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Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 2

Slowly he exited the loft. Once again running his hands through his hair, he stopped and looked around his sitting room. As he stood in the doorway he surveyed the multitude of paintings that fill the room. His eyes lit on two that sat in a position of prominence on his mantel. Two different women were depicted in the paintings. He smiled and headed to the Mantle.

"You would be very proud of me, I've completed another painting of her. She draws me to paint like no other except you two. If we didn't have her paintings to sell, I'm not sure we would have survived all this time, but I don’t think I'll be able to part with this latest creation. It hurts to look at this one. She's telling me something and I feel like I'm letting her, and you, down ." He lovingly reached for the cheek of the one painting depicting a beautiful mature woman smiling at him with a gentle loving smile. In his head he heard her say in a sisterly voice "Nonsense, you won't let us down. You're a good man. When the time is right it will all become clear."

He sighed and turned to the second portrait, with his other hand he reached and gently touched the lips of the woman looking back at him from the painting. "Good morning ,my beautiful Dee, we face another day together." His fingers gently brushed across the canvas. "I must make a decision soon. My funds have gotten low, I'll have to go to the gallery ." He smiled wistfully to himself and turned and walked to the table in the kitchen. Sitting near the chair leg was a bucket full of small pieces of wood he sat down, grabbed a piece and pulled the knife on the table close. Slowly he carved.

***

Across town in a more fashionable part of Paris, two people were being led to a table in a very elegant bistro.

"I hope this place meets with your approval. A woman such as you deserves an ambience fit for a queen." said Tomas as he took his seat.

"It's quite lovely Tomas" replied Blair taking the seat the Maitre D pulled out for her.

"You were awfully quiet on the ride here. What has you so introspective?" Tomas inquired.

"I'm having a hard time taking in everything that has happened since arriving here. In my wildest dreams I never thought I'd come across another portrait of myself. It's surreal. When I saw the painting my late husband left me, I was bewildered, because I couldn't understand how he was able to get someone to do a painting of me in the short time that we had together, but then we couldn't make out the artist's name and we saw the date. My god.. The painting was finished in 2003. I didn't even know my late husband then." Blair sighed.

"You're tired and hungry, it has all been a bit of a shock. Let's eat something and restore your composure. Then we can sit back and try to figure things out." replied Tomas

"Good, a little wine, a nice meal. you just relax and I'll tell you the details of my first meeting with our mysterious artist." Tomas poured Blair some wine and sat back in his chair.

"It began 7 yrs ago this month. I was working late at the Gallery when a man entered the premises.. he was carrying a portfolio and walking somewhat gingerly..like he was in some pain. I stopped what I was doing and started to walk toward him when he quietly asked me to stop and not come closer. He placed the portfolio on my counter and backed into the shadows then he asked me to take a look at his work. It was a simple request so I moved to look at what he had laid down. I open the portfolio and was dumbfounded, inside were all these beautiful portraits. They were ethereal and had an impressionistic feel to them and my dear, they were all of you. I looked at them one by one, there were four of them in particular that I thought were exceptional and I asked him what I could do for him. He told me that he was in need of money and wondered if I would consider displaying some of the portraits and selling them for him. I told him I would certainly do so but why did he come to my out of way Gallery when there were some very prominent ones elsewhere in Paris that he could have taken his work. He replied that my Gallery was well known for it's select clientele and it's discretion and that he preferred to keep it simple. Obviously he knew something about business and the workings of the world. I agreed to take the four portraits as a start. Then I asked him how would I get his funds to him and he replied he would know when something sold. He pulled a hood up onto his head and moved carefully to retrieve the portfolio, minus of course the four portraits. As he turned to leave, the light in the room gave me a glimpse of his face and as I told you earlier he appeared to have a covering over the right side, between the covering and his long hair I was unable to see much more. May I ask, my dear; what portrait did you receive from your late husband?"

"That is what is so eerie.. at first I didn't recognize the picture as anything other then a picture of me but when I stopped and sat down with it I realized it was a picture of me at a very special day in my memory. It was a portrait of me from my second wedding to my second husband. What I don't understand is that there were only a few pictures taken at that wedding and only a small group of people were there..how could this artist paint that portrait?" Blair mused and took a sip of wine.

"If I remember correctly that is one of the portraits I received that first night. Was it of you with your hair up? My dear Blair you were enchanting in that Portrait." exclaimed Tomas. "I remember selling that portrait less than a year ago to a tall gentlemen with dark hair he seemed very taken with it. He told me it was going to be a surprise for someone special. That must have been you."

"But don't you see, this mystery is just getting deeper. You said you've sold other paintings of me. Can you tell me some of them? The picture you have on the wall in the Gallery is another memory from my past and only one person ever saw me that way and he doesn't paint. I really need to find this artist." Blair exclaimed.

***
The afternoon light was beginning to shine in his kitchen ..He stopped and looked at what he had carved..."Huh!" he smiled wryly, "The things my imagination brings up. What on earth made me carve this?" he stared at the small figurine of what appears to be a child's action figure resting in his hand. He set it down on the table and moved to get some food. "I’d better eat I need to get up the strength to go back out."

He set his food down on the table, took a bite and started remembering. He picked up the little figurine and began talking out his thoughts.  "It's been almost 8 years since I woke in that hospital.  The nurses and doctors all telling me I was a miracle. That I shouldn't even be alive. I didn't feel very alive, everything hurt just like it had done somewhere else back in my memory.. I remember asking for some water because my mouth was so dry and than they asked me my name. Samuel, I said, My name is Samuel Toddman . Then they asked a question I couldn't answer..Where are you from? Why didn't I know that answer..I knew my name but nothing else? I remember laying there trying to sort out what I did remember. I could remember the bank where I had some money set aside..I remembered that I was at least financially stable at that moment. but when I tried to think of something personal in my life I kept drawing a blank. The harder I would push for some personal memories the more pain I started experiencing. The doctors told me to be patient, the memories would return when I was better able to accept them . I let them talk me into not pushing it and went back to finding out how to get back into the world."  He paused and looked around his apartment and continued his thoughts.

"I was gaining strength and mobility back, but I needed something to do..Then I remembered something I could do and asked for some small pieces of wood and a carving knife. One of the nurses heard my request and the next day she handed me some carving supplies. What a relief, I could put my hands to use while I healed. I spent much of my free time carving for the children in the hospital and one day when we were all in the day room someone came in with paint supplies. I felt compelled to give painting a try. To my amazement I was pretty good at it and then the images started popping up in my head. Many images started, most of them were of three women" he stopped remembering and looked at his paintings. "I was remembering you, but why?" he finished eating and got up from the table. "I need to get ready to go out" and headed for the bathroom. Reluctantly he moved to the sink and mirror.

"You're sure not much to look at Samuel. Why are all your fantasies about beautiful women?  What could they have to do with you?"

As he looked in the mirror, he saw a man with hazel eyes, long brown hair but the face is what stood out. The whole right side of his face was severely scarred, two long gashes intersected across the cheek . One scar appeared older than the other and followed the cheekbone horizontally but another angrier scar now crossed the first, only this one ran lengthwise from below his eye to his chin. The doctors told him he was fortunate not to lose the eye.."Funny!" he thought," I don't feel very fortunate." he combed his hair and left the room. Gathering his coat he headed for the door.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 66

Instantaneously, two things happened.  Aiden, happily shouted out, "How do ya know my parents, Paddy?" and Todd, coming out of Lily's embrace, collapsed to the ground.

"Oh, Dear Goodness!"  Lily cried out, and Aman, who had seen it coming when Todd's knees buckled, was there almost in time to catch him as he fell.  

Kneeling on the ground beside Todd, Aman looked to Lily and Aiden, and said, "This is too like the past.  Sort of gives me the screaming abdabs, it does."

Lily also worked herself to the ground.  A large, round (but lovely) woman, she did her best to get to the place on the other side of Todd, and as she did, Aiden could hear Todd's cell ringing.  Lily said, "My God, does he have an alarm attached to him?"

Aiden smiled to himself, and said, "No, Mam, let me see," and crouching, he fished the phone out of Todd's pocket.  It showed "OTB" in the digital screen.  Somehow, Aiden had known it was Blair.  He answered.  "Hello."

"Don't try and sugarcoat this for me, Aiden.  What's happened?"  her voice resounded on the other end.

***

"That was quite a bit of writing you did the last time we had a session, Bea."  Ray said.  

She nodded.  Her disposition seemed similar to in the past, but with one change.  Her face was lighter, her eyes were smiling when she smiled.

He said, "So, what are your thoughts since then?"

She shrugged, and got up, walking to the window.

Ray said, "I have a pad here, if you want to talk."

She went and got the pad, and he saw her writing with a flourish that spelled drawing.  She turned it to him.  There was a large smiling face, and a group of smaller ones, smiling, one with a little scar on the right cheek.  In the middle were the words, "I so wish I could talk."

"I understand that wish.  Maybe, in the future, when you're better, you could see a doctor about that."

Doctors are not nice.  They scare me.

Ray said, "I'm a doctor, Bea."

You are Todd's friend.  There's a difference.

"Todd has other friends that are doctors."

My son has a lot of friends, doesn't he?

"He has a good amount of friends, yes.  He's come a long way, Bea."

Do you think he is happy, like these smiley faces?  Do you think his family is happy?  Blair, and the children?

"Do they seem happy to you?"

They seem to love each other more than breathing.

"Hmf.  I like that one.  Good comparison.  Bea, do you want to talk about The Time of Dark, or what you wrote?"

She shook her head "no" vehemently and walked back to the window.

He said, "I think there are a few things you might want to talk about.  Like Mitch, for example."

She turned and looked at him.  Taking the pad again, she wrote:  Mitch was not a bad man.  I loved him.  He was evil, sometimes, I just couldn't see because he . . . saved me from Peter.

"That makes sense to me.  He saved you from a very evil man, so he didn't seem evil.  There's no shame in that."

Mitch was never bad to me.  He never hurt me.  I thought he did.  At first, I was jumbled, and confused.  I thought he hurt me, but he never did.  I think Mitch loved me.

Ray said, "I think he did, too.  In fact, I believe he said so."

She didn't seem to care.  She wandered around to the chair, sat down, legs under her, and began drawing.  

"Bea?  What is next for you?"

She smiled.  See my son's new baby born and hold her.  Tell Blair and the children I love them, and maybe live with Todd and the family.  Tell them all I am sorry for what happened to Todd and that I wasn't strong enough to stop it.  Learn to talk, maybe.  Be a better mother, and be part of my son's life.  Is it too late, Ray?

"No, Bea, it's never too late for that."

***

"The signal is piss poor here, Blair," Aiden said.  "He's all right, just had a little bit of a surprise."

"Then let me talk to him."

"He's out like a light in Dublin at four a.m.  Fainted, dead away."

No.  God.  "What happened, tell me what caused this?"

"He met my parents.  Aman and Lily O'Farrell.  My Mam and Dad, they know him."

Blair gasped so loudly, and rushed her hand to her mouth, that she dropped her cell.  Tina, retrieving it, said, "Aiden?"

"Tina, Little Tina.  I just saw my parents again, and they're fine.  A reunion to be remembered, Todd keeled over.  He knew them."

With bewilderment in her eyes and in her voice, she said, "Aiden?  Why?  How?"

"No telling.  I haven't found that out yet."

Blair, beside herself with tears, began dressing for cool weather.  Tina said, "Oh no, you're not.  You can't, Blair."

"I can, and I will."

Aiden, hearing the commotion, said, "What is it, Lass, what is the problem?"

"The problem is that . . . it's too long to explain, just that Blair thinks she is coming to find you."

Aiden remained calm, and said, "Ask her how to get to the O'Farrell cottage."

Tina did as he asked.  Blair fell silent and still, and began sobbing into her hands.  Tina moved to be next to her, and put an arm around her shoulders.  "She's distraught.  There's history, there's . . ."

"I know, there's more to this than either ya or I am aware of, there is."  Aiden said, "But she can't come and try and find us.  Too much traveling, and to be honest, she'll never find it without a guide.  Tell Blair to stay there and wait it out.  He'll be fine," Aiden said, looking down, "I've got him.  Let me talk to her."

Todd began to stir, "Blair?  No, she . . . Where the Hell am I?"  He looked to the faces over him, and said aloud, "It's easy, Todd, you're on This is Your Life: Ireland Edition."

Aiden, ignoring Todd's snark, said, "Blair, please.  Ya can't upset yaself this way, there's a babby on the way, and Todd's . . ."

He didn't get to finish, because Todd snatched his phone back and said into it, "Babe, no crying, stop."

"Todd!  Are you . . .?"  she couldn't finish.

"I'm okay.  I didn't eat much, the copter ride, change in pressure, and seeing this, whoa, wait until you hear this one."

"What is it?  Are you all right Todd, please?"

"I'm fine, I'm okay.  It's just . . . well, Aiden's parents look a heck of a lot like Aman and Lily O'Farrell who took care of me in '95 when I was shot."

Blair couldn't speak for a moment.

Todd said, "Hello?"

"I'm here," she said, wishing she weren't.  She wished she were beside him, holding him.

"Anyway, it's them.  I'm all right.  Let me help Aiden out, as we planned, and then I'll deal with the next thing."  He sounded weak.

"What's the next thing?"  she asked.

"Getting you out here to meet them.  They saved my life.  There would be no me, or me and you, or Little Ray if these two hadn't taken my shattered bones and pieced them back together before sending me off to the experts."  He paused, and could hear her crying in the background.  "Really, Babe, before this phone shuts off, or loses you, just let me help Aiden with this.  Then, I'll be back and I'll bring you out here to meet them.  I promise.  Nothing will happen to me, Babe.  Nothing's going to keep me from you and my baby girl, and the kids."

Lily, who had been listening intently, was filled up with tears.  She said, "My God, another babby, Todd.  Ya had a babby on the way the last time you were with us.  Saints be praised, what are the chances?"

Blair could hear the woman.  "Is that Lily?"

"Yeah, that's her," he said.  

Blair knew the call would not hold long.  Through her tears and the static on the other end, she said, "Tell her thank you for caring for my man, then and now."

"I will.  Babe, please don't cry.  Please don't upset Jewel.  Everything's okay, and it won't be long, I'll . . ."

She closed her eyes, squeezing them shut.  The phone went back to the homescreen in her hand.  She didn't bother to try and call him back.  She just cried.

Tina, not fully understanding, went back to her sister-in-law's side, and put both arms around her, hugging her to her chest.  "Blair, it's going to be okay," she heard herself say, and then it occurred to her that she wasn't even sure it was.

"He needs me," she said, "And I'm here.  I should have argued with him more.  We never should have been separated."

"Do you want us to go and find him?"

Blair thought a minute, and then pulled herself to sitting.  "No.  No, he said, wait.  I'll wait.  We'd never find them, never."

"Blair?"

"Yeah?"

"What is this about, out there, with Aiden and Todd?"

She closed her eyes, and tears squeezed out of the corners.  "It's about . . . sharing mothers, I think, in some mystical way.  I don't know what else to say to describe it.  It's just . . . well, it's just the way Todd's life goes, and where ever his life leads, mine goes.  Always," she said.

The room remained quiet.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

News - new stuff - and new goals!

Looking forward to that 170K mark!  Thanks for your support.

Also, KARENA has decided to share with us a book from her site, Passionate for Todd.  We'll be sharing "The Mysterious Mr. Samuel Toddman," beginning today, Memorial Day!

Stick with us for more surprises along the way!

This week:  Hope from the Ocean begins to wind down.  What's in store for the Mannings as they wrap things up in Ireland?

Catch the reposting of "Battle the Dark," Book 3 in the series by Cloud.

What about Todd and Victor?  Check out Todd's Saga, Chapter 20.

More coming your way!

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The Mysterious Samuel Toddman AKA Todd Manning Chapter 1

Book 1, The Mysterious Samuel Toddman AKA Todd Manning

It was a cold day in January. Down a cobbled street in Paris, a taxi pulled up to the front of a small Art Gallery . Two people stepped out.

Blair looked uncomfortably at Christian and said, "Are you sure this is the right place? It doesn't look like much."

"This is the address the concierge at the hotel gave us. Let's go in . Maybe someone inside can help us find this guy."replied Christian.

"Alright but it doesn't look promising."

Christian paid the cabby then followed Blair to the door. Blair tried the door, it was open, so she gingerly stepped inside. Amazed she looked around. Although not much to look at on the outside, inside the gallery was very upscale. Clearly a very select clientele frequented this Gallery.

“Hello? Hmm. There doesn’t appear to be anyone around at the moment.”said Blair. As they looked around, Blair suddenly stopped moving and Christian nearly mowed her down..She was staring at the far wall.

"What? What did you stop for?" as he said this Blair's arm went up and pointed. Christian followed her gaze and he too was stunned. There on the far wall was another portrait of Blair.

Blair moved quickly to the other wall. "I don't understand...who's painting me and how does he know me?" The painting was a full length picture of a long haired Blair sitting atop a magnificent stallion. She appeared clothed in nothing more than a black silk shirt and she looked as if she was about to take off on a long ride into the clouds that surrounded her. Christian and Blair studied the portrait looking for the Artist’s name but once again it was smudged and unreadable, and this time the date was 2005. Whoever was painting these might still be around. Blair again looked for someone to talk to, someone they could ask about the new painting and the one Eli left her. From behind Blair came a discreet cough. Blair gasped and turned abruptly.

"Excuse me. I didn't mean to frighten you. Is there something I can help you with?" There in front of Blair stood an elegant woman looking like she was very at ease in the Gallery.

Blair cleared her throat "Ahem, That's alright, I was just unnerved by this painting. Tell me do you know the Artist?"

"Oh my! I'm afraid I don't. That portrait was put on display by the owner of the Gallery...but surely you know the artist? It is a picture of you? True?" said the woman
.
Blair looked uncomfortable "I ...I can't say..I don't know who's painting me!”

Christian seeing Blair's discomfort turned and asked the woman. "Excuse me but is the owner here by any chance?"

"Tomas should be here soon." just then the bell at the door rang.."Ah Here he is now."

Blair and Christian turned to face the door as a tall, handsome and very distinguished gentleman entered.

"Tomas, Darling, These people would like to ask you a question about your portrait here." at that the woman turned and left the room.

As Tomas approached. he took a look at the woman standing in front of the portrait and smiled. He walked over to Blair, took her hand and kissed it..saying,"It is a privilege to meet the inspiration of that portrait, I've been waiting to meet you since your first painting came to my Gallery."

Stunned, Blair didn’t know what to say. Finally she found her voice. As she took back her hand Blair said "Well thank you Mr.Tomas, but you see I'm very confused...I never sat for any paintings and I need your help."

"Please, it's just "Tomas" and how can I be of service to such a lovely lady." Tomas inquired."

"You see, we've come all the way from Llanview, Pennsylvania because we're trying to solve a mystery..My late husband left me a painting ...a painting of me but we can't make out the Artist's name and we're here because someone told us the artist might be found in Paris..Now I'm looking at another portrait of me, but again we can't make out the name of the artist. Your friend said that you put up the portrait in your gallery, so that means you know the artist. Right?"

"Yes I know the artist" said Tomas but before he could say anything else Blair interrupted "Oh Please, can you give us his name and where we can find him!"

" Oh My Dear, You misunderstand me... I know the artist but I don't know his name or where to find him, in fact, I myself have been looking for him for some time. You see, for a number of years he has brought me various paintings all of them with you as the subject. He brings them to me one at a time and collects anything I get for them the next time he comes. In fact my dear...But what is your name?"

"Oh I'm sorry. My name is Blair Cramer and this is my friend Christian Vega. "

" Ah, as I was saying Ms. Cramer, I've been trying to find him because I have quite a bit of money for him. In the last 8 yrs I've sold a number of his paintings...your paintings are highly sought after my dear." smiled Tomas

"But I don't understand, if you see him periodically surely you've asked his name? What does he look like? Can you tell me that?"

"This artist is a little eccentric to say the least..He always arranges to meet me alone at night in this gallery. When I asked his name the first time he said he didn't want to talk about it and if it was an issue he'd take his paintings elsewhere. The paintings he brought me were fantastic so I agreed to his terms, when I asked if I could turn the lights up he told me the light hurt his eyes so I've always kept the light dim when he is here.. I did catch a glimpse of his face once and he had a covering over the right side of it. I figured he had experienced some sort of Trauma and that is what made him so reclusive."

Blair looks helplessly at Christian."Now what do we do?"

Tomas looked at Blair. "Perhaps you two would like to join me for lunch. Maybe we can put our heads together and figure out how to find our mysterious artist."

Christian turned to Blair. "Why don't you go to lunch Blair while I take care of some of my own business and we'll meet later at the hotel."

Blair looked at Christian and back to Tomas and decided to take a chance. "Alright " she said to Christian."You go take care of your items...Tomas I'd be happy to take you up on you offer." and she smiled.

Tomas beamed. "Excellent! Good Fortune smiles on me today.I'm to have lunch with a vision ..a mystery that has eluded me as long as our mysterious artist."

***
Meanwhile in a garret not far from the gallery a man stood in front of an easel.. He gently laid down a brush and stepped back to view his canvas. He ran his fingers through his long brown hair..." You are so beautiful in this light..I don't think I've ever loved you more than I do right now . But who are you? Why do you haunt me so?" he gazed at the painting of a woman lying in the arms of a man whose face was hidden by a curtain of hair, the moonlight shown on her face..her eyes and lips glistening in the light, "Who Are You?!" he asked again, turned and left the loft.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 65

Walking along together, Aiden and Todd barely spoke, except for Aiden's directions: left here, watch out for that rocky place, we're going right up here, almost there, and more.  The conversation lagged mostly because Todd, in his efforts to keep strong, was still reeling from the realization; Aman and Lily, who had taken care of him in Ireland years before, were the adoptive parents who took in Aiden. 

On their walk to the O'Farrell home, Todd could only run through the few memories he had of them; the caring and strong hands of Lily, the brusque but compassionate words of Aman, the pain and torment of his injuries as the two of them attempted to help him recover, in secret, as to protect him.  He wished more than life that they had brought Blair along, to steady him, and calm him, but they hadn't, and it was too late for that kind of regret.  He forced himself to focus on the task of helping Aiden, and push forward, though it was difficult to do.

Finally, on the other side of a grand patch of hills, lay the cottage, singular in it's grayness against the deep greens of the Emerald Isle.  They stopped, momentarily, and Aiden, studied the scene.  The sheep, grazing here and there, seemed to take no notice.  Next to the modest house was Aman's cart.  Ragged and somewhat dilapidated, Todd felt nausea interrupt his posture upon seeing it; he knew he had been in that cart, at least once, during his time in Ireland when Blair was pregnant with Starr.  And, here he was, when Blair was pregnant with Jewel, standing in the same place, looking . . .

Aiden broke the silence, "Todd, ya've been quiet."

"We're here, right?  That's half the battle.  Time to reunite you and your parents, and figure out your past.  It's a red letter day."

"Y'ar acting quite strange, Todd, not sure how to put my finger on it."

Todd waited.  It wasn't the time to bring everything out in the open.  He could be mistaken.  They might be a different Aman and Lily.  And after all the years apart from his family, hadn't he learned that his selfishness and pigheaded actions had cost him time with them, and almost his life?  

"I'm always strange.  You just don't know me."

Aiden laughed it off, and led the way down the hill toward the cottage.

***

Blair, who had gone back to napping, sat up with a loud suck of air through her mouth.  Her gasp startled Tina, who dropped her book, and went to her sister-in-law's side.  Blair looked up and said, "He needs me."

"Of course he does."

"No, he needs me now.  I made a terrible mistake, Tina."

***

Jack and Jenna frolicked in the waters of the indoor pool, and Shaun, sitting poolside, sipped a soda and was playing Subway Surfer on his android phone.  Jack got out, took his towel to dry himself a bit, and wrapped in it, finding a lounge chair.  "Team iPhone."

"Whatever, kid."  Shaun said, ignoring Jack a bit to continue his game.

"I've got higher scores than you.  The game is for both operating systems."

"Sure you do."  Shaun looked up momentarily, as if being challenged.

"Wanna bet?"

Shaun finished the round, then said, "What do you want to bet that I can kick your behind in Subway Surfer?"

"Fifteen minutes alone with Jenna, without you staring at us every second.  I feel like I'm in jail."

"Hmm, not a bet I'd take.  You're a teenager, probably have a lot more motivation to win that round than I do.  Nothing in it for me, Buddy."

Jack went quiet for a minute.  Then, "Seriously, I just want to be with her, without you watching our every move.  Even Mom and Dad don't do that."

Shaun said, "Why do you need to be alone with her?  Is there something going on we should know about?"

Jack looked to the pool, and Jenna was still doing laps of the backstroke.  "No.  It's not like that.  Is that what you all are afraid of?  Sex?"

Shaun thought of the irony of the sentence, and said, "Not sure it's necessarily that.  Maybe just a fear of you getting into something that you're not ready for, not prepared for.  It's an emotional time for both of you.  Feelings lead places."

"Not there.  Jenna's not that type of person.  She's different.  She's not that type of girl, and I'm not into pushing her or anything.  I like her too much, shit, I think I love her."

For a moment, Shaun found himself speechless, and then smiled.  "You're all right, you know that, Jack?"

"Yeah, I guess."

Shaun stood up, "Well, I'm going to go into the house to get some lunch.  I want you and Jenna to dry off and get yourselves together and get back to the house in about ten minutes so we can all eat together.  I'm making tacos."

"Dad's tacos?"

"My tacos."

"Dad's are better."

"Dad's everything is better.  And this, I know."  He said, walking off.

Jenna got out of the pool as Shaun walked off.  She said, "Jack, what was all that about with Shaun?  Your faces looked serious."

"Nothing.  I just told him he doesn't have to watch us every second."

"Oh.  Yeah, parents are like that."

"I guess."

"They probably have to be.  They don't know what we're really like when we're by ourselves.  They're just making sure."

"Yeah, I guess.  He's just . . . looking out for me."  He stood up.  "I'm going to change, he wants us at the house in ten minutes to have lunch.  Okay?"

"Sure.  I'll be there in a minute," she said, drying off, and toweling her hair.  She was careful to put it up into a bun to stop the wetness from continuing to drip onto her shoulders, and then took out her phone.  She scrolled through a few messages, answered one from Lynnette, who she knew would be worried, and went across the pool to the women's changing area.

***

"Call him, again.  I'm telling you, he's all right."  Tina said, putting her hand on Blair's shoulder.

"Look at me.  I'm a mess without him.  He's not even out of my sight for a morning."

"It's noon.  Give yourself a break, you made it through the morning.  I mean, I can't say much about what went on in 1995, but I can tell you that if it were me, I'd be feeling exactly like you are."

Blair's eyes were filled with bitter tears.  "I wish I had my baby, to hold.  My baby boy.  That little piece of Todd and me."

"There's one, right there," she pointed to Blair's middle.

"I know," Blair said, hugging herself across her abdomen, "I know."  After a few minutes, she said, "Damn it, where's that phone?"

"Right here," Tina said, handing it to her.  She hoped that this time, Blair would get an answer.  She was worried what the stress might do if it went on much longer.

***

Aiden approached the cottage, and all was quiet.  He said to Todd, "It's almost noon, time is perfect.  Aman is back from fishing, Lily is preparing lunch."

Todd knew he was right.  It was his Aman and Lily.

"I'll be certain to catch them both here.  It's been a while," he said, wistfully, "It's been a little more than 20 years."

He knocked.  Todd stood back from the entrance to the bungalow, and from Aiden.  This was Aiden's moment, not his.  He hung back quite a way, as the door opened, and a woman's face appeared.  Even from the distance, Todd recognized her instantly.  Lily.  My God.

"Mam.  Bet ya never expected me," Aiden said, and she threw her arms around him before he had time to react.  A door knock, Todd knew, was big news in the O'Farrell house.  He could picture Aman, standing right behind her with the shotgun raised, and as she hung on Aiden, crying and laughing, the door pulled open to reveal he was right.  He saw Aman put the gun down, and put his arms around both his wife and Aiden, and all of them poured their emotions into the air and onto each other.  He swallowed, and looked down at his feet.  Blair.  He closed his eyes.  I wish . . . Blair, I wish you were with me for this.

After a few minutes of harried questions, declarations of missing and of love, and Aiden's emotion-filled responses, the three of them went silent, as Lily caught sight of Todd, behind Aiden.  Her eyes darted to his face, her expression drained from elation and rejoicing to blank puzzlement.  Aman, followed suit, and Aiden, finally, turned over his shoulder to see what they were looking at.  He realized shortly after, that they were looking at his travel companion. 

Before Aiden could actually introduce Todd, he looked back to his parents, and recognized their expressions.  He stepped very slightly away from them, and Lily finally said, "My God.  Todd?" in a hushed tone that could only be described as a mother's voice in sincerity and tenderness.

Aiden's eyes became large, and he looked from his adoptive mother back to Todd.  Aman had stepped past both of them, putting himself closer to the scarred stranger.  "Tá súil agam ón Aigéan?"

Hope from the Ocean.

Todd just stood, he was unable to move.  He had lifted his head, to meet Aman's gaze.  Lily pushed through the men and ran directly to him, saying, "Todd!" and threw her arms around him.  As was customary with Todd, it took a few minutes for his hands to find her back, and his eyes closed as she embraced him.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Todd's Saga 20: Clarity

         Todd walked into the bedroom.  His brother glared at him.  “I figured you’d be awake by now.  Now if you’re a good boy, I’ll take the gag off and we can talk.”  He set the tray of food down on the nightstand and stood over his brother, waiting for a sign from him.

Go ahead,let him talk. It’s not like you have much choice. You’re trussed up like a turkey.  At least the dam gag will be off. Victor nodded and continued to watch his brother carefully as the gag was removed.  He moved his jaw slowly and swallowed. “What makes you think I won’t yell and let the housekeeper know you’re keeping me here.”

        “Go ahead. The only ones here, are you, Clint and me.”  

         Todd watched as Victor closed his eyes and took some deep breaths. “It wouldn’t matter even if she heard you.”  Todd continued.  “I told her I’m researching some Indi films to invest in and I’ll have videos running all day long in this room.  Clint was introduced to her this morning and he’ll be working in here for me.  Since the content isn’t mine, I asked her to respect the privacy of the budding producers and instructed her to stay out of the room.”  He waited to see what Victor would do next. As expected. Victor began yelling his head off.

         After a few minutes it was obvious that Todd had spoken the truth and Victor ceased his calls for help.  The last few cries had been pretty gravelly because he was so dry.  He coughed trying to get some voice back. “Alright, I get it.. It won’t do me any good. Does that mean you won’t gag me anymore?”

         “I’m feeling magnanimous.  So it will stay off as long as you behave yourself.   I wanted to talk to you about Tea.”

        “Shut up!  Don’t say her name, you bastard.  Because of you I lost over a year with her and now I can’t get her, or it back.  You did this to me.” At Todd’s mention of Tea, Victor felt all the hatred flow back into his heart.  He struggled to free himself.  All he wanted was to feel Todd’s neck beneath his hands again.

         Todd looked at his brother.  He understood better the Victor, what it felt like to lose years with someone he loved.  He turned and pulled a chair closer to the bed.  “You know what?  I think it’s time we talked about that.”

        Victor stopped struggling.  “What’s there to talk about? She’s dead.” he said coldly. 

        “Humor me.”  Todd reached over to the tray and picked up a croissant and began eating.  He watched his brother squirm for a minute, then reached for another roll and held it for his brother to eat.

        Victor took a bite, then spat it out at his brother.  “Do you think I’m stupid?   How do I know you didn’t poison it?” 

        Todd looked at the second croissant and took a bite from it.  “Shame, oh well, more for me.  My cook is excellent.  Maybe you’d like some fruit, or a drink.  Look.” He picked up a bottle of water and held it so his brother could see the bottle was unopened. “I’m not the one who likes to poison people.  Do you want it or not?”

        Victor frowned then slowly nodded his head. “Why don’t you let one of my hands loose.  I hate being fed like a baby.  It reminds me too much of Margaret.”

         Todd paused, “Marty?”

         Victor swallowed some water as Todd held the bottle to his lips and shook his head. “No, the nutcase Margaret Cochrane, Sam’s mother.  She held me for months, trussed up just like this.”

         Todd looked at his brother.  He remembered reading about Sam’s mother. “Okay, but just so you can eat.”  He stood up and removed one of the handcuffs he had used to restrain Victor. Victor jerked his hand free and tried to make a play for his throat, but Todd was too quick for him and trapped the arm. “Uh uh, not this time.  Sorry, for today you’ll just have to settle for being fed until I can figure out a different arrangement.” Todd stuffed the hand back into the cuff and sat back down on the chair.  “So, do you want the roll or not?” 

        Victor knew he wouldn’t get another chance so he reluctantly shook his head yes and took a bite of the croissant.  This time he chewed and swallowed it

         Todd fed him in silence and then held the water so Victor could wash down his meal.  Then he placed the bottle back on the tray. “Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s get back to Tea.  I’ve been trying to find a way to prove to you that she’s alive but I figure no matter what I do, you’re going to think it’s all fake. ”

       “Why are you doing this?  She’s dead.  I know it.  I don’t understand what you think you’ll accomplish trying to make me believe she’s alive.  If you hadn’t shot me none of this would have happened.”

       “Well you see, there’s the rub.  I’m not so sure I shot you.  Come on Victor.  Refresh my memory.  I don’t trust it anymore since Irene messed with me so much. Believe me I know what I’m talking about when I say the organization has been messing with your mind.  I think Irene did the same to me. Look I’ll tell you what I remember of that night.  I went back to the office after Blair dropped me off at Llanfair.  I wanted to talk to you some more but I ran into Tea instead. She told me you went to see Irene and I couldn’t figure out why you would give her the time of day. Tea and I talked a little more and then she took a call from you and said she would see you at home. After that things are a little confusing.  You say I shot you.  Are you so sure it was me, or did the organization make you think it was me?  Tell me what you remember about that night.”

         “I remember talking to Blair and she told me you were roaming around with Dorian’s gun and that I should be careful.  I thought she was being over dramatic, but I figured I would humor her, so I called Sean.  I heard someone come in my front door and turned around….”  Victor paused as he tried to remember what happened next.  In his mind he remembered talking to Sean and turning around and seeing….For a minute everything about that night blurred in his mind.  Victor shook his head trying to think, he began getting a headache.

        Todd was listening intently but he looked sharply at his brother when Victor’s voice trailed off just as he got to the part where his assailant came into the room. Victor’s eyes lost focus, then he grimaced.  “Hey, what’s the matter? Victor?”

        Todd’s voice penetrated the fog Victor was in, and suddenly a picture of Todd standing opposite him with a gun came into Victor’s head. “Shut up.” he snapped, His head was still pounding. “It’s nothing, I’ve got a damn headache. You wanted to know about that night. Let me finish. I turned and you were standing there with a gun on me.  I asked what you were doing there, and you just shot me and left, leaving me bleeding on the floor.”

        “That’s it, I shot you and left.  I didn’t say anything at all to you. Like why I shot you?” Todd was excited, there was a discrepancy in the memories.  It was slight, but it was there.

        “I already told you, you cold son of a bitch.  You shot me, stared down at me only for a moment then turned your back on me and walked away.  The organization is right.  You’re a monster that needs to be put down before you can further pollute us.” Victor’s head rocked to the side as Todd backhanded him again..  Blood seeped onto his chin from his lip as he sneered at Todd.

        Trying to contain his rage, Todd got up off his chair and moved away from his brother.  “Be careful who you’re calling a monster.  I wasn’t the one who raped Marty a second time or threw Starr down stairs when she was pregnant.” He turned back around to face his brother. ”Do you even hear yourself?  Talking about this Organization like it's your family.  They have you by the balls and you believe everything they drilled into you.  You’re the weak one, brother.  That’s why our damn mother was able to manipulate you all those years.  The Organization worked on your mind making you believe I shot you and they’ve been working on it again ever since they recaptured you.  Only this time, they have you believing Tea and Dani are dead and I’m responsible.  You’re a fool.”  Todd turned as he heard a floorboard creak behind him.

        Clint stood there taking in the scene in front of him.  He had heard Todd’s final statement. “He’s telling you the truth, Victor.  I just got off the phone with Viki.  Tea and Dani are alive and well.  Although, they’re not speaking to each other right now.  According to Viki, Tea isn’t happy with Dani’s latest boyfriend.”  He turned to Todd.  “Thank you, Manning, for setting up that call.  Viki sends her love and said thank you.  She agrees with you that I need to stay hidden for the time being.”

       “She understands that you won’t be able to call for a while, right?  It’s imperative the organization doesn’t find out where we are.   I also don’t want her put in harms way over this.”

        “Neither do I, Manning.   I love her.  Alison already shot her once.  There’s no way I’ll let her get to Viki nor me again.”  He walked into the room and settled in the antique chair on the other side of Victor’s bed. “So Victor, it seems we’ll be keeping each other company for a while.  It looks like we’re both under house arrest, but I’ve got to admit the accommodations are definitely better than where I was yesterday.”

        Victor had gotten very still after hearing what Clint had told him about Tea and Dani.  he looked from Clint to Todd.  He knew Todd lied constantly, but Clint, although unscrupulous with Buchanan Enterprises, would never lie about Viki.  He didn’t like Clint but he knew Viki loved him and the guy loved Viki. Victor zoned out hearing a voice talking to him. You can’t believe Viki, she’s been corrupted by Todd.  She loves him more. Victor shook his head. No that isn’t true. She loves me too. I know it.  She wouldn’t lie to me. He heard Clint thanking Todd for the phone call and found himself looking at his brother again.  Why did he do that?   Why did he take the chance to get caught by letting Clint talk to Viki?  Todd’s words reverberated through his head. 

       “You’re the weak one, Brother. The Organization worked on your mind the same way our mother did.” 

He turned back to Clint and met his eyes.  “Tell me again.  Are Tea and Dani really alive?”

Clint nodded and exchanged glances with Todd. 

        Victor saw the glance and suddenly growled.  “You’re lying.  You and he planned this.  I don’t know why you tried to bring Viki into this but it won’t work.  Forget it, Todd, you failed.”

        At that moment all Todd wanted to do was wring some sense into his brother.  He headed back to the bed to do just that, but Clint intercepted him, grabbing him by his shoulders and looking him in the eyes.

        “Don’t Todd, he’s as pigheaded as you are.  I’ll try and make him understand and I’ll keep him company.  You need to get to work.  Your secretary called after I got off the phone with Viki.  She said someone named Sam Vance had something for you.”

         Todd scowled and left the room.  

         Clint sat back down.  “Well, do you want anything else to eat.  I can’t let you loose today because I don’t have the key but maybe later when he returns he’ll let you have a hand free.  I know it won’t do me any good to say it again.  But he wasn’t lying and neither am I. Tea and Dani are alive.”

        Victor didn’t say anything. He leaned back into the pillows and closed his eyes. He wanted to believe Clint so badly, but it was useless. They were dead and he had become resigned to the fact.

****

        Todd walked into the OTB offices.  “Phil get Sam Vance on the phone, pronto.”  Before she could acknowledge him, he swept past her and entered his office.  He was pouring a cup of coffee when he heard someone clear her voice.  He spun around to find himself face to face with Sam Vance.  The hot liquid spilled out onto his hand and he cursed and set the cup down on his desk, grabbing a napkin to wipe his hand off. “Damn it Sam.  You know I don’t like surprises.”  He walked to the door and looked out.  “Phil, get me some ice.”  then he gave his attention to his uninvited guest.  As always Sam presented a stunning image.  Her auburn hair moved softly around her face and she was dressed in an eye-catching outfit designed to accentuate all her best features. 

         Sam smiled.  She stood up off the couch, smoothed down her dress and sauntered toward him.  “I can kiss it and make it feel better.” 

       “Keep your lips to yourself, and tell me why you came all the way here.  A phone call would have been sufficient.” He slipped past her and sat down behind his desk. Phil entered and handed him a cup of ice and Todd took some pieces and rubbed them across his burnt hand.  As his assistant left, Todd looked up at Sam. "Well, don't just stand there.  I’m guessing you got me the answer I’ve been waiting for.” 

         Sam pouted for just a minute then became all business.  She returned to the couch and pulled an envelope from her purse.  Then she walked to the desk and handed Todd the file. “I found out the name of Alison Perkins’ brother.” 

          Todd took the file and opened it.  He stared down at a familiar name.  Carl Peterson.  he looked at Sam.  “Is this the Carl Peterson I think it is?”

          “Yes, Mr. Philanthropist himself.” 


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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hope from the Ocean: 64

"You okay today?"  Jack asked, peeking his head into the kitchen and finding Jenna there, eating a poptart.

"I think so.  By the way, this might be the last poptart, but I only had one, the other one is right there."  She pointed to the silver, recognizable wrapper on the counter.

"Thanks," he said, taking it and putting it into the toaster.

"Are you okay?  Hear from your parents?"

"Yeah.  They're fine.  Mom called earlier, she said they'll be home sometime later today, most likely."

"Oh, that was quick."

"I know.  It really was.  I guess I overreacted."

"It's totally understandable."

"I guess.  What about you, you okay?"

"I'm here.  That's a good thing.  I miss her, every day.  Like I did before, when she was gone from us, just more . . . I don't know.  Final, maybe?  It will never be different for her and I."

He gulped, thinking that it could have been that way for him, with both his parents, in the last years, and wasn't.  And then, there was Shane and Gigi. . . "I guess I should be lucky that I have them."

She nodded, finishing off her poptart, and his popped out of the toaster.  He said, "What do you want to do today?"

"Swim."

"Swim?  It's like, really cold outside?"

"Doesn't the gym have an indoor pool?"

"Yeah, but we still have to walk over there, and it's pretty cold today."

"Well, we can bring clothes, change there, swim, change back and walk back?"

"I guess so, sure.  If you want to swim, we can swim."

She smiled.  "I want to.  I used to swim at the community pool a lot, downtown in Llanview.  You know the one.  It wasn't far from your grandfather's penthouse building."

"I know the one."  He ate his pop tart, and poured a large glass of milk.

Sister Rebecca Katherine came into the kitchen.  "Please tell me the two of ya are not eating those snaptarts as a breakfast!"

"Pop tarts."  Jack corrected, finishing the last bite.

"Whatever ya call them, that's not healthy.  Have ya got a few minutes for a real breakfast?"

Jenna said, "I'm sorry, but since I already ate that, I don't think I will be very hungry for anything else. Maybe something very small."

"I'm game, just didn't feel like cooking."

"Then it's settled."

"Will you mind if we go up and get some stuff together?  We're going swimming."  Jack said.

"No, I don't mind.  I'll be glad to make it while ya organize yourselves."

The teens exited, and Dorian came into the kitchen with Shaun in tow.  "Morning, Sister," Shaun said.

"Ah, good morning, Shaun.  Can I interest ya in breakfast?"

"Sure.  Dorian here says you all need a house Dad for the next few days.  I'm your man."  Shaun said.

"Well, since Timothy took off, chasing that information we discussed, I figured we could use someone to run teen interference."  Dorian said, sitting at the table.

"That is a good idea.  Unless ya want to chase the little road runner around."  The nun said.

Shaun poured himself some orange juice.  "No thanks.  Besides, I'm tight with Jack, and he can be a toughie at times.  That's when he gets something in his head he wants to pursue."

"And that would be Jenna," Dorian said.

"I agree.  All right.  Ya will be on pool duty. They want to swim.  They went to get their things."  Sister said.

Shaun rolled his eyes, "Pool duty.  Okay, sounds good."

Dorian said, "Where is Ray, anyway?"

"He's still in his crib, playing with toys.  I'm due to go up and get him in a few."  The nun replied.

"I'll get him," Shaun said, as they heard the front door, and Jenna came back into the room.

"I'm back," she said, putting her bag down on the floor.

"You look like you're dressed for a storm," Shaun said, heading toward the stairs.

"We're going to change at the pool."

He gave her the side-eye and said, "Great.  I'll be there with you all, trying to relax and put my feet up a bit."

She smiled, and took her seat at the table.

Jack, appearing at the other entrance to the kitchen said, "Oh great, a babysitter."

"That's if you're going to be a baby about it," Shaun said, folding his arms.

***

"Come on, Blair, let's go get some breakfast," Tina encouraged.  Blair was on her side, her knees as close as they would go.  Both her hands were on her belly.

"I don't want to."

"I know you don't, but you need to eat.  You're pregnant."

"Oh, no duh, Tina.  I know I'm pregnant."

"Well then you know that you have to eat."

Blair sat up, and propped herself on her elbow.  "I just don't want to.  I'll wait until Todd gets back."

"That's not going to make him come back faster."

Blair plopped back onto the bed.  "Please.  I just don't feel like it.  I just want to stay here with my baby and wait."

Tina walked to the bed and sat on the edge.  "You and I have no love lost between us.  I know that."

"That's behind us, isn't it?  We've come beyond that.  When you helped save my baby, and my kids.  And Todd."  Blair said.

"Yeah, pretty amazing to think I did that, isn't it?"  She said, primping her hair a little.

"It is.  But I'm grateful.  Todd was . . ."  Her voice broke, and then she finished.  "Todd was grateful, too."

"Todd is grateful, you mean."

"Yes.  Todd is grateful.  And he's gone," her voice trailed off.

"He's not gone.  The hormones are talking.  He'll be back.  Soon."

"You were there when he vanished before.  Remember?  It was . . . I was pregnant, the same number of months, with Starr.  It was two days after our wedding.  I had to bury him before we even shared married life for more than a day."

Tina swallowed.  "Well, that's not the case now.  He's fine.  As a matter of fact, why don't you call him?"

"He's flying.  That would be dangerous."

"Okay, then in an hour or so?  After we eat?"  Tina said, peeking around to Blair's face.

"Oh, okay, Tina.  You win.  Do we have to be in public with all kinds of people, in the pub where Todd once vanished?"

"No.  Why don't we get room service, then?"

"Fine."  She put her head back down onto the bed.  

Tina went and ordered things she knew would be healthy and well-taken by Blair, and then sat by the window, with her book, reading.  Blair dozed until the room service arrived.  She picked at her food, and Tina said, "Did I order the wrong things?"

"No.  It's fine, Tina.  I'm just not hungry."

"I understand.  Just try and eat a little, all right?"

"I am just so scared.  So afraid that he might . . . that he might . . ."

"No, that's not what this is about.  Now, it's been about forty minutes, call him, for goodness sake."

Blair took her cell phone and dialed.  "It went to voice mail," she said.

"That's okay, that means he's busy flying that thing.  Or that he lost a signal where he is.  If they are near the ocean, or somewhere remote, he won't be able to get the call."

"Right."

The phone rang, and Blair hurriedly picked it up.  "Hello?"

"Hi, Babe."

"Todd, are you all right?"

"I'm perfect.  I'm great.  Aiden's fine, too.  We landed a few minutes ago.  I have a lot to tell you when I get back.  It won't be long."

"Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything's fine.  Wait until you hear about this one."

"What?"

"Let's just say, you won't believe it."

"I'll just be glad to see your face when you tell me," she said.  He heard the strain in her voice.  

"Hey, none of that.  I'm fine.  Aiden's fine.  We'll be back, pretty soon, or at least I will.  We haven't decided how to handle it, yet."

"Okay.  Please, Todd, come back to us.  Don't . . ."

"None of that, Blair.  There's nothing I'd do to ever put us in jeopardy, ever again.  Just relax.  Tell my sister to keep you calm."  The line when quiet.  Then, "I love you."

"I love you, Todd."  She said, hanging up.  "He said for you to keep me calm."

"Oh, great.  That one's not so easy, but I'll try.  Croissant?"

"Why not?"

***

"Murdered his mother?"  Timothy said in whispers, and his face was ashen.

"Yah, she was killed, in his plain view.  That is what he was told, when he was a lad."  Jimmy said.

"Killed.  In front of him?"

"Yah.  Spectators said that she was shot down, in the street, none the less.  Both of them.  Most likely, the scar on Aiden's head . . ."

"Oh Good Lord in Heaven,"  Timothy said, getting up from his seat and pacing.

"I'm sorry, Timothy.  This must have brought up bad memories for ya."

"Memories."  He repeated, staring off.  He flashed back to his dream, the night before.  Johnny's eyes.  Erin's eyes.  His son, face down and dead.  Him, being dragged off, crying and screaming, away from them.  They were cremated.  Cremated and buried.  Both of them, on a rainy, Ireland day . . .

"Do ya know someone who told this story?  Who did they tell it to?"  Timothy continued.

"They told it to the O'Farrells.  Supposedly, they thought the boy would be safer there, away from Dublin.  The O'Farrells became like parents to Aiden.  I suppose someone saw what happened and relayed it."  Jimmy said.

Colin spoke up, "We might be able to rely on Owen for this."

"Owen, of course.  He's been around longer than any of us.  He'll be eighty-seven, he will."  Jimmy said.

"Can you find me this Owen?"  Timothy asked.

"Of course, we can.  Let's go, Mates," Colin said, "I know just where he'll be on a morning like this one."

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