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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 14

"Damn straight we're taking it back. I'm not sure who Alex is, but if you think she's got something to do with our dilemma, you go get her Samuel. God, I hate this. I'm helpless in here." Todd got back up slowly. The room righted itself faster than the last time, but he still felt shaky. "There's got to be something I can do to speed up the process, Samuel doesn't strike me as a guy who has had to prepare for any kind of fight. I've got to get back out there. He's right about one thing, someone is pulling strings and I've always hated somebody trying to jerk me around." Feeling stronger Todd ventured back toward the translucent room to see if his alters were making any progress.

Todd stopped and gave the room a good look. Why had someone locked up his memories? How would keeping him in the dark about his past have helped them? Why had no one come looking for him these past seven years? Of course he couldn't remember who could come looking for him, but surely someone knew him. Someone must have missed him. Why did he only remember the worst thing that had ever happened to him? He needed to get back all of his memories, he felt empty. If Samuel also had no memories of his whole life, he too must have felt pretty empty all these years. One thing was sure he needed to find out about Samuel and what he had been up to for seven years. If he tried to take over his body now he would really be at a loss. It was time for a talk with Ms.Perkins.

"Ms. Perkins, we need to talk." Todd said walking up to her. "The guys can tackle the wall, I've got to have some information. You say I've been out to it for seen years but you guys have been here. How come none of you tried to take over for Samuel?”

"Dear Todd, as I explained earlier, we didn't wake up till Samuel woke up. None of us could figure out what had happened to you. You were here, but unresponsive to any of us. Samuel was in charge. I've been trying to find out what event brought Samuel out and I'm pretty sure it happened when you were hurt, but none of us could remember what occurred. I discovered the room shortly thereafter. Samuel was managing on his own the best he could. I figured letting anyone else out might be detrimental to your health, so I left Samuel in charge. Whenever Samuel tried to retrieve his memories he always suffered intense pain just like you saw moments ago. So he ceased trying to get his memory back and concentrated on getting out of the hospital. While he was recuperating, the boys and I tried to get into the room. We had no luck. Back then you couldn't see into the room and we've spent the last few years working on it, wearing it down." Ms Perkins gestured to the wall.

"When Samuel got ready to leave the hospital, the boys and I put our collective voices together to warn him he needed to leave and hide. Somehow we got through to him and he fled here to Paris. I knew someone had shielded his memories and whoever that was, had plans for you. Samuel has your artistic talents and I know you don't paint, but you do carve and that was the talent that grew into painting. Samuel has lived quietly here, he put his talent to use and started selling the paintings he did of Blair. Samuel is a recluse and up until a few days ago his dealings were limited to a teller at the bank where he exchanges money, his art dealer Tomas, his landlord, and some waiters and waitresses at a couple of restaurants he frequents. Samuel has spent the last seven years in the company of his ladies. Yes, the paintings. The paintings have helped him stay sane. Over the years, we've managed to wear down the barrier between us and your memories and every dent we put into it sent Samuel an image. He used those images to paint, he just didn't realize they were memories until recently." said Ms. Perkins.

"Whoa, wait a minute, are you telling me that Samuel is even more innocent than Tom?! My God! I've got to get out of here. Samuel won't know the first thing about handling a she-devil." Todd looks around frantically. " Pete. How did you let this get so out of hand."

"Hey, don't look at me, man. That ole battleax you're talking to has kept me bound up most of these years. She didn't want me to cause any trouble. But don't worry. I warned Samuel about Alex. He should proceed with caution." replied Pete

"My dear boy, you must relax. Samuel is no innocent. He is very aware of his masculinity and how to use it. I told you before that I believe Samuel is the side of you that is like Sam. He has Sam's qualities and innate charm with women. Just because he has abstained all these years doesn't mean he doesn't know what to do. All you need to do, is see his paintings to know he understands passion. I'm sure Samuel will be fine with Alex until you are ready to take control. It is crucial that we finish breaking down this wall. You can't resume your life till you know what brought out Samuel." Then Ms Perkins did the strangest thing. She took Todd's hand and said. "You've survived so many things in your life. It's time for you to face the fact that you need all of us if you're to survive this. We'll do our part, but when the time comes for you to leave don't shut us down anymore." She smiled and patted his cheek.

Todd was stunned, for one brief moment he had been sitting in that cabin with his mother telling him to be strong, he looked at Ms.Perkins and realized she wasn't like an old schoolteacher, she was like his mother and she had been there taking care of all of them all this time.

***

Samuel finished getting ready and started figuring out where he was going to take Alex. Of course he would save the Eiffel Tower for this evening. The view from the tower was spectacular at night. From what he remembered of Alex last night, he got the impression she was pretty high maintenance. Her clothes had been top of the line. She would expect the very best and fortunately he was able to provide that, thanks to his recent sales. "Well, Delgado I need some funds." he said as he moved Dee from in front of safe. That sounded so weird coming out of his mouth but it felt right. She was his Delgado. Any other time he would have felt like he was being disrespectful to even think to call a woman by her last name, but this felt so much more personal than that. It was more of an endearment something he shared just with her. He reached in and took out a sizable sum for the evening. He grabbed his coat started to reach for his mask and realized he didn't need it. Alex thought he looked fine, if it didn't bother her, it wouldn't bother him. Running his hands through his hair, his fingers brushed the scars for a brief moment. He straightened his shoulders and headed to the door.

Samuel took a quick look at the girls. "Wish me luck." and he headed out. Samuel reached the bottom of the stairs outside his apartment. Then he quickly made his way to the cab stand where a cab stood waiting for a fare. "This is perfect." thought Samuel. He got in and told the driver to take him to the Ritz. As the cab took off he noticed a couple of people walking up his street, but before he could get a good look at them the cab turned down another street and he lost sight of them. Samuel sat back in the cab. He was excited. He felt he was embarking on an adventure that was sure to change his life as he knew it.

Alex got down to the lobby. She knew she shouldn't look so eager, but Carlo would eat her alive if she didn't succeed and get Samuel to follow her to Llanview. Besides, she was eager, she had gotten a brief but surprisingly refreshing glimpse of Samuel and she liked what she saw. He looked like Todd, but he didn't act anything like Todd. That in itself was intriguing. Samuel just exuded mystery. His dark looks and enigmatic smile got her heart going. It was positively racing and he hadn't even gotten to the hotel yet. Just then he walked in. She took the moment before he saw her to just look at him. He had no idea what kind of impression he made to the people around him. He commanded looks but was unaware of them. The women in the room all stopped to look at the man standing in their midst, you could almost hear a collective sigh. The men seemed to acknowledge the presence of a real man in the room. Samuel turned and as if he knew she was watching, found her with his eyes. Alex felt that quick breath leave her for just a moment. Samuel moved to her and that smile once more appeared. "Alex, you are stunning. I can't believe my good fortune that you will be my companion for the day."

Alex smiled back in return. "Samuel, I'm the one who is lucky, every woman in here is wishing she was me right now."

Samuel looked at her and said "I'm sure you jest, but you're incredibly nice to say so."

Alex realized then that Samuel was as sincere as he was mysterious. He genuinely believed that no real women would look at him seriously. This man was the polar opposite of Todd. She took his arm and led him to the exit. " Well, what are we going to see today?" she inquired.

Samuel led her to the waiting cab. "First, allow me to show you some of our famous sites; the Arch de Triumph, and the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame, and then if you'll let me perhaps a carriage ride on the Champs-Elysees, culminating in dinner tonight in the Eiffel Restaurant. Does all of that meet with your approval?"

"It all sounds great Samuel, provided you give me plenty of time to find out about you and your life here. Something tells me it will be fascinating." replied Alex. Samuel gave her that interesting smile again. It was like he was a cat eyeing a goldfish in a pond and she was the goldfish. A little thrill ran through her as she contemplated what the smile might mean. Just who was playing who here. "No," she thought, "He's too nice a guy. I'm reading Todd into it, he's not Todd."

As he looked at her and smiled, Samuel couldn't help wondering just what she was supposed to do with him. Someone wanted his attention on Alex, what were they trying to keep from him? Oh well, he would figure it out, but for now he was going to enjoy the rest of the day. He felt like a regular man on a date and he was going to make the best of it. Alex was beautiful and smart and his for the day. Let the Games begin.

Samuel really enjoyed the afternoon with Alex. Although he was greatly amused by her one track mind. She had tried continually to find out more about him. He would have liked to help her out, but what she didn't realize was that he didn't know any more about himself than what he had already told her. Well that wasn't quite true. He hadn't told her about the hospital or his secret deposit box. Those were part of the life he didn't remember and he felt the need to keep them secret for now. Samuel had kept them in reserve all these years especially the deposit box. When he had pulled his id from that box he had known then that the box held more then id. The box was important to him and one day he would find out why. Samuel poured Alex another glass of wine. She suddenly seemed nervous and he wanted to calm her down. He was also trying to get his own information. If he got her to relax enough he was hoping to get a name or two from her. "Alex my dear, you suddenly seem a little nervous. Have I said something or acted in any way to make you upset? If I have, please tell me what I can do to ease your fears."

Alex looked at him. It had been a great day but she hadn't made any headway getting to know him, at least she didn't think so. He had talked about his art and the City but had provided very little info into himself. He didn't appear to be hiding anything, but she sensed that there was something inside of Samuel that was very dangerous. The more she talked to him the more she wondered what Carlo had done. She was almost positive that Samuel was indeed Todd Manning. That meant that somehow Carlo had managed to replace him with an imposter and a very good imposter at that. The man living as Todd Manning must truly believe he was Todd Manning because no imposter who was just faking someone's life would have continued being that someone if their own life was in danger, She knew what the Todd Manning living in Llanview, all these years, had gone through. He had almost been executed. His own wife had accused him of rape and then he himself had been raped by a crazy woman. No man in their right mind would have stayed in that situation if he was just a fraud.

 No, Carlo had done something. That's why she had suddenly gotten nervous. She felt it in the currents in the air, something was up. What had Carlo brought her into? If Samuel were to figure out who he was, all hell would break lose. Todd Manning was not a man you crossed. She took a sip of her wine and tried to put a smile on her face. "Nonsense, there's nothing wrong. I've just been enjoying our day so much I'm just feeling a little nervous about how we're going to end the night. Please tell me this is going well on your part. I do want to see you again after tonight." She felt like a fraud. She really liked Samuel but was feeling the need to run like hell and get as far away from him and Carlo as she could. This was not going to end well.

Behind Samuel's eyes another person was watching and reading all the signs that Alex was putting off.

 "Yes, you not just nervous. You're scared. What's got you so skittish Alex. I know you, you only act scared when you know you gotten caught in a crossfire. Who's pushing your buttons. I can almost see him. It won't be long. But Alex, he's not the one you need to worry about. I'm coming out soon and when I do then you'll really have something to be afraid of." Todd scowled and turn to see what kind of progress was being made on the wall. It looked like they might finally get through soon. He needed those memories. He needed back in control.

Samuel pondered her question. Should he continue this charade, or try to find another means to bring her backer out into the open. God what he wouldn't do to get his memories back. He needed to be full strength when he faced the person or persons who did this to him. He decided to keep the contact with Alex going for the time being. " Alex, I have thoroughly enjoyed today and I would love to see you again. Perhaps you'll allow me to escort you to dinner again tomorrow."

"That would indeed be lovely, but I've started developing a headache and wonder if you could take me back to my hotel. I sometimes get these vicious headaches and I'm terrible company when they come on." said Alex.

"Of course, my dear. I too have a problem with headaches, so I'll quickly get you back to your hotel. If you're not feeling better by tomorrow we'll reschedule our dinner date." Samuel quickly paid the bill and saw Alex back to her hotel. On the ride back to his apartment he thought about the day. Samuel was sure that Alex almost called off her own plan to ensnare him but then she backed down. She was scared of someone. If he could, he would try to protect her, but he had to solve this mystery. He wanted his life back and he was going to get it.



*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 42

Aiden woke from his late afternoon nap without them knowing, as they sat around his bedside, quietly.  He poked his head up, and said, "Hey, what is going on?  Is it a funeral?  Can't be a good old Irish wake?"

"No, it can't, because y'ar not departed, Son.  Y'ar still here with us," Timothy said.


"I have an idea," Tina said.


Everyone looked at her, and aside from Aiden, the feeling seemed to be, "not another one."


"Don't look at me that way, Todd."  Tina said.


"What way?  Like I want you to stop getting ideas?  Why would you ever think that?"


"Anyway," she emphasized her words, "I have something important to do.  I'm going to ask the both of you to step out."


Timothy's eyebrow went up, and Todd laughed.  Aloud.


"No, no, just . . . come on, guys, give me a break here.  I need to talk to Aiden alone."


Todd was already standing, and Timothy got up as well.  "We'll give ya some privacy," the older man said.


They went into the hallway and found the row of four chairs against the wall.  Timothy plopped down into one.  "I might lose one of my sons, again."


***


"Dr. Martino, do ya have a moment for this old nun?" Sister Rebecca Katherine asked him.


"Sure, what's going on?   Come in."


She walked in, dressed in street clothes, and he was surprised at how different she looked.  Without her veil, her slightly curly salt and pepper hair was framing her face with wisps here and there.  He said, "I almost didn't recognize you."


"Yes, I know.  I am cleaning my habit and veil today.  This is just me."


"I see that.  What can I do for you?"


"I had the dream, again.  The one where the tall figure is hurting the children, or taking them.  Possibly both."


"All right.  And what does that make you think, Sister?"


"Nothing really.  Nothing more than the fact that I dreamed it.  However, there's a change."


"What change?"


"The man.  I can see his face now.  It's Peter Manning, I'm sure of it."


The room fell silent, and then Ray said, "Of course it is.  I showed you his photo from his file.  You distinctly told me that there was no face on the man, or that you could not see it.  Then I showed you the picture, and now there's a face.  Amazing what the brain does."


"Yes," she said, but she was not convinced in the least.  He could tell.  He waited.


"Is there something else?" he asked her.


"I don't think so.  I just wanted to tell ya that I had it again."


"The same dream?"


"Yes, except for that change."


"The children were in danger recently, you told me about a bear . . ."


"Yes.  Yes that must be it.  Thank God for Todd that day."


"Yes, that's true.  Todd was fortunate to have been able to handle that one.  Wild animals are not predictable."  He stopped a moment.  "But human beings are, more or less.  Don't you think?"


"What are ya getting at, Ray?  I'm an old woman, but I can see ya have a goal."


"Just saying that people are pretty predictable, those without mental illness.  The reason for the dream, and the change in it, are pretty well explained."


"I suppose y'ar right," she said, standing.  "The power of suggestion.  Also, with Bea's reaction to Todd, and the rest.  Y'ar right, Doctor.  Good day, I'm going to the chapel for a bit."


"Good bye, Sister, see you later on."


"Yes," she said, walking out the door.


***


Todd said, "Now, who said you're losing me?  Because you're certainly not losing Aiden."


Timothy looked at his adopted son, and said, "Ah, is that right?"


"Yes, that's right.  He's not going anywhere."


"How do ya know that, My Boy?"


"Because I've been where he is.  On the end of something horrible and on the brink of something else.  You want that something else, and you'll fight and fight to get it.  He won't be giving up anytime soon.  Seems that he wants the new life."


Timothy didn't speak, he just turned and looked straight ahead and so did Todd.  Both men had their elbows on their knees, and were slightly leaning forward.  Timothy said, "How did ya get so wise?"


"Experience, I guess.  With all the shit thrown at me over the last . . . oh, fuck, my whole life, it's just how it is."


"Well, I suppose.  But brain surgery, seems to have so many risks.  He already has the scar tissue.  Now this."


"Maybe they can get it all at once," Todd said.


"Eric's been talking about things that . . . he may have experienced.  It . . . reminded me of ya, Todd, the things ya went through."


"Why would they be much different?  We both were held by the same people, just at different times, for different reasons."


"That's true.  Well, I'm worried about this surgery.  I don't want to lose him before I got to know him. As a man, ya know what I mean.  And I don't want to call my sister, she'll want to run out here and interrupt her internship."


"You don't have to call her right now.  If something . . . if you feel you need to, I'll send the jet for her.  Not sure you should worry about the interruption to the Mountainview thing."


"Why do ya say that?"


"It's not real."


"What?"


"I mean, it's real, but it's not a special program.  It's Ray and it's me.  I came up with the idea, to fund her college education.  I knew she'd never take it from me otherwise.  Ray had a covert mission about it, and he's stuck to it pretty well."


"Ya amaze me at times, Young Man."


"Young Man?  Where they heck did you get that?  I have grays."


"Grays?  Please."  He pointed to his silvery hair.


"I never felt young, even when I was."


"That comes with a hard life," Timothy said.


"Must be," Todd said, feeling a buzz from his phone.  "Hang on, I should take this.  Yeah, Shaun?  Huh?  You're kidding, right?  Okay, I'll handle it.  Yep.  Yeah, sure.  Everything okay at the house?  Okay.  Thanks."  


He hung up, and his forlorn expression brought Timothy to ask, "What's the matter?"


"Sam.  He saw Momma's drawings.  He's been having nightmares.  When I go away, Sam always has trouble.  Heck, Jack does too, just different."


"They love ya, pure and simple, and it means ya need to reassure them and be there as much as ya can.  What pictures did he see?"


"Let's just say they were of her dreams, but they were about my abuse and hers."


"Ah, not good.  Not good at all."


"No.  But I'll handle it on Skype later."


The door opened to Aiden's room.  "Well, it's all settled.  Come on in you two, we need witnesses."


"To what, you coming up with another suspect?"  Todd asked, rolling his eyes.


"No.  You're going to a wedding."


***


Malcolm and Miguel were in the solarium, sitting by the window.  Malcolm was reading a novel, and Miguel was closing his eyes, with the late afternoon sun coming through and warming the room.  Both were in peaceful solitude, but not alone.  That was something that had suited them since they had met; many hours had been spent in quiet solace between the Englishman and the young American.


Calvin stepped into the doorway of the solarium, and since there were no other people at that time, he found himself walking toward them.  Malcolm glanced up, and then back down to his paper.  Calvin sat, near them, and brought out his lighter and cigar.


"Are you seriously going to light that in here, after you've been told so many times you can't?"  Malcolm began,


This alerted Miguel, who sat up from his slumped position and said, "Hey."


Calvin disregarded Miguel's greeting.  "Can't wait to get out of here.  Certain types of people I don't care for."


Malcolm was not a fan of Calvin's biases, especially against Miguel, who he deemed, in his mind, fragile and young.  


Miguel's gander was up.  "What kind of people would that be?"


Calvin absently played with his lighter, igniting it on and off repeatedly.  "Fucking fruits like you."


Miguel was close to being on his feet, when Malcolm said, "Miguel, not worth the bother.  The old man can't even lift a hand to you, that's why his mouth works like a motor."


Miguel thought better of it; the oldest of them was quite a bit older, and this reminded him to keep his cool.  He thought of their first days, the crazy, exciting but silly capers they pulled, and sat back down.  


Calvin said, "Won't apologize for that."


"Of course not.  When have you?"  Miguel said.


Malcolm watched the two of them.  Calvin's attitude toward Miguel had changed profoundly since the younger man was put into the psych ward in recent times.  And, of course, that was when Miguel had outed himself to them.  Malcolm could care less; nothing like that had ever bothered him.  And, it never would.  Nothing seemed as important anymore since losing his outside life.  


He wondered if he would ever be outside the clinic again.  If he did, where would he go?  What would he do?  He could be a gardener again, like he was in the past.  He loved to see things growing, and know that he helped them get there.  He missed the smell of the fresh basil when he was working in the vegetable patches at the Kensington Palace Gardens in West London, and tending roses in the flower conservatory.  He and his wife had a beautiful life there, living on the grounds in a small cottage, simply, and sometimes, especially in summers, living off the garden itself.  The lump in his throat increased, until he was shaken from his thoughts by Calvin standing up and pushing the table away from himself.


"I'm out of here anyway, there's nothing to keep me here any longer.  Besides, I have things to do," he said, putting the lighter into his pocket, and putting out the cigar in a planter by the door as he exited.


"What happened there?  You were, well, nowhere,"  Miguel asked.


"I was somewhere, believe me.  What happened with you two?"


"I think he's done with us, and this place.  His patience ran out, or something.  Doesn't like me anymore, obvious reasons.  Besides, he always was sort of . . . dark.  I don't even know if that is the right word."


"He's got revenge on his mind, I know that, and I know how it feels.  I almost let it consume me, once.  I had to let go.  The escapades the three of us were involved in when we first got here made a perfect distraction."


"Hmf.  I can relate to that.  I felt the same.  He's . . . changed.  Worse."


"He's hateful.  It takes people over.  I know, I was there once."


"Yeah, and now you can't even go outside.  The place you loved before."  Miguel said.


Miguel had spoken the truth that usually remained silent between them.  "I'm working on it, I guess."  Malcolm said.


"If you had the money, you could pay for that medication.  The one that's supposed to help with the anxiety and all."


"Yes, I suppose."


"Why don't you try it without the medicine?  I think you could do it."  Miguel gave his vote of confidence. 


Malcolm looked outside.  "I just might."


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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 41

"I'm here, at the hotel, but I think I might have called you at a weird time.  I can't keep track of the time changes."  Todd said, putting down his bags.

"It's okay.  It's eleven in the morning here.  I'm up around the clock anyway, with Jewel," Blair said.  "You must be tired."


"I slept on the plane, most of the time.  I feel fine, actually."


"Good.  We have a problem, though."


"What problem?  All the kids okay?"


"Yeah, it's that the groundskeeper is moving.  He gave me very short notice yesterday, and he's leaving tomorrow."


"Hmf, that's tough.  With the thaw, and the way things are going, that place is going to need attention this week.  We'll have to hire someone."


"Yeah, we do.  Not to be selfish about this, but I really want those flowerbeds and that small herb garden we talked about.  The roses need help as well, and I don't have time to do this with the baby, and all."


"No problem.  We'll just hire someone else.  It's nothing to worry about."


"Okay.  Just let me know what you want me to do next."


"I will.  Maybe it can wait a day or two as I get settled here?"


"Yes, that's fine."  She was holding Jewel who had fallen asleep.  "She's out like a light, here."


"She's like her Mommy.  She can sleep through just about anything."


"Yeah, I guess so," she smiled.  "I love her so much, Todd."


"I know.  Me, too."


"So, did you see anyone yet?"


"No.  I came here to get settled in, drop off bags.  I'm on my way, soon.  I don't look forward to seeing this mess, or if it got worse."


"I'm so sorry.  I hope he's doing well."


"I'll find out soon enough.  How's Jack?  Sam?"


"They're fine.  They're off to school."


"Good."


"And Ray's running us ragged of course.  Shaun's moving in later today, as you asked."


"More good.  Except for the running ragged, but that's Ray."


"Yep.  That's him.  His father's son."


He smiled to himself.  He loved how she loved everything about their children, and about him.  "Well, Road Runner will calm down soon.  He's getting toward school age."


"Not sure he'll ever stop.  He's so full of energy.  He's adorable, though.  Today he asked me where you were.  When I said you had to go away for a few days, he said, 'No, Daddy home, right now, Mommy.  Tell him.'"


For some reason, he flashed on his mother's art again, as she spoke.  He shook it off, and said, "That's cute.  I miss him, and the other kids, and you, Mrs. Manning."


"It won't be long, but we miss you, too."  She put Jewel down.  "Hey, give my love to Dad, Aiden and Tina."


"I will.  Love you."


"I love you, take care of my man."


He smiled to himself as the call ended.  He was off to the hospital to see his brother.  


When he said it to himself, it still felt strange.  What grown man gets adopted and has a new brother, but you, eh, Todd Manning?  Let's hope you still HAVE one by the time you get there.


***

The journey to the clinic was uneventful and dull.  Todd passed out to sleep, again, in the back of the taxi.  When he arrived, he overpaid the taxi driver and got out.  The clinic still gave him a strange feeling when he looked at it from the outside, and he paused, expecting visions of his father, and none came.  "Guess that's a done deal," he said aloud, and headed in.

Signing in was simple, and he walked by the lobby statues and arrangement of chairs, and headed to the room Aiden was in since the start of it.  It seemed so long ago, a lifetime, now that Jewel was part of his world, and he'd settled back in to life with Blair, the times in Ireland and the past.  The past.  Your thoughts, Manning, no one else's.  The past.  It's going to stay there.


He turned through a few hallways, and finally came to the door he was familiar with, and went in.  Tina didn't look up, she was sleeping with her head on Aiden's bed, sitting in the chair.  Timothy, head hanging back, was sitting in a chair, also sleeping.  Aiden was awake, and Todd didn't even know it at first, until he quietly raised his head.  "Malcolm?" he softly said.


"No, try again."


"Todd!" He whispered, and turned his head toward the door.  Todd saw him reach his hand out, and he took it, and stood on the opposite side of the bed.  


"Yep.  It's me."


"Brotha, that's a long way to come.  Ya have a new daughter, bless her.  And y'ar here."


"I am.  She's fine.  How about you?"


Aiden attempted to push himself to sitting, and as he shifted his weight, Tina stirred.  Looking up, she said, "Todd, hi," and sat back in the chair, trying to stretch her back into shape.  "I must have fallen asleep right here."


"Yeah, it seems that way.  You okay, Sis?"


"I'm . . . okay.  Your father is dead tired.  He's not left here in a day and a half."


"Aiden, what about you?"  Todd was concerned.


"I'm what I am, I say.  Nothing more.  I can't see ya, so don't expect me to compliment y'ar boyish good looks, Pal."


"I wouldn't," Todd said, feeling a lump form in his throat.


"On medicine.  To stop the bleeding and swells.  Hoping it works."


"I'm sure it will," Todd said.  But will it?


Tina said, "Thanks, Todd.  For coming here.  I know you had to leave my new niece."


"I'll see her soon," he said.  "Blair keeps me up to the minute with photos."


"She is beautiful.  I remember the pictures Pappy showed."  Aiden said.


"She is." Todd said.  "She was born early, I delivered her.  The power was out, Blair had a little accident, her water broke, and Jewel was coming.  Nothing we could do but let her show up.  She weighed only four pounds, but she was healthy.  A perfect, tiny person."


"Yes, perfect," Aiden said, and Todd noticed his expression change, as he set his head back down on the bed.


"Aiden, what's wrong," Tina said, and Timothy finally came to in his chair.


"Nothing, I'm fine.  Just tired."


"Ah, my neck, what was I thinking sleeping like that?" he sounded gruffly aggravated.  He stood and went to Todd, embracing him.  "Ah, y'ar a father again.  Congratulations, Me Boy.  She's a real gem."


"Thanks, you all right?" Todd asked, after the hug ended.


"Fine.  Bridgette?"


"She's perfect."


"As always, especially in y'ar eyes."


"So, what's next here?"  Todd asked, looking from one of them to the other.  Aiden had fallen asleep.  "I'm glad he knows I'm here."


"The doctor should be in, momentarily, about the medication.  To give us a report."  Tina said.


"Yes.  And we're hoping for some positive news."  Timothy said.


"I need to eat," Todd said.  "It's been more than 8 hours since I last did.  Heck, it might be almost 12 or longer."


"All right, we can hit the cafeteria, then," Timothy said.  As they headed to the door, they were met with Dr. Vigo, carrying a clip board and harboring a grim expression.


"Good morning," he said.


"This is my other son, Todd Manning, from the United States."


"Todd Manning?" Dr. Vigo said.  Todd was studying his face.  "You have been here, before, haven't you?"


"Yes.  I was here before.  It was about a month or so ago, when we first brought Timothy here."


"No, I meant to say, Mr. Manning, if you'll excuse me, you were here, as a patient, years back, weren't you?"


Todd swallowed, "I was, yeah."


"The scar.  It gives you away."  Dr. Vigo said.  "I was a young resident then.  Not sure you remember me, but I remember you."


"I don't remember you," Todd said, puzzled.


"Well, back to the matter at hand.  Mr. O'Farrell is suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage.  We've given him the proper medication, and I'm sorry to say, it's not working as we'd hoped."


Todd's heart sank, but he could also see Tina almost deflate like a balloon, and his father grasp the bed rail.  "Which means?"  Timothy asked, gruffly.


"It means, we have no choice but to operate to try and arrest what's going on."


Tina's throat worked, and she turned away.  Aiden had fallen asleep again, and Todd thought it was probably better that he did.  Timothy said, "What's the prognosis?"


"I couldn't even say.  There's no way of knowing, only time will tell.  He should have surgery soon.  When he wakes, let him know, and then contact me," he said, leaving them all in the silence of the room.


***


"Is Shaun going to sleep in my bed?"  Sam asked, as Shaun carried in a few items from his cabin.


"No, he's going in Grandma Bitsy's room," Blair explained.


"Well, he could have my bed, if he wants it, but he might not fit."


Shaun stopped what he was doing and looked at Sam, arms folded.  "What are you trying to say, Little Man?"


"Nothing, really.  Just sayin.'"


"Well, it's kind of you to want to share," Blair added.


"I just didn't want him to break my bed, Mom," Sam said.  "To be honest."


Shaun made a pretend angry face and picked Sam up, threatening to throw him into the pool, parts of which were still covered with snow.  "No!  NO!  Put me down, you big old monster!"


"I'm not a monster, but if you want me to be, I'll pretend you're a nice little tasty elf."


"No!  Help!  Jack!  Mom!"  Sam was laughing so hard, he could barely get the words out.  "Help!  The big monster has me!"


"Make sure you spit his bones over here," Jack said, ignoring Sam.


"Clean up after yourself, Monster," Blair said, going into the kitchen with Jewel.


When she was out of earshot, Jack said, "Hey, Runty, go get those new comics you wanted to show Shaun."


"Yeah!" he yelled out, as Shaun put him down.  He went to the stairs.  "I gotta find them in my whole collection!"  His feet made running sounds up the steps.


"You wanted to get me alone," Shaun said. 

"Yeah, I guess.  Runty's been having bad dreams again.  He didn't want to tell Mom."


"What bad dreams?"


"About the bear, and Dad not coming home."


"Ah.  Makes sense."


"They started after the bear thing, I think.  Since then, he's missed a lot of sleep, and so have I.  He comes to my room after."


"All right, thanks for telling me, but your Mom really should know that."


"Can you tell her?  I don't want Sam to feel bad that I told, because he asked me not to."


"Why would he do that?"


"He was worried that Mom is so tired all the time, and it would make her sad.  He's a goofy little kid."


"He might be goofy, but he loves his family."


"I know.  Just wanted someone to know about this.  The kid acts all happy and perfect, but he's scared all the time."


Shaun didn't like how that sounded.  He said, "Really?"


"Yeah.  Really.  He's been scared a lot since Dad came back, but this last few months, he's just scared all the time.  Since he jumped off that roof, I think.  That's when it got really bad.  Sometimes, he cries really hard.  Two nights ago, he cried so hard, he barfed."


"Jack, you did the right thing telling me about this.  That's a lot of stress on the little guy.  I'll take care of it."  


Sam rounded the corner with his comics, and said, "See?  Here they are!  These are the new ones, Dad bought me.  He said when he comes home he will buy me another one.  I really want the newest Spiderman one that just came out."


"Your dad's pretty cool, huh?"  Shaun asked.


"Yeah, he's the best dad ever."


"Ever?"


"Ever, and I'm glad he came back."


"Well, he's coming back this time, too," Shaun tested the waters.


Sam's face faltered a little.  "Yeah."


"Come here, Sam."  Shaun said.  Jack took it as a signal to take Ray and go to the kitchen with his mother and sister.


Sam jumped up on Shaun's knee, after the man took a seat in the family room on the chair.  "What's bugging you, huh?  You know you can tell your old monster."


"I don't like when Dad goes away."


"I don't either."


"I always think he's never coming back."


"Why do you think that?"


"Well, a long time ago, when I was littler, he went away and he almost died and he was gone so long.  That's when the bad man was going to cut him up, and Jack told me."


"I remember that.  But the bad man didn't get your Dad.  He made it."


"Yeah."


"And this time, he's not with a bad man.  He's with Grandpa Timothy and Aunt Tina, and Uncle Aiden.  You know who they are, right."


"Of course, they're my family."


"Right.  So Dad's not in danger.  Uncle Aiden is very sick.  But your Dad will be home, and he'll be home very soon."


"I'm just scared.  He almost died one time."


"Yeah, but your Dad's tough.  See how he ran from that bear?"


"The bear isn't scary.  She just wanted to save her babies, like Mom and Dad do."


"Really."


"Yep.  But . . ."  the little boy fidgeted.


"What is it, Sam?  You can tell me."


"I don't want to make Mom cry, please, Shaun?"


"I won't make Mom cry.  I promise she won't."


"I snuck into Grandma Bitsy's room before she went away.  To the nuthouse."


"That's not a nice way of saying that, Sam."


"Well, Dad said it, so I copied.  Anyway, I snuck in there and looked through her drawings, and she had some that scared me."


"Tell me about them."


"The scariest one was a big man, with big hands, he was going to beat a boy with a bat.  Why did she draw that?"


Shaun swallowed a moment, and tried to compose himself the best he could.  "Well, take this comic right here."  He opened it and showed Sam a picture of Spiderman fighting with a villain.  "Why did the writer draw that?"


"He wanted to make us interested in it.  Or else, he was just doing his art.  Or maybe telling a story."


"Right.  All three.  So that's what Grandma Bitsy did.  She was just showing her art."


"But her pictures are scary.  The tall man is mean."


"He's mean.  So is the Green Goblin, and The Sandman, right?"


"Yeah, but they're not real."


Shaun knew where it was going.  Somehow, Sam had gotten the idea that the man in Bitsy's drawings was a real person, and Sam was damn right.  "And neither is the man in Grandma's drawings.  It's just a picture."


"Okay," he said, a little unconvinced.


"Sam, believe me, it's okay.  The man in Grandma's pictures is not around.  You don't have to worry."


"Yeah, but, there were a lot of them.  He did a lot of bad stuff in the pictures."


"Just like Green Goblin.  Is he real?"


"No.  I used to think so, but I know he's not.  Dad told me."


"I'll tell you what.  Tonight, you can ask your Dad on the phone if the man in those pictures is real.  As a matter of fact, maybe you can Skype him and see him and ask."


Sam was excited and jumped off Shaun's knee.  "Really!  I could?"


"I think so.  Your mom Skypes him all the time!"


"Yay!  Okay, well, I'm going to put my comics back.  I know I shouldn't have snuck in Grandma's room.  Jack said that's what I get for going in there," he said, running off.


Shaun went to his cell phone to prepare Todd for his next session of Skype with the family.


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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 40

"It's to the right, Mates," Darren said, pointing.  They all followed his lead, including Aiden.  The catacombs seemed different somehow.  Instead of being lined with brown, rocky darkness, they were pinkish and fleshy, like the inside of a mouth.  He kept ducking from the tooth-like projections overhead.  

"Are ya sure, Man?  We can't take the risk of becoming lost," Aiden said.  "There's no time."


They turned a corner, and walked into a room, bright with white light.  Everyone covered their eyes.  When the light dimmed he was alone, standing in front of a strange-looking chair.  Looking to his feet, he saw that his sooty clothes were replaced with all-white cottons, and white casual shoes.  He raised his eyes back up to see a man, standing by the chair, and beckoning him to sit.


"No," he heard himself, and began to back away.



He felt himself grabbed from behind, and suddenly, he was a child.  "No!  Mammy!  Pappy!" he screamed, as the large hands forced him into the chair.  "No!"  he kicked violently.  "Where's my Mam?"

"Shhhhh.  You'll hurt yourself screaming.  And it certainly won't help.  You're with us now.  Things will be all right.  Your new family is here, with us."

He looked around, and the pink walls were vibrating.  The man put something on his head, sort of like earmuffs, and then everything went black.


***


Todd sat back and closed his eyes.  All he could think of was home:  Blair, leaning over him, her breasts swinging slightly in her nighty, putting her lips on his chest, and the smell of her hair; Jack, Sam and Ray, the day with the bear, hiking with him in the woods; and Jewel holding his little finger in her hand, with it wrapped all the way around it.  


They were all outside on a beautiful sunny day, playing in the yard.  He was throwing the ball to Jack, who was throwing it underhand to Sam, who was throwing it to him, and often not making it far enough, so Todd would have to run and get it.  Ray was playing in the sandbox, digging with a shovel and moving his trucks through all of the little mountains he had made.  His hair, still long, was tied in a ponytail in the back at the base of his neck, much like Todd wore when Blair first met him, and also, when he was a child.  


The sun was almost blinding at times.  Blair was pouring lemonade into tall icy glasses, and Jewel, who was still in the basket, was cooing and playing with a rattle.  Mixie was running around all of them, barking here and there, when suddenly, his barks took a different tone.  Todd caught Sam's last throw and looked up to see a tall looming figure coming up behind Blair . . .


Then, his eyes flew open and he jerked awake.  Shit.  What the heck was that?  He looked out the porthole.  He was long above the earth.  He gazed out the window a bit longer, studying the clouds.  So beautiful up here.  Just so . . . free.  He remembered telling Blair, for the first time, what it was like to fly, and she had told him about riding horses.  He'd been lucky enough to have her, not just once, but over and over, in his life.  This time, he was really never letting go.


His thoughts went to his mother, staring off into the lake.  He swallowed, and flashed on her drawings, the ones of her dreams with the titles under them, like episodes.  They made him feel cold, and he hugged himself.  She knew something.  He shook his thoughts free of the ghastly artwork, and went to the back of the cabin and got the phone.  "Babe, can you hear me?"


"Yeah.  I can.  Are you all right?"  Blair said.


"I'm in the air.  Can't shake this Momma stuff."


"She'll be all right.  Honestly.  I'll watch over her.  And the kids.  We're all okay, Todd,"  she said.  "So what spooked you, exactly?"


"I dozed.  Dreamed of you and the kids, outside, in the sun.  A figure . . . let's just say it turned out nightmarish."


"The bear.  That's what it was."


He stopped, and then said, "Yeah.  That's what it was.  Then I started to think of Momma and her pictures."


"Oh, that could upset anyone."


"Yeah, well, it did.  So I called.  Just to hear you.  I wish I could see and touch you."


"Well, you can't touch but you can see me.  We can Skype at your hotel."


"You mean, Skype, really Skype?" he smiled.


"Whatever you want, Mr. Manning.  I'm always yours."


"I call you when I get to Timothy and Tina."


"Okay.  I love you."


She was gone, and the phone, silent.  He still never understood how or why she loved him, he just was very glad that she did.


***


It was the dead of night, and all was silent at Mountainview.  Sister Rebecca Katherine tossed and turned, restless in her bed.


Suddenly, she sat up, and choked back a scream.  "No, Dear Lord, take these horrible thoughts from me," she said aloud, and reached to her side table and grabbed her rosary.  She began praying, to ward off the memory of her nightmare.


She finally threw the covers off, and in her flannel nightgown with the high collar, she sat at her desk, taking out the Bible to read to herself.  Then, she heard noise in the hallway, and peeked around the corner.  "Hello?  Is someone there?"  she was still reacting as if the dream were real.


"Sister, is that you awake in there?"  It was Clyde, the night custodian.


"Yes, it's me, Clyde.  Good evening."


"Sister, it's like 3 in the morning.  You should be sleep," he said.


"Well, I was.  But the night urchins got me, I think."


"A nightmare?"


"Yes."


"My momma always told me that if you talk about your dream, you can go back to bed.  I remember a few times, my nightmare was so bad, then when I told her about it, I ended up laughin' at it."


She looked at him.  "I'm fairly certain I won't be laughing at this one, Clyde.  My family, they were terrorized by a terrible man.  Again."


"You had that dream before?"


"Something like it, yes.  This was worse, Lad.  Thank ya for y'ar concern."


"You wanna talk about it?"


"Not really.  I'm trying to move my mind from it."


"Well, if you change your mind, I'll be around.  I have this whole hallway to do."  He went on his way.  


She turned back to her Bible, and it slipped out of her hand, falling down to the floor, but instead of facing down, as one might think, it faced up, open to a page, perfectly.  She lifted it, not knowing what page she was viewing.  She adjusted her glasses, looked down and read what was in front of her:  to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.  Isaiah 42:7


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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Todd's Saga 31: After Effects

         Blair looked up from her place behind the bar and saw storm clouds headed her way.  She braced herself for the onslaught.

Tea was seething. She saw Blair and made her way to the bar like a little tornado. “Why have you been ignoring me?!” she said as she slammed her clutch on the bar.  Tea was frustrated, and tired.  She hadn’t slept a wink since talking to Victor and all her calls to Viki’s phone had been fruitless.  She had just left Llanfair and found out Viki was out of town and Nigel had proven reluctant to give out any news regarding Viki’s whereabouts.  Now, she confronted her friend. “I’ve been trying to call you all day and all I keep getting is your voicemail.  What’s going on, Blair?” 

Tucking her hair behind her ear, Blair feigned surprise. “You’ve been trying to call me.  That’s impossible.  My cell hasn’t rung all day.”  She pulled it out of her pocket.  “Oh, it’s still turned off. I shut it off last night.  I was getting telemarketer calls in the middle of the night.  I guess I forgot to turn it on again.  Gosh, I’m sorry, Tea.  What’s got you in such a tizzy?”

Tea glared at Blair.  “Don’t give me that.  You’ve been avoiding my calls and I want to know why.  Something happened last night and I have this feeling you know about it.  Now spill!” 

“Calm down.  You’ll blow a gasket.  I don’t have any idea what’s got you so mad.  I said I was sorry about the phone.” Blair poured Tea a wine and set it in front of her. “Sit down and slowly tell me what happened that has you all upset.”  Blair watched as Tea took a huge gulp and then set the glass down, all the while staring at her suspiciously.  Needing to break Tea’s gaze, she poured herself a glass and walked around the bar and took a seat next to her friend.  Tea’s eyes had followed her but then dropped to the glass of wine and she had taken another drink. Blair could see the tension leave Tea’s shoulders as she took a third sip.  “Do you feel better now?  Tell me what got you so riled up.”

Tea looked around for a minute and then leaned in close to Blair.  “Victor called me last night,” she whispered. 

        The sound of the music in the club drowned out her voice and Blair picked up the bottle of wine and grabbed Tea’s hand pulling her toward the back lounge where they could talk. Once there, Blair steered Tea toward a quiet corner she knew wasn’t bugged by the people keeping an eye on her and the club.  “Did I hear you right?  Did you say Victor called you?”

        “Yes, but that’s what’s weird.  The call came from Viki’s cell phone and it wasn’t Viki.  Victor began talking to me and he wouldn’t tell me where he was or why he was using Viki’s phone and then the call ended.  Since then, everytime I’ve tried Viki’s phone it’s gone to voicemail.  I just came from Llanfair and Nigel would only say Viki was out of town on business.”

        “I don’t like it, Tea.  Are you sure it was Victor?  Could it be someone just wanted you to think it was him?”

        “Blair, are you listening to me?  The call came from Viki’s phone.  Besides, I know my husband’s voice.  I don’t know why he had Viki’s phone but it has to mean he’s been in touch with her.”

        “Maybe.  Or maybe he stole Viki’s phone and she didn’t know it.  Let me call Nigel.  He might have some other news now.”  Blair pulled out her cell and called Llanfair. “Nigel, this is important.  Viki told me yesterday she was going out of town on business.  Tell me you’ve heard from her.”  She listened intently  “I see.  So she’s alright.  Thank you.“  Blair hung up and looked across at her friend.   She hated lying but until she heard otherwise from Todd, Tea needed to remain in the dark.  “Nigel just told me he received a call from Viki after you left.  It seems she  lost her phone somewhere between here and her destination.  It looks like Victor found a way to get it without her knowing about it.”

       Tea visibly slumped as her hopes deflated like a bad balloon. “Then we still have no idea where he is.” Her free hand clutched her purse seeking something to hold onto.

       Blair leaned forward and placed her hand atop her friend’s.  “That’s true, but if you’re right and the call you got was from Victor, it means he’s not being held by the organization any longer.  That’s a good thing.”  She felt she had to give Tea some hope.  Todd still hadn’t called. Until he did, she had no idea if Victor had survived the night.  “Look, you’ve exhausted yourself worrying about him all night, you’re welcome to just chill with me for a while.”  Just then, Dani and Arturo walked into the back room. The young woman was laughing and hanging all over him.  Tea tensed and looked ready to take on her daughter. Blair held onto Tea’s hand. “Hey, don’t do it, all right?  You’re too worked up about Victor.  Now’s not the time to confront Dani.”

        Tea forced herself to look away from her daughter and turned to look at Blair.  Her glare was frosty, and to Blair the room temperature dropped several degrees. “Don’t tell me what to do when it comes to Dani.  She’s my daughter.  Maybe you should concern yourself with Jack and that teacher he’s been spending all his time with.”  She pulled her hand free and got up and walked out, leaving a stunned Blair in her wake.

****

“You’re not listening to me.  I’m the best chance you’ve got if you want to get some of Carl’s shipment.   The people in Washington that work for Alison know me and probably have no idea she’s looking for me.  If I show up and tell them she sent me to provide extra security, they’re not going to question it.” Victor leaned back against his pillows.  Arguing with Todd was beginning to wear him out and they had been going over the same strategy for hours.

Todd looked at his brother and sneered. “Yeah, I can see how ready you are to go face down Alison’s goons.  I understand what you’re saying, but I can do the job.  They might know you, but I’m sure they don’t know every person In the organization.  I’ll just be another nameless follower following orders.  Look, I got in and out of that compound and they were never the wiser.  I think I can fool the idiots working for Alison.  I need you to just lay there and get stronger. Viki back me up on this.”  He looked over at his sister.  She, Dorian, and Sam were all sitting together just letting the brothers fight it out.  Dorian had already stated her objections when Victor first proposed the plan but she had admitted someone needed to get a sample of Carl’s drug.

Viki glanced at Victor and knew he was going to hate what she did next, but she couldn’t let him attempt what Todd was going to do.  “Victor, I have to agree with Todd on this.  You’re in no shape to travel to Washington, let alone try and steal a drug out from under Alison’s nose.  Since he’s so determined to do this himself, I trust Todd and Ms. Vance to retrieve the solid proof that we need to take to Bo and his contacts in the government.  In a few days, Dorian and I will go home and try and get information out of Carl and Jeffrey without letting on that we suspect they are up to something.”

Victor rolled his eyes and took a deep breath.  He had seen the relief on Todd’s face when Viki backed him. “I knew you would take his side.  You’ve been doing it since he came back into our lives.”

“That is unfair.  I love you both, and we almost lost you all over again.  If you think I’m happy that Todd is taking this on, you’re mistaken.  I think it is too dangerous and I wish you both would just let me tell Bo what is going on.”  Both men open their mouths to object, but Viki held up her hand to stop them.  “I know what both of you are going to say, but Bo is a good man and a fair one.  Still, I won’t push going to him. Therefore, I see no other alternative than to let Todd go through with this plan.”

Victor gave up. Turning his gaze back to Todd he said, “Fine, just don’t get yourself caught, Todd.  Baker might have skipped the country, but Alison has plenty of other men at her disposal who would love to get their hands on you.”

Todd’s hands clenched briefly as he envisioned ending up in the compound as a prisoner.  He was determined not to let that happen.“I’m not about to get caught.  All I want to do is get my hands on the drug and gather any other proof of what Carl has planned.  He and Alison are going down and anyone else who’s been in this organization is going  down too.  He messed with me and I hate being anyone’s fall guy.   Look, you should probably get some more rest.  I can feel Dorian’s eyes burrowing into my back.”

Dorian moved to Victor’s bedside. “You’re right about that, Todd.  I haven’t been up half the night and all day saving your brother’s life just to have him take a turn for the worse.  My God, he only woke up a couple hours ago.  I can’t believe you subjected him to this whole mess so soon.“

Todd hated it when Dorian was right.  He could see that Victor was looking paler than when he first confronted him earlier.  Defensively, he remarked.  “He wanted in on this and he’s a grown man.  I’m not his keeper, Dorian.”

Viki could feel the tension in the room rise as Todd and Dorian glared at each other. “You know what, I’m going to go look in on Clint.  Todd, maybe you and Ms. Vance  should finish ironing out your plans.  We’ll let  Dorian check out Victor and then let him rest.”  She rose and left the room. 

  Todd shook his head.  Clearly she wanted him and Sam to follow her out.  He nodded to Sam who got up and left also, then he turned to Victor.  “Nothing more is happening tonight. I’ll let you know the rest of the plans in the morning.”  With that, he made a curt nod to Dorian and headed downstairs to complete his talk with Sam.

Victor wearily looked at Dorian.  “I don’t get it.  Why did you agree to help Todd and me?”

Dorian stared after Todd for a moment and then looked down at her patient.  “You never understood me, Victor.  Strangely, Todd does.  He knows I would do anything for Blair.  We both love her.  You used her feelings for Todd to manipulate her for a lot of years and you only now appear to know just how special love between two people can be.  Blair asked a favor of me so I came down here.   When I saw Todd at first, I wanted to kill him for playing Blair until I saw the reason he brought me down.  He knew how important you were to the boys, Tea, and Dani.  He was determined to give you back to them no matter what he felt about you.  I respect that.  So here I am.”  She touched his forehead.  “Your fever is going up again.  Take these antibiotics and rest.”  She waited until Victor swallowed the pills and then sat down and picked up the magazine she had been reading from earlier.  A short while later Victor drifted off to sleep.

****

After seeing Sam Vance out, Todd walked to the bar and poured a scotch.  He glanced down at the plans he and Sam had been going over and took a deep breath.  What they had planned was going to take some pretty fancy footwork on everyone’s part if they were going to pull it off.  He took a drink and reflected on everything that had taken place in the last couple of days. God, has it only been five days, Manning?  Seems so much longer since that night in Key West. What are you doing Blair?  He looked at his watch and realized Shelter was closing. Blair was probably headed home.  All of a sudden, all he could think of was reaching out to her and hearing her voice. 

Draining his drink, Todd headed for his room.  He walked past his room long enough to look in on Victor.  Vance’s operative on guard in Victor’s room was also a ex army medic.  She had sent him for the night duty so Dorian could get some sleep too.  Todd took a quick peek and Victor appeared to be sleeping.   He walked toward the operative. The guard was alert. He started to stand up from where he was sitting but Todd waved him down.  “Don’t get up, I was just checking on him.  Is he alright?”

“Yes sir.  Dr. Lord gave him a sedative along with the antibiotic.  She said he should sleep through the night.”  The guard looked over at the sleeping man.  “He’s lucky to be alive.  When I arrived early this morning to help out, it definitely was touch and go.  Ms. Vance said you were worried he might try and leave.  Just want to assure you, I’ll stay on my toes but I really don’t think he’d get very far if he did get out of bed. Those wounds were bad.  He’s not going anywhere for a couple of days at least.”

“Maybe, but you don’t know my brother.  Just keep an eye on him.”  Victor stirred and said Tea’s name, then.mumbled and drifted back off to sleep.  Todd frowned, he had forgotten that Victor had talked to Tea.  It was just something else he should probably talk to Blair about.  “Well, it looks like you know what you’re doing.  Goodnight.”  With that, Todd left the room and entered his own.

He walked over to the bed and laid back against his pillows. The scent of Blair’s perfume clinging to them surrounded him for a moment and he closed his eyes remembering their last night together.  He reached for his phone and waited for her to answer.

Blair was just getting comfortable when her cell phone rang.  She skirted the bed, and felt her heart skip a beat when she saw who was calling.  Breathlessly she answered.  “Todd, I thought you would never a call.  Are you alright?  What happened with Dorian and Victor?”

Todd smiled. “There’s the woman I love.  Always the questions.”  From the silence at her end of the call Todd could picture Blair blushing.   

       Sitting down on the side of her bed, Blair felt herself go warm all over at the tone in his voice.  Her own voice lowered as she greeted her husband properly.  “Hi.”  It was one little word, but it was said with all her love.

       Todd closed his eyes and imagined her lying next to him on the bed. “Hi Blair.  You sound good.  Is everything alright with you and the baby?”

        Blair laughed. “Now who’s asking questions?” She heard his laugh. “Todd, I miss you so much.  I’m fine and so is the baby.” She rubbed her belly feeling their baby push back. “But really, how are you?  Did Dorian help?  Is Victor still alive?  I was terrified after that call last night.  I can’t believe Clint shot Victor.”

         He could hear the anxiety in her tone. “Blair, I’m sorry.  I should have called you before this.  I’m doing great now that I can hear your voice.  My throat a little sore from Victor’s attack, but it’s nothing that rest won’t heal.  Dorian agreed to help and she’s also going to help with another problem.  Victor survived his wounds and woke up this afternoon.  He’s going to need some time to heal but you don’t need to worry, he’s not headed to hell yet.”

       “Todd stop!  He is Sam’s dad.  He’s also your brother, even though I know you don’t care to remember that.  I don’t want him dead, besides Tea would be devastated again.  By the way, She was trying to reach me all day and finally caught me at Shelter.  Todd, she’s been frantically trying to reach Viki since she got a call last night from Victor on Viki’s phone.  I don’t understand.  How could Victor call Tea?  I thought he was shot.”

        Todd frowned, he hadn’t told Blair everything about the previous night.  “Um, you know my sore throat.  Well, Victor wasn’t shot by Clint while he was attacking me.  Victor was choking me again and I remember Viki coming out from her room just before I lost consciousness.  Viki got Victor to let go of me by giving him her phone and letting him talk to Tea.  He forgot about me when he realized Tea was alive and we had been telling him the truth. Unfortunately, it was after the phone call that Clint went a little crazy.”

        Blair’s heart had jumped into her throat when it dawned on her what Todd was telling her.  “Todd, do you mean you almost died last night.  Why didn’t you tell me?  I would have been on that plane with Dorian had I known.”

        “That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you.  I won’t risk you and the baby at this stage, it’s dangerous.  No, Dorian came and we handled it.  Like I said, I’m fine and Victor is going to be fine too.  You say you talked to Tea.  Did you tell her about his injury?”

Blair leaned back on her pillows sighing with relief.  It wouldn’t do her any good to get mad at him. Todd was Todd and he would always do things his way or be damned.  “I couldn’t tell her.  I hadn’t heard from you yet.  She thought if she could find Viki she could find Victor.” 

Todd sat up in bed. “Blair, tell me you didn’t tell her where Viki was.”

“Of course not.  I pretended to call Nigel and then told Tea Viki’s phone was stolen when she was headed out on her business trip.”

If she had been there he would have kissed her.  That was Blair, thinking on her feet as always  “I love you, Blair Manning.”

Blair felt that warm cozy feeling envelope her again.  “I love you too, Todd Manning.  You need to hurry and get this thing resolved.  Your daughter isn’t going to wait much longer to make her entrance.”

“I’m working on it Babe.  It won’t be long now.” He paused. “Get some sleep. Goodnight.”


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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Failings of the Fathers: 39

Aiden was helped onto a gurney by two orderlies, and made his typical cracks all the way.  "Ya might want to watch out for this little lady here, she gets awful grabby."

Tina was beside herself.  She cried, silently, but her face was red and wet, and her eyes were already swelling and crimsoned.  Timothy had his hand on her back, and the other on his son's arm.  Malcolm, who had run to get help when he realized what had happened, was standing off in the distance.  


"Where's Malcolm?"  Aiden asked aloud, and Malcolm stepped forward.  It was close to midnight, and everyone seemed shaken and tired.


"Yes, I'm here."


"Thank ya, for sticking around for the likes of me."


"Don't mention it.  Nothing much else to do."  His throat worked.


Tina swallowed, and had to look away.  I was wrong.  I know I was.  Her tears continued to stream.


In a few moments, Aiden was in his room again, being attended to by various doctors, including the head neurosurgeon, Dr. Vigo.  Aiden said, "Doc, ya must tell me the truth.  Will I be seeing y'ar face again?"


"Eric, please lie back and let us work.  It would be easier if you were not talking," Dr. Vigo said.


"Fine," he said, but he did not want to be quiet.  If he was quiet, he thought all too much.  He gave into his fear, his loneliness, and that was why he loved telling stories and chattering.


***


Sister Rebecca Katherine returned from dinner, and opened her door, and what was there astounded her.  A small drawing, that she could barely make out without her glasses, was on the floor, having been slid under her door.  She rushed to her desk, retrieved her reading glasses, and threw them on.  There in her hand was a small drawing, very simply sketched, of Little Ray Manning.  Or, at least she thought it was him.  He was wearing a one piece shorts overall jumpsuit with stripes.  She didn't recognize it, but his smile was unmistakable, the same smile as Todd.


Her hands shook, and she raced to Dr. Martino's office.  He was just closing up for the night, and said, "Sister, what's up?"


"Dr. Martino, Ray, I found this slid under my door!  It almost flipped me knickers!"


He looked at it carefully, and then said, "Sister.  Bea?"


"I believe so, yes."


"Let's go then, Sister.  Maybe that incident with Todd was actually more of a push in the right direction than we thought," he said, heading out, and the nun almost lost her veil trying to keep up with him.


They hurried to Bea's door, and when they opened it, they both stopped and froze.  She was in the chair, facing the window, staring out.  It was as if she never moved.  He said, "My God."


"Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  What does this mean, Dear Lord, I need Ya?"


"It means . . . well I don't really know what it means, actually," Ray said.  He looked at the drawing again.  He turned it over and there was small writing on the back.  "Sister?"  he said, and handed it to her.


She pulled her glasses back down.  "Oh my," she said, and both of them turned to Bea.


The writing said:  I couldn't save my baby.  Who will save Todd's?

***


The doctors, in their haste, had pushed Tina, Timothy and Malcolm into the hallway.  Tina was shaking, and Timothy put his arms around her to comfort her.  "Ay, Dear Lady, easy now."


"Oh my God, what's wrong with him?"


"Shhh, now, that won't help ya."


Malcolm walked from them and sat on a chair in a set of four along the wall.  He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. 


Timothy could see him, over Tina's head.  I'm lonely.  I lost everything.  He and Aiden had bonded over loss.  Timothy hadn't even been able to see that.  


The doctor pushed open the door, and stepped into the hall, facing them, which meant Malcolm was a ways behind.  He said, "Your son is . . . not well, Mr. Broderick."


Tina almost collapsed to the floor, at which point, Dr. Vigo and Timothy both held her under an arm, and moved her to the chairs where Malcolm was sitting.  Malcolm was stoic; he was silent with his face fixed strong and his jaw moving.  The doctor said, "From what we can ascertain, it's a cerebral hemorrhage.  His brain is bleeding."


"What does that mean?"  Tina's voice squeaked out, small and shaken.


"It can mean a great deal of things," Dr. Vigo began.


Timothy felt his voice croak, "Like?"


"Possible complications include stroke, loss of brain function, or . . . death is possible, and may quickly occur despite prompt medical attention.  These things I must tell you, to be fair.  Anything can happen. We're hoping to stop the bleeding with proper treatment, and help him recover."


"Oh, no," Tina leaned over, and Malcom, beside himself with sadness, took her into his arms.


"What is the treatment, Doctor?  He has a brother in the states, who can pay for anything he needs.  The cost is of no concern."


"We will start with medication and hope that the bleeding subsides and the swelling does not increase.  We will use corticosteroids for this.  Also, we have to watch for seizures.  This is all we can do.  If it works, then fine.  Otherwise, we must do surgery."


"I see," Timothy said, and swallowed.  He couldn't help but think of how short a time it had been since he discovered his son again, and now . . .


"Can I see him?  Please?"  Tina said, meekly.


"Yes.  He's awake.  The blindness is from swelling in a particular area of the brain."


"Is that reversible?"  Malcolm asked.


"Possibly," Dr. Vigo said, and Tina got up and went in.


"Aiden," she said, softly.


"Yes, My Tina?"


She walked closer and took his hand.  "I'm right here."


"I know.  I can smell y'ar perfume.  My favorite scent."


"Oh, it's something I've worn since I was younger.  Back a ways, I guess," she sniffed.


He found his way to the side of her head with his hand.  "Don't ya cry, not for me, ya hear?"


"I'm not," she said, clearly stuffed up and sobbing.


"Ya are, and ya have to stop that."


"I will."


"I have to tell ya something."


"No," she said.  She didn't want to hear.


"Yes.  I have to tell ya that, this, what we have, this was more than I ever had with anyone in my life, and was the happiest time for me that I can remember.  Ever, Tina."


She stopped crying, and realized that he needed her more than she needed her own sadness.  She said, "This has been wonderful for me too, but of course, it's not over."


She sounded as if she were plugging her nose, and he said, "Y'ar sad.  I don't want that for ya."


"I don't either, for you."


"I wanted to do so many things," he said, his voice breaking a little.


"What?  What things did you want to do, Aiden?"


"Be married.  Have a family.  Of my own.  I've done all the adventures, and wild things.  That is what I wanted, most."  He closed his eyes and she saw that tears were falling from their sides.


"You will have all that.  You will."


"I don't think I will," he said, and she knew he could be right.


"You will," she repeated.


***


"Hey, Old Man, what's going on?"  Todd said, after seeing Timothy's number flashing.  Then, he stopped short, realizing it was well after midnight in Switzerland.  "Wait, it's late there. . ."


"Todd,"


"No.  Don't do this Old Man, not now."


"Todd, it's y'ar brotha."


He handed the phone to Blair and got up off the couch, grabbing his jacket and walking out onto the balcony.  "Dad?  What is it?"  Blair said.


"It's Aiden.  He's . . . not well, Bridgette.  He may die."


She was still nursing, and sitting on the couch by the fire in the bedroom, and wanted badly to go to her husband, but was constrained by the baby and the phone.  She said, "My God, what happened?"


"He just fell.  His brain was bleeding.  He is blind."


She choked back tears.  "I'm sorry.  My God."


"I wanted Todd to know."


"He has to come there, right away."


"Yes, I was hoping he could."


"He will, I am sure.  I'll speak to you later, Dad, I have to put Jewel down so I can go to him.  He ran outside, all right?"


"Yes.  Let me know he is all right, Bridgette."


She hung up, and with good fortune, the baby had just unlatched and fallen asleep.  Blair put her into the basket, and called for Jack.  "I'm sorry, Jack, but your father needs me," she said, handing the basket off to him.


"No problem, she's cool peeps.  But, what's the matter with Dad, Mom?"  His face looked grave for a moment.


"It's. . . I'll fill you in later, just let me go to him.  Take her into your room."


Jack did as he was asked, though he wanted to know right then.  He brought the baby to his room, and Sam saw him go by.  "Can I play with her?"


"Sure, just be nice."


"I will.  Where's Mom?"


"She and Dad went for a walk."


"Oh.  Cool.  I guess.  Isn't it kinda late?"


"Just play with Jewel, Squirt."


***


He was standing at the edge of the balcony, looking over his yard, the place he loved and built for them.  She came up behind him and put her arms across his chest from behind, and hugged him to her.  "You have to go."


"Is . . . is he dead, Blair?


"No."  She felt his body relax.


"Are you going to be okay with all these kids, if I go?"


"Of course.  I have help."


"I'll make Shaun move into the house.  He'll stay in Momma's room."


"He'll like that, it's pink," she said.


"I just, right now . . ."


"I'll take care of your babies, Todd, and your mother.  I will.  I'll go and see her."


He turned to her.  "You know, way back in Key West when I married you, I never really got that better or worse stuff.  Did you?"


"Back then?  No way."


"Well, now I do.  I really do."


"I really do, too."  She said, and kissed him.  "Now, go and get ready.  We'll be fine."


"I love you, all of you, you know that."


"Of course I do."  She watched him head back into the house and followed.


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