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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 44 (adult)

Morning showed its face with sun and cold air.  The sky was cloudless, and the temperatures were testing the heating system in the castle.  Tina, who was in the kitchen early, making Ray's breakfast and tending to him, as well as to herself, was greeted by Sister Rebecca Katherine.  The nun said, "He made it home.  Last night.  Somewhere around two-thirty.  Maybe later."

"He's all right, then?"

"Yes.  Seems so.  I caught wind of it when he and Blair walked someone out to the cottage."

"They brought someone home with them?"

"It seems so.  Can I help ya?"

"I knew the two of them were up late.  I wanted them to be able to sleep in.  Starr and Hope are already up.  Starr fed her and they're in the drawing room, I believe.  Jack's still asleep.  Sam's already had a tray, from what I understand, and he's coloring.  That leaves me, Ray, and you, and Dorian if she plans on coming up for breakfast.  I'm not planning on disturbing my brother and Blair any time soon."

"What about the guest?  Clearly, someone Todd wanted to show kindness to.  Shall I go out to the cabin and rouse the fellow?"  The nun offered.

"You know, I'll go.  It will do me good.  Just let me finish this breakfast for the baby, and then if you don't mind watching him?"

"Not at all.  Preferable to going out there in the frigid air.  A good and fair trade."  The nun made herself comfortable by Ray, who was making gurgling happy sounds and banging his spoon on the tray of his high chair.  "Oh, Little Man, what an imp ya are.  Scaring us all yesterday.  Ya got running feet, ya do."

Tina finished heating Ray's breakfast, and placed it down on the tray for the nun to manage, and went out the door, stopping to take her coat off the coat rack in the lobby.  Walking out into the cold air, she bundled herself by pulling the coat closed, and holding it with one arm as she made her way to the third cabin.


"You know," Blair said, opening her eyes slowly to waking as she stirred from his touch, "you did make a promise about what would happen when you got home."

She'd been roused by his hands, caressing her face and body, as he pulled her, sleeping, to him and nuzzled into her neck.  He said, "Exactly what I was thinking.  And I always keep my promises.  Well, at least lately."

She smiled.  "Do you remember what they were?"

"I think so.  Wasn't there something about being inside you all night, yada yada yada?"

She laughed sweetly, and put her head over his shoulder in an embrace.  "Yeah, well you blew that one!" she laughed, and then said, "I'm so glad you're all right."

"I'm glad, too."

"What about the part where you said I could have your autograph?" she reminded.

"Oh yeah," he said, feigning innocence.  "Where would you like it?"  She pointed to her lips first, and he brought his tongue out, and lightly flecked them before kissing her and exploring her mouth with it.  "Was that it?"

She shook her head "no," and moved her fingers to her nipple.  He obliged.  Looking up, he said, "Too small an area.  I can't get my whole name in.  Let me try here," he said, moving toward her belly.  He drew his tongue over her middle, circling and flicking it in little patterns to mock handwriting.

She said, "No, not quite right."  He moved down her body, and gently pushed her thighs apart with his hands.  He buried his tongue in her, and she arched her back toward him.  "Yes, that seems right," she said, and lost her fingers in his hair.  Closing her eyes, she let him work her to ecstasy, and she felt the waves of completion pulse through her.  She gently moved his mouth away from her.  "You have a long name.  I can't wait until you get to the other part."

"What other part?"  he said, moving his mouth back up her body.  His hands rested on her breasts, and he thumbed her hardened nipples, putting himself inside her.  

She moaned and closed her eyes, and he did the same.  As he moved himself in ways that brought them both to passionate heights, he was flooded with memories, but this time, they weren't frightening or interruptive.  They were of her, the various ways she had given him everything, over so long:  under him with fireworks shining onto their faces in the penthouse; hanging off his arm at the top of the Chamber of Commerce Building; dancing with him as he showered them with gold balloons; understanding and tender with him when he first made love to her after eight years in captivity.  All this, and he felt there was never enough time to think of it all again, but he wanted to.  He so wanted to . . .  

She called to him, softly, and urged him on.  He changed his angle, and brought her leg up over his shoulder, and she squealed with pleasure.  He felt her body responding to him in rhythmic cadence to his movements, and at the same moment, he exploded into release.

The room fell silent, with the exception of both of their breathing.  He was still lying between her legs, when she said, "I just love you so much, Todd."

"I love you, too.  So much."  

He moved down and placed his head on her abdomen and closed his eyes.    She made circles on his scalp, and as they were falling back into sleep, they heard a familiar voice.  "Mom?  Dad?  I'm stuck in here!  Jack has his earphones on and can't hear me!"

Todd picked his head up, still reveling in the quiet relaxation of their morning of lovemaking.  "What do you need, Bud?"

"I gotta go to the bathroom!"  Sam shouted.

Todd said, "Welp, so much for this," and started to get up.

Blair said, "No, My Love, you stay here and rest.  Heroes don't have to get up for bathroom duty."

"You can't carry him, Babe.  You're pregnant."

"I know.  But I can pull Jack's earphones out."  She was already up.  She kissed his cheek playfully.  "I'll be right back.  You stay here, and wait for me."

He thought back to what had just transpired between them, and turned on his back.  "Manning, what the Hell did you ever do to have this life?"


Tina knocked gingerly on the door of the third cabin.  All was quiet inside, and she waited another minute.  The grass was covered in frost, which, in the morning light, dazzled her with a diamond-dust appearance.  She knocked again, telling herself she would give it one last try before going back to the castle.

It was just as she turned to go back toward the main house that the door opened.  The man answering had just revealed one eye and one side of his face, as he peered out the door.  He was shirtless, and kept the door in place over the rest of him, for clear purposes.  "Ya woke me.  Who are ya?"

She blushed, from the tips of her toes to her cheeks.  His dark hair, ivory skin and bright blue eyes had surprised her.  She saw one muscular arm propping the door in place.  She fumbled.  "I . . . er . . . I'm Todd's sister, Tina."

"Pleased," he said, extending his hand through the crack in the door.

She shook it, and noticed that he held it a bit longer than she was used to.  His grip was firm, but somehow compassionate.  She said, "Nice to meet you.  You are . . .?"

"Aiden," he said.  "A friend of Todd's.  Involved in last night's ordeal and he offered me a place to rest up a few days.  Now that ya woke me, I think I'll visit the gym he told me about."

"I came to ask if you wanted breakfast."

"Ay, that would be a fine thing.  Can ya wait one moment?"  he closed the door without waiting for her answer.

In a moment, the door reopened, and he stood, in a tight-fitting thermal shirt and cargo pants.  He was trim, tall and fit.  Seeing his whole face, she noticed the scar on the right side of his head, but her eyes were drawn back to his.  She said, "You're a fast dresser."

"Ya have to be on you're toes when you're up against the world."

"That sounds very drastic."

"It's the bloody truth," he said, grabbing his jacket.   "I'll take ya up on that breakfast. What are ya having?"

"Well, mostly anything you want, but today I made my nephew scrambled eggs, and myself some fruit and an eggwhite omelet."

"Ah, a chef?  Ya don't have any black pudding?  Donnelly sausage?"

She made a face, "I'm sorry, I don't even know what those are."  She heard Todd in her head:  Order whatever he wants.  Huh?  Have it shipped in, I don't care.

"I used to like it when I was a boy . . ." he stopped, and grimaced, touching his hand to his temple.  He said, "I'm sorry," and sat on the small sofa.  She stood outside the cabin for a moment, but when the pain appeared to get worse, she walked inside.  

"Can I do something for you?"  He didn't respond.  He had put his head between his knees and was breathing heavily.  She could hear his rasps and waited.  After a few minutes of his not responding, she walked toward him.  She placed a hand on his back, and he appeared startled, looking up to her.  Every ounce of her empathy raced to the forefront as his face, which she could only describe in her mind as beautiful, was crinkled with suffering.  

Without thought, she reached up and touched the side of his cheek with her hand.  "Are you all right?"

He didn't flinch from her touch, he just stayed in her reach and said, "No, but I'm used to it.  An old affliction."

"It has to do with the scar, doesn't it?"


"How did you get that scar?"

"I . . . with all that I am, I can't . . ."

"It's bringing you pain?  Then don't answer me.  Let's just ride it out, and then we can go and get you something to eat."  She sat down next to him, as if ready to wait, as long as it took.

He nodded, squeezing his eyes shut.

She had met Aiden.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Todd's Saga 17: A Little Misdirection

       Todd stood in the apartment, looking around.  It was nothing much, but it seemed homey. He could hear Sid and his family packing in the other room and his stomach clenched when he heard the little girl sob.  It wasn’t right they all had to leave, but Todd and Sid both knew how ruthless the organization was.

       Todd pulled out his phone and began making some quick calls.  The first was to his pilot instructing him to get the plane ready for another flight to South Dakota.  Then he phoned Rogers at the drilling site.  Although it was late, Rogers and his crew were working night and day with the new well just coming in.  After a few words, he hung up.  The last call he made was to Phil.  He had warned her when he first hired her to expect calls from him anytime, and she answered his call without hesitation.  

         “First thing in the morning, I need a bank account set up in South Dakota for Sid Reilly.” Todd walked over to the uniform jacket tossed on a chair, as he figured Sid’s wallet was inside.  He opened it and found what he was looking for, and read the number off to Phil. “You know the amount to put in it.  Make sure and get all pertinent information to Rogers.  He’ll be expecting the call.”  He hung up.  Before putting Sid’s wallet down, he took his own out and extracted some bills and added them to Sid’s.  He had just completed that when he heard the steps behind him.

           He turned around to see a small girl staring up at him with teary eyes. She wasn’t much more than seven or eight.  Tousled from sleep, her curly brown hair surrounded her pixie face and she was still wearing her pajamas under the coat Sid had just put around her.  In her arms, she clutched a stuffed dog that looked like it had been around for a while.  He was reminded of Starr when she was that age.

“My brother says we have to leave.  Do you know why?” Her voice was trembling as she asked the question.

Todd looked over her head to see Sid and his teenage brother just enter the room.  Sid was about to say something, but Todd gave him a quick shake of his head and dropped down to the little girl’s level.  “Yes, I do.  I know this is kind of sudden, but you see, I work for the government and we have a real need for your brother.  He offered to help us with this case I’m working on, and it’s necessary for all of you to relocate.  Now, this is really important, or I wouldn’t ask you and your brothers to leave tonight.” 

         He reached over to wipe a tear that had fallen.  “I know you’re scared a little bit because it’s happening tonight, but you don’t have to be.  You’re going on a new adventure with your brothers to a new place very different from here.”  He leaned closer . “Can I tell you a secret?”  She nodded. “You get to go to the new place in your own jet.  You’ll even be able to sleep on it.  Have you ever been in an airplane?”  She shook her head, indicating she hadn’t. “Then, you’re going to love it.  It’s magical up there above the clouds.  Nothing can hurt you and you’re in your own special world.  You can see for miles with stars above you and it’s like a  fairyland beneath you with all the lights so small and twinkling down below.” 

          Her eyes had gotten big as he described the flight, and she suddenly gave him a shy smile.  “Are you going too?”  

          “No, I still have stuff here I need to work on.  I’ll be in touch with your brother though, to make sure you all get settled okay.  We better get you on your way.  Just remember, your brother is helping me out a lot and I’m grateful you’re letting him.”  

          Unexpectedly she gave him a quick hug around his neck. “You’re welcome.  My big brother is really special.” She smiled again and went to her brother, who took her hand.’’

         “I can’t get over the way you’ve been helping me.  Do you really think this is going to work?” Sid looked back at Todd.

         “It should.  At least it will give you time to get set up elsewhere while they have something else on their plate.”

          “Uh, Thanks, Tony.  I guess we’re all ready.” Sid smiled and put out a hand.

           Todd shook it and handed Sid his wallet, “Remember what we talked about on the way here.  Look up my friend Rogers, he’ll be expecting you.  Don’t worry about the other thing. I’ve got it under control and thanks for the uniform, it will come in handy.”  

           After giving instructions to the cab driver, Todd re-entered the apartment.  It was now time for the second part of his plan. Grabbing several pillows and some clothes left flung on the floor, he soon had his dummy of Sid dressed and ready for his exit.  He donned the uniform and his gloves.  “Okay Manning, let’s get this show underway.”

           He had been listening to Sid all the way from the compound and was pretty sure he could mimic him.  Todd looked around and picked up the nearest chair and flung it across the room. He then yelled in his best Sid imitation.”No!  You ‘ve got it all wrong.  I promise I won’t tell.”

           Todd knocked over a lamp.  It fell almost gracefully to the floor and shattered into a myriad of pieces.  He lowered his voice making it gravelly. “You were warned.  The Messenger doesn’t like those who betray his trust.  You have to pay.”  Pushing the couch over, he tripped and fell to the floor knocking several other items over in the process.  “It won’t do you any good to crawl away.” Todd said, continuing to talk with the harsh voice as he got back to his feet. Switching back to Sid’s voice. “Stop. I…“ Todd smiled to himself, he hadn’t had this much fun since his alters.  He became the aggressor again. “You what. You won’t do it again?  You’re right. You won’t.” Todd slammed himself against the wall, then groaned and made sounds like Sid was being beaten.  “Did you think we wouldn’t retaliate.  We already got your brother and sister, but don’t worry we’ll take good care of them.   It’s such a shame about your tragic accident.” He laughed as loud and as deranged sounding as he could.  

            If he was right, by now one or more of the neighbors had been listening to what was going on in Sid’s apartment.  As Sid, he let out a half-scream, then he knocked over a few more chairs.  He heard shouts of concern issue from the hallway and a threat to call the police. Time to go Manning. Wrapping the dummy in the sheet, he flung it upon his shoulders.  

          Breaking the window, he went out and down the fire escape.  As he suspected, sirens were wailing as he dropped down into the alley.  If anyone was looking out their window, the most they would be able to see was the dummy over his shoulder and his uniform.  His face was blocked from their view.  They could tell the police about the conversation they overheard and give a vague description of the man carrying someone down the escape, but nothing more.  
        Once out of sight of Sid’s neighbors, he ducked behind some trash and quickly removed the uniform. He tore the pillows and clothes and along with the sheet, scattered them in several trash containers further down the alley. He still had a use for the uniform so he tucked it under his jacket.  Exiting the alley, he was strolling casually down the street, when police cars rounded the corner.  He stopped like the rest of the people to see what the excitement was about, then continued on his way.  To onlookers, he was a slightly overweight man with a beard taking a walk.


         Carl Peterson was enjoying a cup of coffee with Dorian when his cell phone rang. He removed it from his inner pocket. It was from his sister. He looked at Dorian. “Excuse me but I have to take this call. I’ll be back shortly.”  He got up and walked into the foyer of La Boulaie. “What is it?  You interrupted me.  This had better be good.”

        “Oh do forgive me Brother, but I thought you might want to know the Police are at the gate asking permission to enter,” replied Alison.

         “What the hell did you do to attract their attention?”

          “I didn’t do anything.  The police claim they’re just trying to follow up on some information concerning a missing man and his family.  What should I do?”

           “Don’t let them in.” Carl looked around making sure Dorian hadn’t gotten curious and then whispered.  “Let Baker handle it.  Whatever you do, don’t raise their suspicions any higher.  I’ll call you later for the outcome.” He hung up and put his phone away. Tugging his suit jacket straight, he walked back into the living room to join Dorian.

          “Is everything alright, Carl?” Dorian looked at him over her coffee cup.  

          “Everything is fine.  Just a slight problem at one of my facilities.  It’s nothing, but you know subordinates, they don’t always want to handle things without getting approval first.”


Todd watched as the police drove up to the gate.  His plan had worked perfectly.  The police had gotten enough clues from Sid’s neighbors to warrant looking into the compound where Sid had worked.  With all the attention on the gate, Todd slipped through the breach in the fence.  The police would keep whoever was in charge busy for a while, and Todd needed time to make his move.  He had spent the previous night applying a copy of the tattoo to his inner wrist.  He had also added a second scar over his eye to change his looks even more.  He put his picture in Sid’s ID and donned the uniform.  Now he was just one of many in the compound.  Free to move about, he headed toward the building Sid had pointed out the night before.

At the gate, Baker approached the policemen waiting on the other side.  “Gentlemen, I hear you have some questions?   How may we help you?”

The sheriff of Kaplan pulled out his badge.  “Sir, we’re looking into the disappearance of an entire family last night.  We suspect foul play.  We were told the man worked for you and according to witnesses, he was heard having an argument with one of your, well I guess you call them, your followers.”

“One of us?  You must be mistaken.  This property belongs to the Messenger of  God congregation and I assure you, none of our followers would threaten another.”

“According to you, Sir,  but I have several sworn statements from neighbors saying someone dressed in that there uniform your man is wearing,” the sheriff pointed to a man standing next to Baker, ”was seen going down the fire escape with a person over his shoulders.  Now, I don’t want to have to get a warrant, Judge Hancock is fussy about those things.  I’m hoping ya’ll are a reasonable man.  We just want to look around and talk to some of your people.  Mayhap they might have heard of some beef between our missing man and one of the other followers.”

“This is a sanctuary for many of our followers. It would break the harmony of this place if you and your men just wandered about asking those kinds of questions.  I’m afraid I would require a warrant.   But, perhaps if you show me a picture of the missing man, I might be able to answer those questions without disturbing the congregation.”  Baker waited for the sheriff to make the next move.

        Todd looked back at the front gate.  Baker and several of his men were still engaged in a conversation with the authorities. He needed to move quickly if his plan was to succeed.  He opened the door to the building and entered before anyone stopped him.

         The sheriff handed a picture to Baker.
         Glancing down at the picture just handed to him, Baker went very still.   He recognized the man he had ordered taken to the lab the night before.   If this was the man they were looking for, there was no way he could let the police enter the premises.  The man was supposedly locked up in the laboratory and if he wasn’t something was seriously wrong.  Either way, Baker knew he had a problem on his hands.

         He looked directly at the sheriff.  “I remember this man.  But I’m afraid your witnesses were misinformed.  He left our congregation several days ago.  He was an unruly man and was constantly trying to pick fights.  I encouraged him to leave and seek help for his temper.  Is it possible he was the one carrying someone else from his apartment?  I swear, he was in good health when he departed from here.”  

         The sheriff didn’t look convinced.  “Mayhap, except the neighbors said one of the men said the Messenger didn’t like those who betrayed them and we also have two missing children.  I guess you’re telling me I can’t come in then?”

          Baker wasn’t happy.  The sheriff wasn’t as dumb as he sounded.  “I’m sorry but since you refuse to take my word on this and because I have a flock to protect, I must insist you get a warrant before I can allow you to enter.”

          “Very well. Ya’ll have a good day.  I trust I’ll be seeing you soon.” The sheriff nodded to his men who returned to their cars.

.   While everything was going down between Baker and the sheriff, Todd had come to a standstill.  He was in the right place.  A chill ran down his back as he walked past several cells similar to the one he had occupied.  As he turned a corner to a new hallway, he spotted a guard standing outside a room. Okay, Manning, you better make this good.  “You there, Baker sent me to take over.  He needs you to help with the situation at the front gate.  There’s trouble with the police.”

The guard looked at him. “Why me?  You could have done it.”

“That’s not how it works around here.  You know that.  Hey look, I’m just following orders.  You know what happens if you don’t.” Todd watched the guy turn pale.

“Yeah, guess you’re right.  Not much going on here anyway.  The old coot is just beginning to stir.  Just make sure you alert Baker when Buchanan is awake.”

“Sure thing.”  Todd couldn’t believe it, he had found Clint.  He waited until the man passed by him, then pulled out the his gun. He swung hard and knocked the man out. “Sorry buddy, but I need your help.”  Dragging the man to the door, Todd used his hand to open the lock.  He entered, pulling the man inside.  Clint was lying on a bed and like the man had said was beginning to wake up.   Todd clamped a hand over Clint’s mouth as he opened his eyes. “Quiet. Don’t say anything.  I’m getting you out of here.”

         Clint nodded in agreement and Todd noted his eyes were unfocused. “Shit, they’ve drugged you.  Listen to me. You will do everything I tell you, do you understand?“ Again Clint nodded.  “Great, take off your clothes.”  He watched as the older man began to remove his clothes. He was moving slowly, but he was getting it done.  Todd turned to the man on the floor and began undressing him too.  Once he had the guard undressed he set about dressing Clint in the uniform. “Come on Buchanan let’s get you up.”   He leaned Clint against the wall. “Stay there.” he ordered.  Once again he pulled the guard to the door and used his hand a second time. “Clint, hold the door open.” The old man just nodded. Todd shook his head, cursing under his breath, “Viki’s gonna owe me big time for this.”  He moved Clint, leaning him in such a way that propped the door open, and began tying up the guard.  Once finished with that he put Clint’s arm over his shoulder and helped him out of the room. 

           Todd looked down the hallway and saw another wing. Clint was moving clumsily, and Todd realized he didn’t have enough time to look and see if Victor was in the building.  It was only a matter of time before Baker succeeded in sending the police away. “Come on, Clint, snap out of it.”

           Clint stopped and looked at the man helping him. “Manning,you’re supposed to be dead. What the hell are you doing here?”  His voice was slurred because of the drugs, but he seemed to be coming out of his fog.

           “Saving your butt, Buchanan, now pick up your feet and move.  I’ll explain when we’re out of here.”  They made it out building without being seen. Todd was unhappy to see that Baker had completed his talk at the gate. He hustled Clint over behind another building and paused to get his bearings.  

           Clint was looking around, “Where the hell are we?  This isn’t a mental institution?”

            Todd turned to him. “Shh, keep it down.  This is my mother’s old compound.  Look, are you feeling steadier.  We got to get a move on it.  My diversion didn’t last as long as I had hoped.    If you can walk on your own just follow my lead and stay with me.   We’re going to be in the open for a little bit, and we have to act like the rest of the men around here.  I’m guessing an alarm might be raised any minute.”

           Clint suddenly realized he was wearing the same uniform as Manning.  “I don’t know what’s going on, but lead the way.”  He fell into step beside Todd as they left the building’s shadow and moved into what was obviously the compound’s center.  He followed Todd’s lead and nodded at several men as they passed.  His heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest, but he kept pace with the younger man.  They made it across the open space without incident and Todd led him behind another building over to the fence.

           After seeing the police depart, Baker headed for the laboratory.  What had brought their latest guinea pig to the attention of the police?   A few minutes later, he walked out of the lab.  Their guinea pig was gone, and someone was going to pay.  He ordered several men to round up the two men placed in charge the previous night.  Baker wasn’t sure why, but someone inside the organization had helped the man escape.  He wondered at the mystery surrounding the man’s disappearance along with his family.  Some idiot had taken matters into their own hands and had gotten the police involved.  Now they were going to have to allow a search of the property if they arrived back with a warrant.  Baker frowned.  Alison Perkins was even more unstable than Irene Manning had been.  The last thing he wanted was to be on her bad side.  He remembered what Irene had done.  Maybe it was time to take his money and depart before he became a guinea pig himself.

         At the fence, Todd was about ready to open the breach when a familiar voice sounded behind them. 

         “You shouldn’t be back here.  Stop what you’re doing and turn around.”

         Todd and Clint turned slowly and found themselves face to face with Victor.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 43

It was late.  The streets were totally deserted.  Patrick, in the undercover car with John, sat, looking out the window, watching the dark silence of the night.  The roads had very few cars, and there were no pedestrians in view.  He turned to John, and said, "I'm free.  And I think I just realized it."

"You are.  And most likely, The Men of 21 will not be bothering anyone again.  I believe that summit covered the gamut of them."

"Possibly.  Just a strange feeling, is all.  I was minutes away from death, and I knew it.  My captor had asked me what I wanted for a special meal.  I'd already eaten it, and I knew what it meant."

"It meant the end.  Todd was right.  He's the one who clued us, and Aiden."

"Aiden?  Which is he?"

"The one with the scar on his head."

"Yes, right.  From the RA21."

"Yep.  They pushed for us to go in tonight.  A little longer, and we would have been too late."

"Ya can't blame Manning for pushing.  He knew exactly what was going to happen.  It almost happened to him."

"I've arranged for you to spend the night in Timothy's flat."

"Ah, Timothy, the older man, the one who took such a shine to Todd during the last time he was captive."

"Yeah, that's the one.  He's adopted Todd, you know?"

"That's a bit odd, or unusual.  But Manning always needed a father.  He's had quite a deficit in that area."

"You don't know the half of it."  John said.  "There has been a lot of turmoil for The Mannings since you were involved."

"Not more?"

"Yes, more.  But it's Todd's life, his decision what's out to others and what's not.  Let's just say it's been Hell."

"I'll hazard a guess that it has to do with that adoptive father, the first one.  Peter Manning, I think."

"You'd be right.  But again, not at liberty to just share all that.  Maybe you'll get a chance to see Todd yourself."

"Here's hoping," Patrick said, "I want to thank him."

The car had stopped outside Timothy's building.  Patrick said, "McBain, it was a pleasure seeing ya open that slider and rescue me."

"My pleasure.  Take care of yourself and give my love to Marty, when you get back.  Todd's transporting you home on his jet, in case you're wondering."

"I sorta figured.  Take care, as well."  Patrick slammed the door shut and made his way to Timothy's apartment.

It was three in the morning, and Patrick wasn't sure he'd catch Timothy awake, but he was wrong.  He knocked lightly on the door, ready to sit propped in the hallway until morning, when the door opened.  Timothy said, "Ah, Thornhart.  Ya made it."

"I did.  And in one piece."  He limped into the room.  "The first thing I must ask of ya is to allow me to call Margaret."

"Of course," Timothy said, and provided him with the phone.  While the man called his wife, Timothy went into the kitchen and fixed a light snack and some herbal tea.  In doing so, he realized that Todd, as well, was probably being taken care of well.  He would have to call him, and Dorian, in the morning.  Now, he wanted peace to come of all of them and allow them restful solace.

When Timothy made his way to the living room with the tray of tea and snacks, Patrick was already off the phone, and sitting with his leg up on the ottoman, and his arms folded.  "Ya brought me something."

"I did.  Some tea, and a snack.  I am not sure what ya've eaten, but now that I think of it, it was likely your last meal."

"It was.  But this is fine."  He took a bite, and a sip.  "Ya became a father, eh?"

"Yes.  McBain clued ya in."

"He did.  The best thing that could happen to Todd Manning is to have a father, even though it's late in his life."

"I know.  That's part of the reason.  The other part is that I need a son."

"Goes both ways, I see."


"I can't believe he came back here."

"He's been here before, since the time ya saved him.  When I had cancer.  He came and gave me will to survive, paid for my treatment."

"Hmm.  McBain said he's been suffering?"

"He has."

"Can ya help me make him see that he owes Margaret and I nothing.  He's given more than he has to.  He's paid, in full, times over."

"I'll try, but he doesn't listen well to that one.  Convinced that his misdeeds, horrible as they were, as a younger man are still something held over him.  And, it's mostly by himself."

"He saved my life, risking his, and risking his sanity.  It must have been impossible carrying that boy out of there on his back and dealing with the memories.  I don't know how he did it."

"I can't explain him.  He's just Todd."

"In the morning, will ya call him?  Have him come and see me off?"

"Of course.  But now," the older man yawned, "I need to get some rest.  Ya should as well. I am glad ya made it and that we may have seen the end of The Men of 21."

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 42

The limousine pulled up in front of Courtown Demesne, and it was mostly dark, except for one light that Todd immediately recognized.  Aiden seemed to understand as well, and said, "She's waiting for ya, eh?"

"She promised.  I did, too."

"This is a beautiful place.  I can't say it's a surprise to me, what it looks like.  I've read about it many times in local magazines.  What is a surprise is that ya own it."

"Yeah, well, just a little thing I picked up when figuring out how to handle things here in Ireland.  Blair didn't want me to be near this country again after the last few times."

"Well, ya came.  And made a difference."  They got out of the stretch, and headed to the front door.  

The door opened before he had a chance to even touch the handle.  Blair was there, in her camisole and silk pants, with a silk robe over them.  She fell onto him, with tears and relief all over her face and in her words.  "Todd," she said, and looked into his eyes.  

He took her hand, and backed away slightly, saying, "This is Aiden.  He could use some rest and family time.  I hope it's okay."

"Of course it is."  She extended her hand.  "Pleased to meet you," and she shook it, looking into his sparkling blue eyes.  The contrast to his dark hair was striking.  She noticed the scar on the side of his head, but ignored it, being used to Todd having many, she'd learned to look past them.  "Welcome to our home."  All three went into the house.


"Here at the annual summit of The Men of 21, we welcome our new leader today.  In honor of him, we have a great deal of entertainment planned, beginning with our stock holdings, as being read by Mr. Harrigan."  The voice did not have the Irish accent John was used to hearing.  Instead, the man sounded distinctly English.  "Let's give him our attention.  It's not long before midnight now."

As the man attempted to read the information aloud to the rest of the guests, John and the federal agents accompanying him stood outside the opening.  For a moment, he flashed on his previous experience in the same location.  Todd, bleeding and beaten, flung over Patrick Thornhart's shoulder, and Hesser, hissing and spitting in anger as they cuffed him.  He noticed a bead of sweat on his brow that was making its way to his eyes, and he doused it with his sleeve.

He made eye contact with the head agent, and they counted silently to three with each other, before storming the room.  To his surprise, there were quite a few men, and at a rough estimation, he thought perhaps twenty-five or more.  The room was just as they had left it almost three years before.  He said, "Freeze.  Federal Agents from the United States who have been granted the jurisdiction to make these arrests.  Hands up, gentlemen.  My entertainment starts now."


"Aiden, I'm hoping you'll be comfortable in the cottage," Blair said.  She and Todd lead him to the last of the three white buildings with black trim.  It was brisk in the night air, but not too cold.  They walked across the cool grass and used the moonlight and Todd's flashlight (he still had it in his belt loop) to find their way. 

"It's fine.  Whatever I get, is better than what I am used to.  Thank ya kindly.  And thank ya, Todd, for checking on Darren.  I'm feeling better now that I know he's out of the woods."  He made his way into the doorway, and turned on a light.  The room was softly lit, and wouldn't take long to warm up.  "Good night, both of ya.  I know Todd had a promise he made to his 'One True Babe,'" he said.

Todd and Blair took hands after she flashed him a feeble grin at the comment, and walked back to the main house.  She was already crying, with relief, and he was telling her small details of the story.  He was careful not to make the whole thing sound as deadly and dangerous as it was.

Back at the house, she said, "I can't believe you're here.  I . . . have to admit, for a while I doubted it. I was, well, kind of hysterical when you left."

"I heard.  But I'm all right.  I promised, didn't I?"  He didn't let on how close he came to never returning to her.  Instead, he cut his losses and moved to the present.  Putting his hands on either side of her face, he kissed her, moving his tongue along hers and making it dance in her mouth.  She did the same in response to him, and felt lifted off the ground by his lips and hands.

They parted, but Todd moved his mouth along her face, and down to her neck, his lips parted, breathing her in.  "My God, I thought I'd never feel this again.  I was so scared,"  she said.

"Nothing to be scared of, now.  I'm here."  He bent his knees, and hiked her into his arms, carrying her to the bed, his mouth fastened to hers.  He said, "You feel so good," as he slid his hands down her body and undressed her delicately.

She took his hand and stopped him.  "No.  You've been through so much.  Lie down, and let me pamper you."

He leaned down for a kiss on her breast, and then obeyed.  On his back at last, he realized how exhausted he was, as she slowly stripped away his clothes, and he struggled to keep his eyes from closing.  After the first layer of attire, she said, "Come on.  I know what you need."  She got up, and took his hand, leading him to the bathroom.  Drawing a hot bath, she said, "You're very tense, and tired."  She continued undressing him, until he was standing in front of her, nude.  Aside from a few scrapes and bumps, he was in perfect form, and his trim body made her feel warm, stirring something deep within her.

After a few moments, he stepped into the tub, and she started to wash his back and arms with a soft natural sponge.  He closed his eyes, and let a sigh escape him.  "I'm home," he said, dreamily.

"Yes, you are.  You're home.  Where you belong, with us,"  She said this putting his hand, albeit wet, onto her belly.


"How do we get this slider open?"  John said, surveying everything around the opening.

"That's a good question.  Not even sure Manning knew this.  What are the chances that Thornhart's alive in there?"

"Pretty damn good, if they are holding a summit and we just heard them explain they had entertainment.  If Todd's right, Patrick's in there waiting for his executioners."

"Any suggestions, Lieutenant?"

John thought.  "I can give Todd a call and ask him about the door, how it operates, how close it is to where Patrick might be?  Then possibly we can shoot through it?"

"It looks like it's galvanized steel, something that might not allow bullets to penetrate.  Might be our only recourse, though."

"No key code.  No device for prints."  John looked around the edges of the door.  "We also have to realize there may be a handler in there with him."

"What about a print reader?  Embedded in the door?"

"Possibly."  He began to touch around the edges, but realized his prints would never open it.  Then, remembering the man with the slit throat, he and the agent stood him up and ran his hand along the door panel.  It was tedious, but finally, at a spot nearest the left edge and completely centered, the door lit up under the touch of the man's dead hand, and the door slid open.

Letting the corpse fall, John and the agents entered, guns drawn.  John called out, "FBI.  All weapons down, hands up," as they rounded the small alcove into the main part of the room.

Patrick was sitting up, alone, on the rock chair at the far side of the room.  "Bout time ya got here, McBain, I was getting close to the end."

John breathed a sigh of relief, and asked, "You alone?"

"Of course, ya were expecting a group, perhaps a celebration?"

Patrick didn't look too bad to John, considering how long he had been gone and how bad Manning had looked not three years before in the same room.  John said, "I'm just glad we found you."

"I can only think of one way," Patrick said, standing.  It was then as he winced and John got a closer look that it became evident that the man was thirsty, hungry and had been beaten.

"Can you walk?"

"I can.  Are ya going to let me in on how ya found me.  As I said, I can only think of one way."

"And what way is that?"  John asked, slightly playfully for what they all had endured.


"You guessed right."

"He came here, in these catacombs, to help find me?"

"He did.  He almost blacked out, and actually did after he made it to the exit.  He carried a young guy on his back the whole way.  Seems the kid took a bullet aimed at Todd."

"I know why he did it.  And it's my job to make certain that he finally lets go.  He doesn't owe Margaret or me anything else.  He's done enough.  Is he here, so I can talk to him?"

"First, he's not.  He rushed home to Blair.  Second, it's almost three in the morning.  You might have to wait until tomorrow."

"That's fine.  But he's getting a talking to from me,"  Patrick winced, taking a few steps.  

John said, "Your handler.  Was he . . . anything like . . ."

"No.  I don't think there's a human being alive like Michael Leona.  Thank the heavens.  This one injured me because I fought back.  Otherwise, he would have just held me here and provided what he was told.  They only wanted me to be the entertainment this evening.  Nothing more."

John said, "Marty will be happy."

"That she will.  Thanks to Todd, and all of ya, and Blair.  I know she had something to do with giving him the strength to do this, and letting him accomplish it for himself."

"You know them well."

"It's been short of twenty years, now, McBain.  I know Todd Manning better than I imagined, come to think of it.  A sort of brethren."

John thought how much that was how he felt after Greece.  It seemed Todd Manning, though definitely flawed, had that very effect on people.


After the bath, Blair brought him soft, comfortable pajamas, and he hopped into the bottoms.  Leaving his shirt off intentionally, she led him back to the bed, and said, "Just lie down, right here."

"I feel great."


He listened and lay on his stomach, his face turned to the side, his back up to her.  She straddled him and massaged his shoulders.  At first, he winced and complained of tightness and pain, and after a few minutes, he was silent, and she could hear a faint snoring coming from him.  She bent over and kissed his cheek, gently, right above his scar.  

"Oh, God," she said, finding tears again, but this time, they were more relief, "You're all right.  I was so scared, Todd.  So scared," she touched his hair, and then lowered herself next to him.  She turned on her side, determined to look at him as long as she could before closing her eyes in sleep.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Todd's Saga 16: Rescue

       Todd thanked the truck driver for the lift.  He hadn’t planned on this little excursion, but it had become necessary after the information he had received that morning.  He made his way slowly through the underbrush, steering clear of the boggy areas.  He looked nothing like businessman Tony Butler.  He had pulled out some of Tony Lord’s old clothes for the outing, and now wore a black tee and black jeans. They, along with the heavy work boots, and denim jacket provided him with some protection from the environment.  He had to keep an eye out for snakes and other unsavory inhabitants in the area, including the two-legged variety.

       Todd could hear chatter and slowed down as he broke into a small clearing.  The Compound fence loomed in front of him.  He quickly stepped back into the brush and crouched down.  It was not a moment too soon, as two men on the other side of the fence walked past that same clearing still talking.  Keeping out of sight, he began to walk the perimeter looking for the way in.  He knew one of the avenues was the private airstrip where he had hitched a ride back in 2011, but it was too exposed.  There was another opening, the one McBain had used to get in and capture his mother.  It’s got to be here somewhere.  That loon Alison, wouldn’t think to repair anything, she figures she’s invincible by now.  Yes!   He finally spotted the breach.  Got to hand it to you, McBain.  If I hadn’t been looking for it, I probably wouldn’t have even realized it was there.

Todd remembered back several hours earlier when he had walked into the OTB offices.  Phil was already hard at work. 

       “Good Morning, Mr. Butler.   Did you have a good trip?”

       Todd was taken aback because he hadn’t told Phil about Key West, but then he remembered she was under the impression he had been in South Dakota the whole time. “Yes, Phil, it was a good trip.  Did Sam Vance call while I was away?”

       “No sir.” She noted his frown. “Would you like me to put a call through to her?”

       “Yes, get her on the phone for me.”  He headed into his office and walked over to the window.  He looked over at the mansion.  It had been doubly hard to leave Blair and head back to New Orleans.  After they had dissected Todd’s dreams, Blair had convinced him to take a step back and rethink his current connection to Baker.  After making up his mind about Baker, Todd had informed Blair of his suspicion about Clint.  She had been horrified.

       “Todd, are you sure?  It doesn’t make sense.  Why would someone have removed Clint from the Llanview Hospital?”

       “I know it seems farfetched, but don’t you think this breakdown was rather sudden.  I don’t care what you say, sure he was drinking, but I always thought the Buchanans held their liquor pretty good.  Besides, I never heard of a hospital not permitting family in to see a patient.”

       “Viki said they were told he had gotten violent.  Todd, you didn’t see him that night, he was really out of it.”

       “Look, just do me a favor.  Convince Viki to talk to Bo.  As Police Commissioner, he can make them at least allow him to see Clint.  If I’m wrong I’ll drop it, but if I’m right, then there is more going on with this organization then what they’re doing to Victor and me.”

       It had been twenty-four hours since Blair had boarded her flight in Miami.  He looked at his watch.  Blair had texted him after arriving home and told him she was seeing his sister.  There had been no further word.  Had Viki talked to Bo?   Todd turned from the window as Phil rang in.

       “Mr. Butler, Ms. Vance is on the line. Should I put her through?”

       “Go ahead.” Todd picked up phone. “I thought you were going to let me know what you found out about Alison’s Brother?.....What do you mean you can’t find him?  Did you at least get a name?.... Great, what is it?    Carl Perkins.…..  So this Carl Perkins just disappeared?   When?.... I see, so he dropped off the earth round about the same time I was born.   Keep your men working on it.  I did some of my own research on Alison Perkins.  There was nothing in her history that indicated she had a brother.  That could mean he’s only a half-brother.  See if she ever had a stepmom.  Maybe we can track down the brother that way.  After you put your men on that, get ready for a trip.  I want you to fly here to New Orleans.  I‘ve got another job just for you.”  He hung up.    He was just sitting down to check the status of some of the new holdings when Phil interrupted him.

      “Mr. Butler, Ms. Cramer is calling.  She says it’s urgent.”

       “Put her through.  Blair, are you all right?  What happened?”

       “You were right.  Bo got a court order allowing him to visit his brother, but when he arrived at the hospital, there was a complete stranger occupying Clint’s room.  He’s furious and Viki is frantic.  No one can explain the mix-up and they have no idea where Clint is.”

       “I knew it.  Alison has him, I just can’t figure out why.  Tell Viki, I’m working on it.  If Alison has both Victor and Clint there is no telling who they’ll go after next.  Tell Sean to get more help, and I don’t want you working late at the club anymore.”

       “I’m fine.  Bo sent some extra men to help out at the club.  He’s still concerned about the drug dealer who overdosed Dani.”

       “You and I both know that drug overdose wasn’t an accident, and we also know who orchestrated it.  Bo has no idea how powerful this organization is.  Please, no more nights.   I’m sure Dorian would agree that you shouldn’t be working so late now that you’re farther along in the pregnancy.  If anything happened to you or the baby, I’d lose it.”

       “Alright, I promise to call it an early night, but you need to promise me you won’t do anything rash.  I know you.  Don’t go looking for trouble.”

       Todd closed his eyes for a minute then told Blair what she wanted to hear. “I promise.  Don’t worry I’ve sent for Sam Vance.  I’ll let her handle things.  Look, I’ve got to go.  We shouldn’t even be talking like this.  I...well you know.”

        “I know, me too.” 

         Todd sighed as he put the phone down.  Blair didn’t need any more worries and what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.  “Phil, I’m going to be gone for the rest of the day.  A potential venture has come to my attention.  Send a round trip first class ticket to Sam Vance from Los Angeles to here.  Leave the return trip date opened.  I want her on the first available plane out here.”

         He walked to his safe and took out the revolver and ammunition and slipped them into his inner jacket pocket.  There was no telling what he was going to encounter where he was headed.

          Back in the present, Todd examined the opening that John had made, and it’s location.  It was definitely at an out of the way spot in the compound. There were still a few hours until sundown.  If he was going to attempt to find Clint, he would have to wait until dark.  He knew from experience that a lot of the men from the compound were free to leave it at nightfall because that was when they were usually sent out to recruit.  

       Finding a comfortable spot against a tree where he could keep an eye on the opening and stay out sight, Todd pulled out the gun that had been riding tucked behind his back.  It was fully loaded, and he had a spare clip, but if at all possible he wanted to avoid using it.  The memory of shooting his brother flashed into his mind, and he shook his head.  It didn’t happen. Victor’s alive.  It had to be something Irene did to you.  As he looked at the gun, another thought entered his head.  What else did you do to me, Irene?  What did Baker mean by “There was a time you had a future, if only you had returned to the fold?”  Someone turned Victor into a killer.  Did you try and do that to me?  Todd sucked in his breath, as another memory tumbled through his mind.

        Irene was standing across the hall in another cell  “I was not successful in my mission.  You, on the other hand, succeeded in yours.” 

       “My mission.  What’s  my mission?”

       “To kill your own brother.”

        Todd felt sick.  Oh God, it’s true.  You tried to make me kill Victor.  Only I wouldn’t.  You failed.  You couldn’t control me like you could him.  Poor Victor, his mind was weaker and someone else knew that too.  They took him and finished the job you tried with me.   His hand tightened around the grip of the gun.  “It’s a wonder Blair will have anything to do with you, Manning, your parents were real prizes.  Psychos, all of them.”  He sat there rubbing the gun, wishing at that moment his mother was back in his sights again.  A short while later, the sun set and Todd zipped up his jacket as the night temperatures dropped, and the lights of the compound turned on.  

       The activity around it lessened, and he observed a group of men gathering in front of one of the buildings and all piling into a truck.  He could hear faint laughter and knew they were headed out to the bars in the surrounding towns.  Todd got up and made his way to the fence.  McBain had picked a good spot to enter, there were no lights in that area of the compound.   Todd started to slip through the breach, only to have his jacket get hung up in the cut wire.  He shed it and completed climbing through then turned to retrieve it.  It had snagged good, and Todd was forced to rip it free. “Damn it! You owe me a new jacket, Alison.” He plucked the piece of denim off the fence and pocketed it.  After closing the breach, he moved to the closest building and hugged the wall as he contemplated his next move.  

       From his vantage point, he tried to get his bearings.  “Come on Manning, think.   The building they held you in wasn’t that far from the airstrip.”  He could see the front gate from where he stood, that meant the building he was looking for was near the back of the compound.  Staying close to the wall he turned toward the light designating where the airstrip was.  He managed to get past a number of buildings without trouble, but as he neared the area close to the airstrip, he suddenly pulled up.  Exiting from the large facility directly in front of him was Baker and a number of men.  They were loading boxes onto a baggage carrier. “More designer drugs, huh Baker.  Are those headed for Llanview, too?”  Moving in the shadows, Todd slipped closer and hid behind some stacked crates so he could hear what Baker was saying.

        “Be careful with this load. The Director will be very unhappy if we don’t get these to our suppliers.” Baker said as the men loaded one box after the other.  Suddenly one of the men tripped and the box he was carrying dropped to the ground and burst open.  Todd heard the crash of hundreds of vials breaking.  He watched as Baker nodded just once, and the man who had the misfortune to drop the box was suddenly seized by the other men.  Baker walked up to him. “Tsk, Tsk, look what you did.  You know the penalty for incompetence around here.”

       The man struggled in the arms of his fellow soldiers. “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again. Please, I’ve got a family.”

        “You should have thought of them before you got so clumsy.  What you just destroyed is worth millions.  Take him to the Lab.  The scientists love when they get a new guinea pig.”

         Todd was stunned.  He recognized the man.  It was Sid, one of the guys he used to work with on the road crew.  He must have taken up the organization on their offer because of his kid brother and sister.  Todd watched as they hauled him away. He saw Baker move toward the broken container.

        Baker turned to the rest of the men working.  “One of you see if any vials survived.  The rest of you get back to work.  I need to inform the Director about this.” Baker walked away.

       Todd could hear his friend screaming and made a decision. “No way, Baker, you’re not going to ruin another man’s life.”  He moved back into the shadows and followed the sound of the screams.  He watched as the men entered a building, then he slipped in after them. Spotting a white coat hanging in an empty office to his left, he went and put it on.  Then he walked down the hallway as big as life.  No one paid any attention, he was just another scientist.  He noticed a lab in front of him and looked in.  There was no sign of Sid, but he heard talking coming from another hallway.  He walked down it slowly.

        “Guys come on.  Just let me go.  I won’t say anything about this place.  I’ll take my family and disappear.”

        “Sorry, Sid, you knew what you were getting into when you signed on.  That’s why you got paid so well.  We have our orders.” They shoved him into the cell, and locked the door.  Through the door the one guy said.  “Sid, don’t worry.  By this time tomorrow, you won’t care about anything.”  Pushing a button outside the room, he turned to his partner. “The gas will knock him out. Go tell the scientists, they have another subject.  I’ll go back to the warehouse.” 

        Todd hid in a doorway as they walked past and headed out.  Then he moved up to the door.  Luckily, it was a standard lock instead of the fancy ones they had used in his building.  He didn’t have much time. He could hear Sid coughing inside the room and knew it was only a matter of minutes before Sid passed out.  He quickly picked the lock and opened the door. Sid was down on the floor but still conscious.  Todd covered his mouth and walked over and began to help Sid up.

        At first, Sid panicked. “No! Get away from me!”

        “Stop Sid!  It’s me, Tony, I’m here to get you out.”

         Sid looked at the white coat and then the face of the man in front of him. “What? How?”

         Todd coughed, the gas was making him dizzy. “Not now! We need to get out of here.”
He half-carried Sid out of the room.  As they tried to take in some fresh air, Todd closed the door behind him and locked it.  Surprisingly, no one was around as Todd helped Sid outside.  They went to the back of the building and took in deep breaths trying to clear the gas out of their systems.

 Sid was in shock. “Tony Lord, where the hell did you come from?  You walked off the job weeks ago and just disappeared.”

“It’s a long story.  Right now, we need to get someplace where we can talk.  Follow me, and stay close.” Todd took off the lab coat and tucked it under his jacket. Then he led Sid carefully back to the opening in the fence.  Once they were outside the compound, Todd and Sid moved further into the woods.  When they were out of direct view of the compound Todd gestured to Sid to sit down, and he joined him, keeping an eye on the fence. 

Sid looked at the man in front of him.  “Thank you, I owe you.  You have no idea what you just saved me from.”

Todd laughed softly, “You would be surprised what I know.  You do know that you can’t stay around here anymore.  They’ll be looking for you and your family.  I know a friend that can help you get out of the state.”

“I don’t understand, why were you in the compound?  I know you weren’t there for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you helped me but you took a pretty big risk breaking into the place.”

“I’m looking for someone and I have reason to believe he’s there.  The guy’s important to someone  I know.  Oh, what the hell, maybe you can help me.”  Todd reached into his inside pocket and drew out a picture and handed it to Sid. “Have you seen that guy in there?”

Sid studied the picture and shook his head.  “Sorry, I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean he’s not there.  I’ve only worked in the warehouse.  There is a building only a few people are allowed to go into.  Supposedly according to the talk, there is someone important to the Director staying there.  Since Baker became second in command, he’s been spending a lot of time in the building.”  He handed the picture back.  “I’m not sure what I’m going to do now.  The money was good. ”

       After putting the picture away, Todd looked back toward the compound, so far no alarm had been raised.  Maybe they wouldn’t realize Sid was gone until morning.  “Listen, I think I can help you but we need to get away from here.  Sooner or later they're going to find out you're missing.  I guess I’ll have to look for my guy another night.  Let’s head to your place.  You and your family need to leave town tonight.”  He stood up, giving Sid a hand, and they made their way back to the road.

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