then he took the baby in his arms and brought her over to Larry.  “And this is your Uncle Larry.  He was married to the woman you were named after.”



At that Larry looked at Todd.  His mouth was forming a question, but he was unable to ask it, as he was becoming overrun with emotions. 



Todd nodded.  “We decided to name her Meredith,” he answered simply.



Behind him, Blair piped up.  “Meredith Victoria Manning, after her aunts and uncle.”  Then she turned to Dorian, waiting for the explosion she was expecting.  Surprisingly, none happened. 



Larry Wolek found his voice as his son, the firstborn of the Lord grandchildren, greeted the youngest.  “Hello, my little darling.”  He looked her over.  “Red hair, just like your aunt.  I know she would be overjoyed to know you and know you were named for her.”  He handed the baby back to Todd, who brought her back to her mother, as the rest of the family greeted Meredith Victoria Manning.   


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Hope from the Ocean: 4

"So much snow," Blair said, tucking her hair into her angora hat.  

Todd, who was already set to go, was sitting by the fireplace in the family room, waiting for her and reading on his tablet.  "I found the property I want.  Over by the penthouse in Llanview Center.  It will  make a perfect gallery."

"That sounds good."  She finished putting on her gloves.  "You ready, Daddy?"

"Yep, ready.  Williams is outside."

"I'm so excited, Todd.  Our first check up!  Well, our first this time."

"It's cool.  I know.  Can't wait to see the baby's picture."

"It won't be now, Todd.  Too early."

"Right, the baby's probably kinda small right now."

"Yep.  She is.  But it's still exciting," she said, heading out the door.  He followed her to the limo.

***

"Yes, Dr. Martino, I assume your call is about Bea," Sister Rebecca Katherine said.  

"Actually, no, Sister.  Bea is fine.  It's about something I wanted to discuss with you.  A job opportunity.  Our facility is looking for an intern, someone who wants to work while being trained and attending classes for a counseling degree.  I thought of you immediately.  You'd be my intern, and attend courses at Llanview University, and then eventually move into a position here."

She did not know how to respond.  "And lose my charity work, Doctor?  I'm not likely to agree to something of that nature."

"It's all charity work, Sister.  No one says you have to accept pay.  But through this program, your courses will be paid for."

"Paid for?  Hmmm.  Then, I would not have to take money for my work."

"It's unusual, but yes, if that's what you wanted."

"Let me get back to ya, have to discuss it with my family," she said, abruptly hanging up.  

Ray turned the phone toward himself, almost looking into the receiver.  "That's Sister," he said aloud.

As he placed the receiver back on the hook, a knock was heard at the door.  There stood Bea with her new pad and pen.  She smiled and put out her hand.  He took it, shaking it, and said,  "Good morning, Bea."

She nodded.  She sat down, across from his desk, but very close, so that they could exchange notes as needed.  She wrote, I had a dream.

"All right.  Do you want to talk about the dream?"

It wasn't a very bad dream, like the others.  It was a good dream and bad.  Todd and Blair had a new baby.  It was a girl.  She was so pretty.  But she was so tiny, so small, she could fit in Todd's hand, and he was holding her with his fingers open to make a little cup.

"It's all right.  That's not something real.  That's a dream.  Remember, dreams are not real life.  They are things in your mind."

The woman wrote:  I forget that sometimes.  The sparrows started in my dream, but they were real, weren't they?

"No, Bea, we've talked about that.  The sparrows were not real.  Remember we read about birds and learned that they cannot pick up a person?"

She wrote, for a longer time.  Then she handed him the pad.  I remember now.  Yes.  Birds are too little to lift people.  Even a lot of them.  They were not really there, they were in my mind.  It's confusing, for me, really confusing.  So much is real or not real.  The One Who Hurt Us, Peter, he was real.  Very real.  But the sparrows, and the tiny baby are not.  Is that right?

"Yes, Bea, that's right.  You seem very confused today.  Did the dream make you confused?"

I think so.  The dream made me feel strange.  I thought it was already happening.  The baby is not born, the tiny baby is not here. And I am not better.  In the dream, I was better.  Todd was holding the tiny baby and I was there.  I was better.  But, it has not happened, yet.

"It may never happen, Bea.  Dreams are not things that happen in the future."

The woman looked out the window, and then took her pen to her lip, tapping there, then wrote and handed it to Ray, half-smiling.  

Not always.

***

Blair was on the exam table in a blue johnny coat, and Todd was sitting beside her.  Both were waiting for the doctor.  He said, "You look good in blue, but not as good as red."

"Thanks.  This is . . . I never thought we'd be here again, Todd.  We're having a baby."  She could barely get the words out without her eyes moistening.

He stroked her hair, "I know.  We're just living the dream, you and I."

"Ours."

"Yep."

The door opened.  "Mr and Mrs. Manning.  Good to see you."  She pulled up a mobile stool, and pushed it toward them.  "I'm glad to say, everything so far, so good."

"We're glad," Blair said, "We lost other children, you know that."

"Yes.  Which brings me to a word of caution.  This delivery will most likely be c-section because of the bullet wound.  We can't risk it rupturing."

"Okay," Blair said, sounding husky and rather breathless.  "Is the baby okay?"

"The baby's fine, right now.  It's doing just what it should be.  Growing."

"Will she be all right?  I mean, will I carry her to term?"  

Todd watched his wife, and looking at her face, he was transported back to the past, when she, having already lost Sommer, was waking in a panic.  He said, "Babe, the doctor said everything is okay."

She looked back at Todd, and smiled, as if noticing her own paranoia.  "I know, I'm just . . . skittish I guess."  She began to breathe faster, and then exclaiming, "oh" in a confused manner, she was unprepared when the doctor rose from her stool and moved Blair to sitting and instructed her to put her head between her knees.


After Blair calmed and her breathing returned to normal, the doctor spoke, "Some degree of this is to be expected.  You've lost three natural children.  That's a great deal of suffering to endure, and with two of them you were very far along.  I understand the concern and the questions.  I won't lie to you or sugar coat things.  In your 40s, you're far more likely to develop problems like high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy and have a higher risk of delivering a low-birth-weight or preterm baby.  With the previous losses, it can be stressful.  That's why I need to reiterate these things:  rest, relaxation and good nutrition.  There should be some form of meditation to use in case you begin to feel like you did just now.  Mr. Manning, I'm leaving a lot of that under your care."

"I understand.  She's my princess, and she'll be treated like royalty."

Blair smiled, her hair a bit mussed from the slight panic attack.  She said, "Thank you, Todd.  If the baby is okay, I am okay," she said, smiling.

The doctor walked out, leaving Blair to get dressed and Todd to watch.  "I like this part," he said.  "What was all that about, Babe?  The breathing, you know, what just happened?"

"I panicked.  I don't know why.  Something, I just felt a rush in my chest, and it got tight, and the next thing I knew, I couldn't breathe, but I was breathing too much, you know?"

He did.  Panic.  He'd experienced it often, with his PTSD and the things he'd been through.  "You're going to be all right, though.  We'll make sure of it, the kids and I."

"I'm all right, Todd, really," she said, putting her slacks back on and finishing her redress.  "Can I treat you to lunch?"

"With my money?"

"No, with mine."

"Oh, well, that changes everything. Sure.  Where to?"

"The Country Club?"

"Is that place still open?"

"Yes, it's open, you silly."

"Then, okay," he said, becoming more serious, as he leaned in toward her face and met her lips with his.  Her hand found his scar, and slid across it, familiarly.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hope from the Ocean: 3

Sam and Jack were outside, fixing the melted fort as the snow covered the mountain again with a blanket of white winter warmth.  Todd was in the home office, engrossed in something, when Blair appeared at the door.  She said, "Hey, what are you doing?  Working on a snowday?"

"Yep.  Your aunt gave me that order, do something beautiful with what I've been given.  Well, I'm trying."

"Can I be involved?"

"Of course, you're always involved.  My partner in crime.  The most pathetic."

"Think we're beyond pathetic?"

"Maybe," he smirked.  He had accomplished a home, a family and a business, despite who he was and how pathetic things had been.

"So, what's next?"  Blair asked.

"Jenna.  And Lynnette.  They need support.  They can't keep living the way they are.  Both should be able to go to college and make something of themselves.  Jenna's art career should be taking off.  Lynnette, well, whatever she wants to do with her life, she should have the chance."

"What's your idea?"

"Couple things.  When Hope Weekend is over, we're opening an art gallery.  The Diamond Gallery.  Momma's art, and Jenna's, will be the first two artists there."

"Do you know anything about art dealership?"

"No, but I can learn.  I learned the paper, I can learn that."

"Dorian knows a little about it, Todd."

"You're not suggesting I hire Dorian, are you?"

"Not necessarily.  She used to co-own the Buchanan-Lord Art Gallery.  You knew that, right?"

"No.  Must have happened after I died.  The second time.  Or third.  I lose track."  He looked at Blair, who was nonchalantly fingering some paper clips on his desk.  He said, "Is this what you want, Babe?"

"It's not up to me.  But it might put this thing with the two of you to rest?  I mean, if she knows you're willing to include her, rely on her, maybe you could . . . I know, it's stupid."

"No, it's not.  Get her on the phone, will you?  I want to finish proofing this article."

***

"Glad to make your acquaintance," the man said.  He was short and stocky, and had thick glasses on the tip of his nose.  "I'm Leonard Basque, Employment Finder.  How do you do?"

He put out his hand, and Tina took it, shaking it and smiling.  "Nice to meet you."

"Now, sit down my dear, we have a lot of work to do.  First, an interest and experience survey.  I will ask some questions, you will answer.  All rightie?"

"Sure," she said, and sat in an uncomfortable but padded armchair.

"Now.  What jobs have you held in the past?"

Tina looked to the ceiling.  "Well, I . . . I . . . dogsat.  I mean, I had a dog.  I was a personal shopper once!"

"Those went out with the Internet.  Keep going."

"Um.  Well.  I . . . was an interior designer."

"Also went out with the Internet.  What I should say is, you're not that marketable in those areas.  How about we do this differently?  I read the offers, you tell me what you have experience with, all rightie?"

She nodded, and held her purse on her lap.

"Chef and bottle washer."

"No."

"Stenographer."

"Huh?"

"Nevermind.  Candy dipper?"

"No, but I feel like I'm on a 50s sitcom."

"Salesperson at shoe boutique?"

"YES!  That I can do.  I have a lot of shoes.  Been to the stores a hundred times at least.  I know how to do that job.  I'm certain of it."

"Well, the personal shopper thing does ring true.  All right, we'll try this one."  He scribbled on paper.  "Here, there's the address."

"It's Logan's."

"Yes."

"All right, I am on my way.  Thanks Mr. Basque."

"You're welcome, and I am hoping you are not coming back."  She turned back and looked at him quizzically.  He said, "I mean that in the best of ways, Dear."

"Thanks," she said, "I guess," she added under her breath.  Off to Logan's Department Store.

***

"Jack, look!"  Sam called out.  When the older boy lifted his head, he was whalloped with a snowball that bounced off his forehead and sprinkled snow all over his nose.

"You little puny runt," he said, rushing toward Sam, and Sam began to giggle.  Jack hoisted him on his shoulder, and plopped him into a very tall snowdrift.  

"That was fun!"  Sam said.  

"I'll get you back, you peanut."

"I already got you, Giant of the Dumbness."

"Oh, that one again?"

Little Sam nodded, his red knit hat pulled almost over his eyes.  "I like that one.  Fits you perfectly."

"You're asking for it."

"It, it, please?  It?"  Sam said.  "Can you throw me off THERE into the snow?"  He pointed to the helipad.

"No, Sam, it's not the same from up high.  I tell you that all the time.  You'd get hurt.  But, I can bury you in it."

"Nooooo!"  Sam screamed, pretending to be afraid, but smiling and giggling in between.

Sam ran to the snow pile and rested on it, still pretending to be afraid.  Jack started shoveling little clumps of the fine, grainy snow onto Sam's legs.  "Help!  Help!"  Sam pretended, "The monster is burying me alive!"

Jack stopped a moment, hearing his brother, and then lost his playful momentum.   Of course, he could only think of his father . . . and then his dreams.  Sam, seeing Jack's change in demeanor, said, "Come on, Giant, don't you want to do me in?"

"Nah, this is getting boring," he masked himself.

"What's the matter, Jack?"  Sam said, sitting up, and loosening the snow from his legs.  He stood up, and Jack marveled that he was no taller than the little snow pile.

"Nothing, Puny.  I'm hungry.  Wanna go eat?"

"Yeah!  Okay!  Then maybe you can finish your mission against me, okay?"

"We'll see," he said.

"Jack," Sam said as he brushed the rest of the snow off his pants.

"Yeah?"

"Is that man coming back?  The one that made me and Hope go into my room?"

"No.  He's not coming back.  No one is going to hurt you, Sam.  Not as long as I'm your big brother," he said, crouching down, and Sam automatically climbed onto his back.  He hiked him up, and then felt the small arms cross around his neck as he trotted toward the house.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Letter from Author of "The Devil You Know," (Monica_Ann)

Dear readers:
 
I thank you for all the warm wishes regarding “The Devil You Know.”  There will be an epilogue posted, and this concludes the Manning’s lives in Port Charles.  I’m sure they are still there, but you all can continue their story as you see fit.  This duology began as a correction to the terrible and ridiculous baby swap story and, since One Life to Live has returned to our screen, so have the Mannings to my writing in those surroundings.
 
And since Todd has returned, I have written it.  I am in the process of a new book.  But please, hold on for a bit.  The novel will be up here on The Real Todd Manning Fanfiction Hub, but I will be taking my time with it.  Quite honestly, the best fanfiction to me as a Todd and Blair fan is playing out on Hulu and iTunes this Thursday and then Mondays starting July 1! 
 
That sadly leaves a week without them each showing, though, so on those off days, stay tuned to The Hub for more and different stories of Todd, Blair, Starr, Jack and Sam Manning and their families.
 
Again, I appreciate all your comments and am happy you have enjoyed my story.
 
Till then,
 
Monica Ann
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Monday, June 24, 2013

Hope from the Ocean: 2


Todd wasn't able to sleep.  Lying next to Blair at Unforgettable, in his perfectly-crafted master bedroom suite, he stared at the ceiling (mostly made of glass) and looked at the stars.  It was strange to him, and still somehow new, that living on Llantano Mountain made more stars visible; the lack of light from the city of Llanview at night allowed the stars to shine more clearly, and it was almost as if he could touch them.  Turning his head to the side, his eyes rested on Blair.  Her hair was strewn over her face, and her hand was on his chest, where she had fallen asleep with him holding it hours before.    She calmed him, in a way he never understood.  Inside, he was still seething with the years of vengeful pain that had built within.  

Will I ever be able to put all this anger aside and just live?

He thought of the morning, the trip he and Jack had taken into town for the funeral, and back further, when his son had first come to him with the news of Tera Winfield's death.  He remembered how a lump formed in his gut when he realized it was at the hands of Mitch, and then the words, from his mother in the letter he opened shortly afterward.  



I may have said this before, Todd, but don't stay too long with Peter in your memories.  From your eyes, I can tell you've already been there too long.

She hadn't even seen him in years, and knew from seeing his eyes.  For a moment, in the dark, he wished that Blair would wake and hold him.  Looking back to her, he then closed his eyes and listened to her breathing, knowing she had his next child within her, and kept his light grip on her hand, moving his so slightly to massage hers.  He held back alerting her; he'd made a promise to himself to let her focus on bringing this new life into the world, not rehashing death and dread, nothing to make her upset or at risk for losing the baby.  I'll try and sleep.  Listen to her breathing, listen. . .

He felt her move, and the hand on his chest wrapped itself around his thumb.  Then he heard her:  "Todd?"

He waited a moment, and said, "Yeah?"

"You're up?"

"Yeah."

"You okay?"  He didn't answer.  She opened her eyes and looked at him.  "Do you need something?"

"You.  That's all."

"All right," she said, the grogginess of sleep still in her voice, as she moved closer, putting her head in its customary place under his shoulder, against his chest, where hearts are supposed to be in stories.  "It's all right, Todd.  It's all over."

He wished she were right.  He wished he wouldn't be interrupted, while doing simple tasks of everyday life, by the images of Peter and the secret room, and Bitsy, in various stages of total annihilation, under his control.  He swallowed.  

She felt it.  "Todd, what is it?"

"What is what?"

"I can tell something's wrong.  Your throat is working, you're tense.  I'm awake now, just tell me."

"Just . . . the same stuff, nothing new.  Talking about it won't take it away."

"Here," she said, "turn your back toward me."

He listened to her and did what she asked.  She wrapped her arms around his chest, and one hand reached up to his hair and stroked it.  One of her legs also wrapped around his, and he could feel her pressed against him.  He sighed, and let her hold him.  He said, "I haven't slept . . ."

She interrupted, "I know.  I can tell.  I've seen you restless every night since everything calmed down. It has to hurt.  It has to be on your mind, that's not abnormal, Todd, it's what anyone would be feeling after what you went through and what you uncovered."  She pulled herself closer and snuggled to him.  "You deserve love and comfort.  You deserved it then, as a little boy, and you didn't get it.  I'm just going to hold you until you don't want me to."

He wasn't sure what to say at first, and then said, "Then you'll be doing it for a long time."

"That's all right, My Love."

"Blair?"

"Yes?"

"Don't stop loving me."

"I never could, regardless.  I've tried, remember?"

"Yeah.  I've tried, too."

"Exactly.  Now try and sleep, all right?"  She stroked his hair and felt him ease more into the mattress.  Soon, his shoulders were not as tense, and he was quiet. 

Deeper in the night, she felt him jump and heard him inhale sharply through his mouth.  His hand reached behind him, as if to find her.  She said, "Shhh, it's all right.  It's just a dream."

"Where's the baby?"

"He's in his crib."

"It's dark.  Is the house . . . locked?"

"Yes, it's locked.  The alarm is on."  She waited a moment, and then said, "You're shaking, Todd.  Do you want to talk?"

He was silent for a moment, and then said, "No."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure, Blair, please!"  he said, and his voice was strained.  "I don't want this in our lives.  I want it out.  Gone.  It belongs in Ray's office, not here with us, the kids, and the new baby inside you."

She realized where his heart was.  

He doesn't want that poison to touch us.  

"All right, but it is part of us.  It's part of you, and your life.  How will we not deal with that?"

He closed his eyes, and the urge to run came into his gut.  "I just . . . I don't want it to be here, with us, Blair.  It's too much.  Can't we just . . ."

"Forget it?  In time, sure.  But, you can't right now, no one expects you to."  The room was silent.  "Now, just rest.  Just lean into me, and close your eyes.  Try and sleep some more."

She recognized everything he was going through as part of his PTSD, which had rejuvenated itself after all of the revelations and the home invasion.  Ray had assured her it was expected and would eventually fade.  These were the remnants of his childhood, and Blair knew, like it or not, it was part of his core.  Determined to have her love and the family they'd made win out, she closed her eyes and pulled him closer.

***

The morning brought the sounds of the kids up and about in the house; Blair woke first, still with her arms around her husband, and then he stirred next to her.  He said, "The kids are up."

"They are.  I think I hear Jack playing Dad and banging some pans around."

"Think they have the baby down there?"

"Probably," she got up from the bed and moved to get her robe.  He sat at the end of the bed and ran his hands through his hair.  She said, "You're tired, aren't you?"

"A little, maybe."  His face was getting the sunken look, and it was darker around his eyes than it had been in a while.

"Go back to sleep, Todd."

"Not the most appealing suggestion, Blair."

"In fact, I have an idea.  You lie down, and I'll be right back."

He put his head back against the pillow.  "I am really tired, Blair.  Really tired."  He yawned, and closed his eyes.  Within a few minutes, his bedroom was invaded with kids.  Jack, carrying a large tray with breakfast food on it, Sam carrying other breakfast items that could not fit on the tray, and Blair carrying Ray and more things in her other arm.  They set the food down in the room on the coffee table, and Jack started a fire.  Todd was dozing, and Blair shushed the kids when the voices got above a whisper.  "Dad's tired, so we want him to sleep, and if he can't, we want him to have a nice breakfast when he gets up," she whispered.

Jack put the last log on the fire.  "Why can't he sleep, Mom, is it the same stuff?"

She nodded, and eyed Sam.  "No more talk of that now."

Sam went into the other room to get his toys, Jack pulled out his Ipod.  Blair started eating some fruit, when Todd sat up quickly.  She said, "You all right?  We have breakfast.  The family is going to hang in here this morning.  It's starting to snow," she said, looking up.

He glanced at the windows.  "This is nice."

"This, is right, Mr. Manning.  You told me that yourself."

Jack, pretending not to listen, was soaking in every word his parents exchanged.  Sam came barreling back into the room and dumped his Spiderman figures on the floor.  The fire was catching on, and Todd joined them in the sitting area.  "I'll take some of that," he said, making a plate for himself.

Jack said, "So, Dad, what are we going to do today?"

"What do you want to do?"

"I don't know.  It's snowing now, I was going to say let's go visit Grandma Bitsy, but it's bad weather."

Todd was noticeably touched by his son's words, and Blair stepped in, "Yeah, the weather is not so great.  They're expecting about 6 inches on the mountain."

"I love snow!  It's so fluffy like a pillow," Sam said.  "We can make a fort!"

"Another one?"  Jack said.  "You already have a melted deformed one out there."

"How about a snowfamily, then?"  Sam said.

"Not a bad idea," Blair said.  

Todd was chewing.  "Sure, make sure the mommy snowman has a big belly."

"Okay, Dad!"  Sam said, and went back to playing with his action figures.  

Todd said, "Jack, have you heard from Jenna?"

"Not since the funeral.  Thanks again for bringing me and for staying with me, Dad."

"No problem.  Sad.  Maybe you should call her.  Maybe she needs to hear from you."

"Think so?"

"That last conversation that you had with her just as much said it."

"She was so sad.  Mom, you should have seen it.  She kept apologizing to Dad and I, like she did something wrong."

"Poor thing," Blair said.

"She was crying, she was . . ." he thought back to the scene at the funeral home, and his nightmare, and stopped.  I took Shane's mother away.  Shane must have felt the way Jenna does . . . and I did that. I . . .

"She was very upset," Todd said, and it interrupted his son's thoughts.  "You were good with her.  Give her a call, or a tweet or whatever."

"I will," he said, starting to move his thumbs across the keyboard.  He waited a moment, and then said, "She's not on, or else, she's not answering."

"She will," Todd said.  He turned his attention to his middle son, as Jack went into the headphone zone.  "What about him?" he said to Blair, nodding to Sam.

"Since that one little nightmare the other night, he's been okay since the Mitch thing.  I think he's resilient, and he has us.  I think he feels safe."

"That's good," he said, "I know what it means to feel totally in danger, all the time.  As a little kid, it . . . does something to you."

"I know," she said, looking from his eyes to her youngest.  Little Ray was engaged in chewing on a squishy toy.  "This one here, he's oblivious."

"He is.  So fortunate, and he has to stay that way.  Nothing should ever hurt him.  He's beautiful.  He's innocent."

"He's us, Todd."

"I know," he said, reaching over, "Come here, Little Guy."  He picked him up and held him over his shoulder.  The youngest pulled Todd's ear, and he said, "Ow, wait a minute," and loosened his little hand.  "That one hurts, Bud.  Kids, Blair.  You gotta give them all the love you can."

"I know.  And you're doing great."

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Port Charles Chronicles: Chapter 62


“Todd! My God, you’re hit!?” Blair was frantic.  She spotted the blood trickling down his face as he rolled over onto his back.

       He stared into her beautiful but terrified face.  “What?  No, it’s nothing, I think some glass must have nicked me.” He knew she was thinking of the last time he had been hit.  He felt something cutting into his neck and reached up to find a shattered piece of the window between his skin and the collar.  “I’m alright, see.” He showed Blair the glass as he removed it and that was when she lost it.  She collapsed onto him, crying.

Todd held her to him, “Shh, Babe, you know me, the guy with nine lives.  Tomas is going to have to do a whole lot better, if he wants to take me out.”  He held her, rubbing the small of her back as her sobs lessened.  He looked around and saw Starr, Jack, and Addie standing shocked in the doorway. John had moved to the shattered window and was peering out carefully.
 
“If you’re looking for the shooter, the shot came from out in the lake.  Is he gone?” Todd said as he began to sit up.  Blair quickly separated herself and sat back on her heels to give him room, her hand going to his forehead, which was still bleeding profusely.  Todd caught it before she touched him. “Wait, Babe.”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief and put it to his temple. Blair smiled gently and took it from him and began to tenderly wipe away the blood. 

With those simple movements, everyone came back to life. Starr moved to the bathroom.

“Mom, keep the pressure on, and I’ll get a wet cloth.”

Jack walked toward John. “What shooter?  Are we talking about the same guy that shot at Dad last night?  What’s Tomas have to do with all this?” 

Blair and Todd looked at each other. “Jack, stay away from the window.  We have no idea if he’s still out there.” ordered Todd.   He wanted to go look for himself, but now his headache had taken on a whole new dimension.  The pounding inside had increased, and the discomfort on the outside was making him a little dizzy.  He was sure if he tried to stand at that moment, he’d fall flat on his face.  

Starr joined her mother and father, handing the cool cloth to her mother.  “Come on Dad, let’s get you off the floor.” 

 With Blair and Starr helping, Todd got to his feet and as he suspected the change in altitude, made the room tilt precipitously.  To keep from going down, he stopped and gripped Blair’s hand tightly, swaying slightly until the room righted itself.  Blair moved in imperceptibly and gave Todd the added support of her body the instant he clutched her hand.  Todd moved to a chair and sat down, letting them tend to the wound.  

Jack had hesitated when his father had told him to stop, but when he observed John move directly in front of the window, he figured the danger was over.  He crossed to the window and looked out to see what had grabbed the detective’s attention.  His eyes widened as he saw what was taking place out on the lake.  “Whoa, there’s a Coast Guard Cruiser out there and a smaller boat. It looks like someone’s hurt or dead.” As he watched, he saw men scurrying around the person lying still in the smaller boat.”

Blair looked over in alarm, “Jack, get away from the window!”

“Aww, Mom.  It’s safe.  I think that’s where the shot came from.  Wow, they must have shot him.  That’s why he’s not moving.”

John had been watching quietly and turned to Blair.  “It’s alright.  Jack’s in no danger.”  He looked up at the ceiling where the bullet had plugged.  “Manning, you have the luck of the devil.  He wasn’t taking any chances this time, he aimed for your head.  What gave him away?”

“I caught a flash of something just as I was turning and figured it wasn’t good.  Instinct, preservation, I don’t know, I just dove for cover.” 

 “How are you doing?  You should be checked out by a doctor. The glass that cut you could have come in contact with the bullet.  I’m betting that bullet is coated the same as the last two.”

“Forget it, I’m not going to the hospital, and that’s final.  Glass flew everywhere.  The odds of a piece that came in contact with the bullet hitting me are probably astronomical.”  Todd winced as Blair applied more pressure to his forehead.  “Hey, not so hard.”

Blair frowned at him.  “John’s right and you’re being stubborn.  That little piece you showed me didn’t do this.  The cut’s too deep, and it needs stitches.”  They watched as John moved to the area Todd had fallen.  They saw him lean over and pull a plastic bag from his pocket.  He gingerly picked up a bigger shard with the bag and sealed it. Blair felt queasy as she spotted blood on the edge.

“You guys make a habit of carrying baggies, or is that for your dog?” Todd remarked snarkily.  

John ignored the comment and looked him straight in the eyes. “You won’t go to the hospital.  I figured we could get the glass tested.”  

Todd was shocked. John was actually trying to help. There was only one thing he could say, so he said it quickly. “Thanks.” Before he could say anything else, Addie led in a paramedic.  Todd panicked.  “I don’t know who called you, but stop right there, turn around, and leave.  I’m fine, and we don’t need your services.”  He paled and began to break out into a cold sweat.  

“Todd, I told you.  You need stitches.  This doesn’t want to stop bleeding, let the man do his job or else I’m going to take you to the emergency room myself.”  Blair made the statement then saw the look of terror in Todd’s eyes.  She turned to see the paramedic opening his bag and realized her mistake.  “On second thought, maybe you’re right.  Sir, my fiance is correct, we don’t need your help.”  

For his part, Todd was struggling to keep it together.  The paramedic in front of him kept changing from a paramedic to an orderly and back again. He clenched his jaw and closed his eyes, but in doing so the pounding increased.  Think Todd, Dr. Collins said to use the mantra.  Concentrate on it.   He began to whisper to himself. “I have a daughter, her name is Starr. Starr has a mother, her name is Blair.  Blair was my wife.  I have a son, his name is Jack.  I have a daughter, her name is Starr...”  He began trembling.  In his minds eye, the orderly continued to move toward him.

As soon as her father started whispering, Starr moved.  “Yes, my grandmother was wrong.  We can handle this ourselves.  It just looked bad to start with.” She hustled the paramedic out of the room, followed anxiously by Addie.

“Starr, I don’t understand.”

“Grandma, I’ll explain shortly.” 

Blair was watching Todd, her fears were confirmed when he started his chant. As she watched he seemed to withdraw into himself and was leaning back in the chair, as if he were trying to get away from someone or something only he could see.  She reached for him only to have him flail his arms. 

“No, get back! Leave me alone!” he curled away from her and started chanting again. 

 John frowned, he knew from the reports he had gotten at the hospital what had just happened. The shooting along with the sight of the medical technician was causing Todd to experience another PTSD hallucination.  

Jack was confused.  He had been so engrossed with what was taking place out in the lake, he hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary when the paramedic arrived.  Then his father started to chant.  He looked over to see what was going on.  He saw his father with his eyes closed, whispering.  His mother was clearly upset as she began trying to get his father’s attention.   He jumped when his father yelled and turned from her.  “Mom, what’s going on?” 

John caught Jack as he started to head over to his parents.  “Hold on, Jack.  Let your mother handle this.”

Jack shook off the arm.  “Why? Something’s wrong.  Mom’s scared, I can see it in her face.  What’s going on with my father.  Is it the injury?”

“No, this is the result of eight years of captivity.  Your father was put through a lot during those years, and now he’s fighting a battle with his own mind.  It’s one of the side effects of post traumatic stress.  His mother did a real number on him, and the man out there on the boat, tried to finish the job.”

Jack walked back to the window.  He thought back to the day he spotted Tomas in town.  He had thought the guy was stalking his mom, but he had really been after his dad.  “That’s him, isn’t it?  That’s Tomas out there.”

John stood next to him as they watched  a body being removed to the Coast guard Cruiser.  “I believe so, yes.  I’ll be able to find out soon.  He won’t be bothering anyone again.”

Jack looked over at his parents.  His mother was carefully and soothingly talking to his father.  She made no further move to touch him . She was crying.  His father stopped chanting and appeared to be breathing heavily.  He watched as his dad lifted a very shaky hand to his mother’s face and wiped away her tears.  He felt like he was intruding, as his mom responded with a weak smile, and took his father’s hand and hugged it to her chest.  His own eyes teared up, and he turned back to stare out over the lake.  “I hope Tomas burns in hell!”  A tear dropped on his cheek, followed by several more, as he wept for his father. 

John put a hand on Jack’s shoulder and then turned his attention to the doorway where one of the federal agents was entering.  The agent made his way to John’s side. 

 “Sir, there’s a  call from Agent Devane.”

John glanced over at Todd and Blair and decided to give them some time before bringing up Tomas.  He paused to let Starr and Addie back into the room, before following the agent out  to take the call.

 Starr had procured the necessary items from the paramedic.  He had only given them to her after she had explained the situation to him.  Now she needed to fix her father’s wound.  She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her father was okay.  In minutes, she and Addie managed to get him stitched up.  Then all three women insisted he lie down and rest.  His reaction to the paramedic after nearly being shot had scared them all.  Todd was too drained from the episode to put up a fight.

  Blair was beside herself, she wanted to rage and kill Irene all over again not to mention the monster who had almost succeeded in killing Todd a third time.  She didn’t even want to think about Sam, because it made her even more furious.  She had held Todd’s hand as Starr had worked on him.  It had taken everything in her to keep control of her emotions, in order to give Todd time to regain his own composure.  Having decided to let him rest. Blair reached deep into her core, letting the anger turn cold. Enough was enough. This is your family Blair, no one messes with your family and lives to tell the tale.  She swept the comforter off the bed and the glass with it, then let Todd lie down.  “Okay, everyone listen up. I’ve had it, this family has cowered in this room long enough.  Mannings don’t hide, we get even. Todd, you rest.  I’ll get you some aspirin for the head.  Jack, make yourself useful.  Try and get Sam back up on the computer.  We need to know what’s going on.  Starr, I want you and Addie to get Tea on the phone.  It’s time she found out about her not-so-dead lying husband.”

Laying back on the pillows, Todd couldn’t help smiling a little bit.  Blair had gone into her Mama Bear mode.   It was one of the things he loved about her.  She was right.  It was time for action.

Blair saw his smile and rounded on him.  “What are you grinning like a fool for?  You were almost killed again, and Sam still hasn’t talked to us since this morning.  It’s not funny!”  She grabbed up the spare pillow that had fallen to the floor with the comforter and swung it at Todd. 

Todd reacted quickly.  He caught the pillow and tugged, causing Blair to lose her balance and fall beside him on the bed. “Temper, wounded man here.”  He grabbed her arms as she tried to get off the bed and made her sit next to him .  “I don’t think any of this was funny.  I was smiling because I love it when you get all fierce.  Walker Flynn is a fool to think he can just take Sam, and you won’t retaliate.  He obviously never really got to know you the way I do.”  Todd saw Jack still standing by the window and just looking at them.  “Jack, you heard your mother. Go try and get your brother back online.”

 He and Blair watched as Jack nodded and headed to the other room.  Then he drew Blair’s attention back to him by reaching to move a strand of hair out of her face. “If I heard Jack correctly, right before the paramedic got here, I don’t think we need to worry about Tomas any longer.” 

Blair looked at the broken window.  One of the federal officers was standing there, looking out, talking on his cell, and seemed to be having a conversation with someone about the event. “You think he’s dead don’t you?  I still don’t understand why he was trying to kill you.” 

“Blair, it’s obvious.  He considered me a threat to his being with you.  He knew we shared a bond, and he wanted you all to himself.  I don’t want to talk about him, I won.   Let John and Detective Falconeri tie up the loose ends.   All we need to concentrate on now, is finding out where Flynn has Sam.”

“Todd, I’m just so worried about Sam.  The Feds almost had a location when he suddenly signed off.  If Walker found out he was in contact with us, he could take Sam and leave and we’d never find them.”

“Not going to happen.  Sam seems to know he can’t let his dad find out what he’s doing.  I’m pretty sure he signed off to keep Flynn in the dark.  Look, we know they’re in the Philadelphia area.  I think it’s time we headed back to Llanview.”

Blair nodded, she had an overwhelming need to get somewhere closer to her son.  “I agree, but will the police here let us go.  You were just shot at for the third time.  They’re going to want to talk to you.”

“There’s not a whole lot I can tell them.  Until today I didn’t even know Tomas was in town.   I’m the victim, remember.  Besides, if that was him out on that lake.  He’s gone.  They caught him in the act, I’m guessing.  They don’t need me.  They can’t stop us from going home.  Hand me my phone and I’ll get Vince and the plane ready.  You tell Starr, Addie and Jack.  I’ll handle John.”

****

A few blocks away from the Metro-Court, Calmar stood waiting for his cab.  He had just successfully reinforced Zacchara’s programming and had sent the young man to turn himself in to the police.  It was time to head back to Philadelphia.  Getting into his cab, he gave his instructions. “Take me to the airport.”

Anna Devane walked out of Corinthos’ warehouse.  Several ambulances were lined up to aid the officers injured in the gunfight.  It had been over pretty quickly as Zacchara’s men soon realized they were out numbered.  Once inside the warehouse it had become clear what the men had been doing.  The crates from the truck stood opened, and it was apparent the men had begun hiding the guns in the coffee shipment. Dante Falconeri was right.  They had been setting  Corinthos up.  She managed to get the name of the man Carlson had seen with Alcazar.  Anna took her phone out and made a call.

“This is Anna Devane.  Let me speak to John McBain.”  A minute later John answered.  “John, we’ve got the guns and the name of the man who delivered them to Alcazar.  It was  Calmar.  I’ve notified the CIA, they’re stunned.  They say he’s not working on anything for them at this time.  Mac and his officers are checking all avenues out of the city.  We’ll get him if he decides to leave Port Charles.  I haven’t heard from Detective Falconeri, has he gotten Alcazar or Delgado, whoever he is, yet.  I want to talk to both of them.” 

John had listened quietly as Anna told her story.  “You’ll be able to talk to Calmar, but no one’s going to be talking to Delgado.  I believe he’s dead and I’m just waiting for confirmation from Detective Falconeri.”

“Wait.  Detective Falconeri was supposed to bring him in for questioning, what happened?”

“I’ll explain as soon as I hear from the detective.  Someone made a third attempt on Todd  Manning  just a short time ago.  The shooter missed but was taken down himself.  I just don’t know if it was Delgado yet.”

“You don’t know, but you think it was him, don’t you?  Why?”

“It’s a long story and goes back a lot of years.  Let’s just say Tomas Delgado and Todd Manning have a turbulent history.  The man was also an assassin at one time for the CIA, I think that and his hatred for Manning qualifies him as a suspect.  Hold on, I’ve got another call coming in.  It’s Falconeri.”  

Anna waited impatiently on the other end of the call.  John had suspected Delgado was the shooter.  That meant he was the one responsible for the murder of Carly Jacks, and John neglected to mention that fact.  She hated it when he went off on his own, and it looked like he was doing it again.

“Anna, are you still there?  I was right, Delgado is dead.  Falconeri and the Coast Guard were forced to shoot him down when he tried to turn his gun on them.”

“I see.   When were you going to tell me you thought he killed Carly Jacks?”

 "When I talked with him this morning, all I had were suspicions.   I knew from his reaction to her death that he was involved and I had to let him think we didn’t suspect him.  That’s why Dante just shadowed him.  If he had brought him in, Delgado would have used his contacts to prove he was on assignment and left town.   I stirred the pot when I told him about Carly and that the second attempt on Manning had failed.  I needed him to make a move while we were watching.  He moved faster than I thought and still got a shot off before Dante took him down. Once again Manning is lucky to be alive.” 

“Okay, so Delgado was the shooter.  Was he just playing at being Alcazar?”

“I don’t think so.  Calmar has been his supervisor for a lot of years.  If we get him, we can get the answers to all of this.”

****

Calmar arrived at the airport and stepped out of the cab.  A short time later he heard his plane being called and headed for the gate.  He was about to board the plane when he found himself surrounded by several officers.  “Messieurs, to what do I owe this honor?”

“Claude Calmar, you are under arrest for trafficking in guns and the attempted framing of one Michael Corinthos.  You’ll have to come with us.”




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