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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 54

"I saw him move, Sister, I did."  Tina said in desperation.  

It was almost ten thirty in the evening, and Sister Rebecca Katherine was becoming tired.  She knew the same had to be true for Tina.


"Dear, perhaps we need to rest, both of us. It's been a long day."


"No, stop it!"  She pulled away from the nun's soft grip on her arm.  "I'm . . . I'm sorry, but I saw him move.  His hand twitched, like this."  She demonstrated.


The nun watched her, and said, "All right, if he did move, what does that mean, Dearest?"


"I don't know, maybe he's waking up."


"I'll get the doctor, and we can ask."


"But I saw him."


"I know, but shouldn't we ask, just so we know?"


Tina became quiet.  "Yes.  Yes, I suppose we should ask."


The nun disappeared into the hallway, and came back a few minutes later.  "The doctor is coming in shortly."


"Good."  She went to the side of the bed.  "Aiden, I saw you move.  Please, wake up.  Come back to me, to everyone."


Nothing changed.


Tina sat in the chair by his bed, and bent her head into her hands.  The nun realized how much the stress was straining Tina, and sat beside her.  "It's a tough situation, eh?  Very hard for ya."


She nodded.


"It will be God's will, Dear."


"I know," she said, softly.  A doctor appeared at the door, and made his way into the room.  


"Sister, I believe you called for me?"  he said, looking at her uniform.


"Yes, I did."


"What is it?"


"He moved," Tina blurted.  "I saw him twitch, his hand."


"Let me examine him, please," the doctor said, and Tina moved away.  She and the nun stood close together, almost huddling.


"You saw an involuntary response.  I'm sorry, he's not showing anything different than before.  All his vitals and brain activity are the same."


"Wait, please?  He's not coming out of it?"  Tina's desperation was heartbreaking.


"Not at this time," he said, and touched her arm as he walked past.  He went out the door, and Tina said, "That's it.  We have to get him to the states."


"Tina, Dear, I don't think that will change a thing,"  the nun assured her, softly.


"It might.  We can get the best doctors.  Todd will pay."


"Todd is paying, for the best.  Ya know that."


She stopped, and slumped into the chair.  "It's not fair, it just seemed, like maybe . . ."


The nun sat beside her.  "I know, I do.  I thought the same for a moment.  But it's just not that way.  Not now."  Tina leaned against her, and the nun petted her hair, repeating, "Just not now," softly.


***


Timothy made his way to his suite, and as he approached the door, Todd was coming the opposite way, toward him, with a takeout food bag.


"What happened to the pub here?"  Timothy said.


"I felt like Chinese.  Makes me think of Blair."


"Ah," Timothy said, as Todd handed the older man his room key, and the door was opened.  They made their way inside, and Todd put the food onto the table. 


"I ordered more than enough, in case you change your mind."


"I've got doubts on that, but that was kind of ya."


"What made you decide against staying in the hot tub?"


"I missed ya, I suppose."


"Okay," Todd smiled, sitting down.  He dished up some of the Chinese food, and started to eat.  


Timothy sat across from him.  "Ya eat like ya never ate."


"I know, everyone says that.  I was worse before.  Way back, like, in the older days, I didn't always have good table manners."


"In the older days?"  Timothy said.


"Well, whenever.  Not sure why, but it's just the way it is.  Comes and goes."  He shoveled a bit more into his mouth.


"I am glad y'ar here."  Timothy said.


Todd stopped chewing a minute, and then went back to it, slower.  He knew this was a door opening to emotion, and he wasn't sure he was up to it that night.  He said, "Thanks."


"I know y'ar having trouble with all this, just not saying so."


"What trouble?"


"Dealing with the feelings, the sadness.  It harkens to y'ar own pain and gets y'ar PTSD going."


Todd didn't respond.  Instead, he chewed more and worked at his eating.


Timothy kept going.  "Todd, ya know, ya've had a very hard childhood, a stressful life.  It is normal for a person who has been through all of that to avoid emotional scenes."


"Is that what I'm doing?"


"I believe ya are, but I'm not criticizing ya for it.  It's understandable.  Ya've faced so much over y'ar life."


"Not so much."


"Todd," Timothy said, and put his hand on his son's forearm. 


Todd looked at it and then up to his father's face.  "It's . . .  strange, sometimes."


"What do ya mean?"


"It's strange to have someone touch me, who I consider a father figure, without violence or malice behind it."


Timothy sat back in his chair, and sighed.  "Son."


"I know I'm not much for emotional stuff," he started, "but you adopting me, it meant . . . a lot of things.  I'm still working at accepting it, and I'm still working at this touch stuff.  Especially with people other than my kids and Blair."


"That makes sense.  And, y'ar doing fine."


"I feel . . . like I'm not human, sometimes.  I feel like I have to learn humanity, from the ground up.  It's . . . something that makes me feel . . . raw."


"I'm sorry that's true.  It shouldn't be that way, but we can't change it."


"No, only time can, I think.  But I'm trying," he looked at his father, and couldn't mask the emotion in his eyes.


"Ya are.  And I love ya, don't forget that.  I can't make up for what Peter Manning did, but I can sure do what I know is right for my boys."  Todd swallowed, and turned his face down.  Timothy did not waste time; he got up and went and embraced his son.  Slapping his back, strongly, he returned to his chair and said, "Now, pass me some of that Chinese crap."


***


"Ray, what are you saying?  Are you saying someone came in here, in broad daylight, and kidnapped a catatonic woman?"  Blair's ire was rising.


"No, I'm not saying that at all, Blair.  I'm saying she's run off."


"She came out of it, and no one notified us?"


"No, not that either.  She came out of it, like I've told you.  She was sleepwalking up to Sister's room.  Maybe she sleepwalked away."


"That's crazy."


"Blair, believe me, when dealing with the human mind, nothing is crazy except thinking things aren't possible."


Blair thought of calling Todd, and then stopped herself, thinking it would be better, with all he was going through in Switzerland, to call after Bitsy had been found, safe and sound.  She said, "Well, where have you looked?"


"Me personally, or the staff?"


"Both."


"The nun's quarters, the cafeteria, my office, the solarium, her room, in janitorial closets on every floor."


"Outside?"


"How would she get by everyone?"


"Ray, you just told me that nothing is crazy except thinking things aren't possible."  For a moment, she had a terrible thought.  "Is there access to the roof here?"


"I worried about the same thing.  The sparrows.  No, she can't get up there, and we did check.  No one up there and no one on the ground around the building."


"Then where the Hell is she?"  Blair was losing control.  She didn't want to tell Todd his mother was missing.  Not now.


"I don't know."


"Is there a chapel here?"


"We checked it."


"God," she said, wringing her hands.  "I'm going outside to look for her.  She has to be around somewhere.  What time did she go missing?"


"An hour ago."


"An hour?  She could have gotten pretty far in an hour!"


"Let's stay calm."


"You stay calm, I'm going to find my husband's mother," Blair said, going past him up to Bitsy's room.  She went through the things on her desk, which didn't seem touched much, and then opened the drawers.  Then, she spied Todd's portfolio he bought for her, and opened it.  Several drawings were on top that Blair had never seen.  All of them were of Peter Manning.  She covered her mouth.  "My God.  She still thinks he's alive.  She's afraid.  Look at this one," she said, showing him a landscape of the lake outside Mountainview.  "She was drawing this.  Maybe she's out there," she pointed to the window.


"Let's go and see," he said, leading the way.


Blair followed.  She wanted Bitsy to be anywhere they could find her.  She wanted her safe and in her room, so that Todd could rest assured about her.  She just wanted her to be okay.


Outside, they scoured the immediate grounds.  There was no sign of her, and she wasn't seen by anyone on staff.  The patio, the picnic areas, and parking lot were all clear of Bitsy.  Blair said, "The lake.  She once drew Todd, by a lake.  Maybe it had . . . yes, of course, the cottage that she had in New York.  It was by a river, or something.  Maybe by this lake, then."


They trudged through the muddy grass, and walked toward the lake.  One side of it was in clear view of the building; the other was not, and was obscured by trees.  Blair forced herself to go forward, even though her shoes were sinking in the muck, and Ray could barely keep up.  Just then, she stopped and pulled her phone out.  She texted Starr:
 I'm going to be later than I thought.  I'll explain later.

When Starr received the message, she thought nothing of it.  She just turned to Jewel, "I guess Mom's not going to be home when she said.  It means I will just have more time with you little ones."


From around the side of the house, Calvin overheard this, and smiled to himself.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 17

Todd was fit to be tied. To be so close to Blair, but not the one in charge was driving him crazy. If any other man had touched Blair like Samuel had, Todd would have killed him. She had always brought that demon in him out. Some things never changed. More and more memories of his life with Blair were escaping from the walled room . He was pretty sure that Blair's proximity had been the catalyst. Todd hoped Samuel would keep his mind on the goal. He needed to know who was behind this and why this person had gone to so much trouble to keep his memories locked up. It was obvious from Blair's conversation that she had been surprised to see him. In fact he felt there had been more than surprise in her tone, she had seemed puzzled by something. He wanted to know why she was puzzled. Todd was puzzled too. She had expressed surprise and anger at seeing him. Yet when she realized the truth about his alters; she had seemed to back off any accusations of wrongdoing on his part and instead had tried to find out just what he had been doing for 8 years. Blair was hiding something from Samuel, something she knew about him,Todd, that she felt Samuel wasn't ready to hear. God, he had to get out of here! Samuel was getting ready to take on Alex and Todd had a feeling she was going to be a handful.


Samuel's cab pulled up outside Tomas's Gallery. It was time to begin to live, he knew now he had only been existing. Samuel paid the driver and entered the Gallery. Letting his eyes adjust to the dimmer light, Samuel looked around for Tomas. Tomas' office was closed but Samuel saw Tomas' assistant. He walked in her direction, all the while admiring the artwork along the way. "Excuse me. Can you tell me when Monsieur Tomas will be in?"


Simone looked up, startled. She hadn't heard the bell ring. In front of her stood a striking gentleman. Her eyes found the scars on his face. They didn't make him frightening, but they definitely lent an air of mystery to him. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you come in. You were asking about Tomas. I expect him shortly, is there anything I can do to help you?"


"No, that's quite all right, I'll just wait." replied Samuel. He turned and decided to look around.  He was looking for one particular painting, then he spotted her. Samuel walked toward her. This time he saw the flesh and blood woman he had just left and as he looked at the painting he started hearing a song. It had been a night meant for lovers, a special day. He saw her singing and she was singing to him. What was the song? Yes. That was it. She was singing 'My Funny Valentine' Samuel stood there reliving the moment when she came towards him, but even as he was remembering, he realized he was looking at her through someone else's eyes. What the hell. This was the second memory where he felt like he wasn't really living it but merely viewing it. Why were his memories coming to him like that. It's as if he were two people. The bell at the door rang and Samuel turned to see Tomas enter. Well, here goes. Samuel moved to intercept Tomas as he headed for his office.


As Tomas's eyes adjusted to the interior, he saw a man coming toward him. His eyes widened, It couldn't be. Samuel was here and without a mask. Tomas saw something else as Samuel neared him. He realized Samuel was no longer in hiding. The man in front of him exuded confidence. Tomas extended his hand "Samuel, it is so good to see you and so unexpected. When you left here the other night, I was positive I wouldn't see you for a while. Indeed, I have been looking for you? Something happened the other day. Come into my office and we can talk."


Samuel smiled and said. "Tomas, I realize this is unexpected. Yes, let's go to your office. I do have something to tell you." Samuel followed Tomas to his office and the two men entered.


Across the Gallery, Simone watched the exchange of conversation and heard Tomas call the stranger Samuel. Was this gentleman Tomas' mysterious artist? Perhaps she should make another call to Mr. Hesser. He had said he wanted to be informed if anything unusual occurred concerning that artist. No, she needed to be sure this man was the artist before she called. She would wait, maybe she could get Tomas to introduce her.  Simone returned to what she had been doing. She would get the information soon enough.


Tomas led the way and offered Samuel a chair. He sat down behind his desk and took his first good look at a man he had known for seven years. There was something different about him. It wasn't just the fact that he no longer covered his face. It was like he no longer lived in the shadows. What had brought about this transformation?


Samuel sat there, letting Tomas come to grips with the idea of him actually being there in the daytime. He knew where Tomas' amazement was coming from. Hell he was surprising himself these days. Tomas seemed at a loss for words so Samuel decided to take the initiative. "Tomas, let me tell you a little of what has happened since last we saw each other. I can't begin to tell you what it meant to me, that night when you asked my name. For the last seven years I've been living my life in the shadows.   I was afraid of what I would face and expose myself to if I let anyone close. I wasn't comfortable around people and didn't want them to be uncomfortable around me. That's why I resisted letting you or any others into my life. I was content to paint and live my life through my paintings. And then you asked my name. I felt the shadows lift. The next day I was on my way here, but experienced some health issues that plague me sometimes and had to return home. Still, I promised myself that this moment would come, and here I am."


Tomas sat there humbled by the fact, that his simple act of asking for a name had awakened the man in front of him and freed him from his shadows. He even felt a little ashamed that it had taken him so long to make the overture of friendship. But now he wanted to let Samuel know what had transpired the last few days. "Samuel, I'm honored that my little question helped you, but I have some additional news. I've been helping a woman who came to Paris looking for someone. Samuel, that someone was you. She was given one of your portraits as a present and the subject matter of that portrait and the date you painted it raised questions and brought her to Paris to find you. We've spent the last several days trying to track you down. In fact, we were at your apartment yesterday but we missed you. She was very upset and we made plans to try and find you today. It is fortuitous that you should come here this morning maybe you could come with me to see her. I know she has truly been anxious to see you."


Samuel listened as Tomas told him about trying to find him. Upon hearing that Tomas and a lady had found his apartment yesterday, he realized they were the ones that his landlord told him about. That inner voice in him relaxed at the realization that it wasn't his enemy who had discovered his whereabouts. It also became clear how Blair found him. She was obviously the woman Tomas spoke of. "Tomas, I believe that will not be necessary. You see, I've already met her. Last night an attractive woman knocked at my door. Her name is Blair Cramer. Is that your friend?"


Tomas was dismayed when he realized that he wouldn't be helping Blair this morning. Obviously Blair had gone out after he left her yesterday. Still he had other questions for Samuel. "But yes, Samuel that is indeed her name. Was she able to get the answers to her questions last night?"


"We talked well into the night and I explained how I painted her picture, I believe we came to an understanding. I left her at her hotel not too long ago and came here. You see Tomas, I have some questions of my own concerning my paintings. I'm hoping you’ll be able to answer them. Is it possible for you to give me the names of some of the buyers of my artwork? In particular, the person who purchased the most recent painting. I realize your clientele value their privacy, but I was hoping as the artist you might give me the names of my patrons." Samuel inquired. "After all these years, I would like to present them with a portrait they themselves would like to see."


"I don't see that as a problem Samuel, I've never been instructed to keep their identities a secret and there are two people who seem to battle it out for any of your portraits. I'm sure they would be delighted too meet or talk to the you. If you'll give me a minute I'll have Simone get that list." Tomas got up and left the office.

For some reason, Samuel started to get excited at the prospect of finding out who these patrons were. He wasn't sure but it seemed likely that one of them might be the one behind Alex. He got out of the chair, too nervous to continue sitting and turned and found himself facing another portrait of Blair. Hmmm, it looked as if Tomas was an admirer of Blair also. Just then he felt his pulse rate quicken as he realized he didn't care for the thought that someone else might want Blair. He'd only just met her but he was jealous. He couldn't believe this feeling that had started in the pit of his stomach and radiated all through him. She belonged to him and he wasn't letting her go.

Tomas made his way to Simone. "My dear, would you please get me a list of the buyers of Monsieur Toddman's paintings."


 But Tomas, we don't have any paintings by a Monsieur Toddman." replied Simone.


"Oh forgive me, I forgot to tell you. I've learned the name of our Mysterious Artist. If you would pull up the list of the buyers who have bought his paintings and bring it to my office. I will introduce you." at that Tomas returned to his office.


So, that gentleman with Tomas is our Monsieur Anonymous. I will get the list of buyers and meet this gentleman that has Monsieur Hesser so watchful. Simone went to the computer and put in the name Monsieur Anonymous, up on the screen came a list of paintings and purchasers. She pressed print and watched as the list was printed out. Taking up the list she made her way to Tomas's office.


Tomas found Samuel pacing when he got back to his office. "It won't be but a moment more. Simone will be bring the list shortly. Could you tell me if you're so inclined, did you know Blair before last night?"


"Tomas, that's a little hard to answer. I don't know. We were trying to figure out that answer most of the night and the closest we came to was maybe. You see I have no memory of my life before 8 years ago. If I believe what she says of my art then I must figure there is some connection to her that at this time I can't recall." said Samuel.


"Are you aware that you resemble her ex?" Asked Tomas.


"Indeed! She was very angry at me at first and thought I was pretending to be an artist. I believe she thought I was her ex, a man named Todd. I was able to persuade her that I wasn't this Todd when she allowed me to sketch her. She informed me she was going to be leaving for home shortly. I think I was able to answer the questions that brought her here. I hope that someday I'll be able to find out how we're connected." Samuel replied .


Just then a knock was heard at the door. "Come in," said Tomas The door opened and Simone entered holding a piece of paper. "Simone, allow me to introduce Monsieur Samuel Toddman or as we've fondly have called him Monsieur Anonymous." Tomas smiled apologetically at Samuel who returned his smile a bit ruefully. Samuel took Simone's hand and gently kissed it. " It is a pleasure to meet you, Simone."


Oh My, thought Simone as he took her hand. He’s charming. She smiled and said,"I believe this is what you are waiting for. I've been wanting to meet Tomas's mysterious artist for a long time. Monsieur, You do not disappoint." Simone handed the paper to Samuel and departed the office.


Samuel turned to Tomas. "I would like to thank you again for getting my life on track. I hope we'll continue to do business, but I must tell you I will be making some changes and I can't promise when you will see me again." With those parting words, Samuel took the list and departed.


Over at her desk, Simone was on the phone. She nodded politely as she saw Monsieur Toddman leave. He returned the nod and left the Gallery. Samuel hailed a cab, "#19 Rue Morgue" he instructed the driver, then he sat back and looked at the list he now held in his hand. There were several names on the list, but two names stood out. It seemed both had bought a sizable number of his art pieces. They were a Mr. Carlo Hesser and even more curious, a Mr. Todd Manning.


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Friday, February 20, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 53

"Good job old boy," he said to himself, puffing on a cigarillo.  Calvin continued to watch, with a growing rejoicing in his body, as Shaun lay, motionless on the floor of his cottage.  A sly smile was stuck to the stranger's face, with an abhorrent grin.  He continued to watch Shaun, still in a heap, and realized his heart was racing.  He had, just a few hours before . . .

Shaun stirred, trying to push himself to a sitting position, and then, when he couldn't, the man let out a large groan and turned onto his stomach.  Calvin reacted with almost as much amusement as shock.  Pulling himself with his arms, Shaun slid his body toward the door.  "Starr," he said, but it was not a shout, or a yell, just a soft speaking of her name.  Calvin admitted to himself that watching was a perverse thrill.  Would he or wouldn't he have to stab the extra needle into this guy, or do something worse?


"The kids," Shaun whispered again, struggling to both stay conscious and get to the children.  When he was three feet from the door, Calvin thought he might have to act.  It was then that Shaun stopped progressing toward the exit, and lay still on his stomach, one arm outstretched.  He said, "Oh, no, God," and collapsed back to the floor.


Calvin smiled, and a rush of success went through him.  He'd done it.  The huge hulk of a man was out of his way.  "What, only five-foot little Starr to deal with?" he said aloud.  "This is a piece of very delicious cake."  


With that, he made his way around to the front door, opened it easily, and stabbed the other needle into Shaun's shoulder.  "You can never be too careful.  This gives me at least another four to six hours," he said, and stepped over Shaun to get to the gun he'd left on the table, in a holster he removed when entering the cabin just a short while earlier.  He had, earlier, denied needing one.  But now, he realized it was the perfect idea.  He could keep it, just in case Perzno decided to come back quicker, or someone tried to deter him.


He was positive he would have no trouble with Starr.  At five feet in height, and not more than one hundred pounds, he imagined that he would be able to easily get past her to his goals.  He was relying on the Manning Siblings' sappy love for each other to do the rest.


***


Blair entered Mountainview through the white, glossy front doors, and immediately was struck by a disturbing tone, rather resembling controlled panic.  She signed in and went to the desk clerk.  "Is something wrong?"


"Please wait, Mrs. Manning," the clerk said.  Within a few minutes, Ray came walking toward her.


"Oh, no, Ray, what's going on?"  Blair said, already sensing trouble.


"Bea is missing, Blair."


***


Todd and Timothy were in the hot tub at the hotel, relaxing and talking.  Todd had decided to fill Timothy in on the events surrounding Jewel's birth.  Timothy was enjoying the description of the event and Todd's take on it always made for a few laughs.  He said, "Son, ya did a great thing.  Ya brought two of y'ar children into this world y'arself."


"Yep."


"I think it's grand, I do."


"Me too.  I'll never forget when I first held her in my hand.  She was so tiny and perfect at the same time."


"The miracle of children."


"And with Jack, I . . . gave him away."


"It's in the past."


"It's not, for me.  I was so jealous and filled with anger, I . . . gave my own son to someone else, and let Blair believe he died."


Timothy did not condone Todd's actions, and pictured Blair, dealing with the death of a baby.  Knowing what a devoted and loving mother she was, the older man felt a chill go up his spine.  He said, "Not y'ar finest moment."


"No," Todd shook his head, in agreement.  "You feeling better?"


"I must admit, I feel much more calm.  This was a good idea ya had."


"See?  I knew it."


"Yes.  Todd, I wanted to ask ya something?"


"Sure," he said.


"Is everything all right at home?"


"Yeah, why?"


"Just making sure.  Ya've been away a long while.  I feel, responsible.  Ya should be home with y'ar family and y'ar new babby."


"I know, and I will.  I . . . just want to see this through a bit longer."


Timothy paused.  "I see."


"Something to eat, Old Man?"


"Nah, it's rather late for me."


"Never too late for me," Todd said, getting out of the jacuzzi.


"I'll be along, you go ahead."


"I'm going to dry off and dress so I can go grub."


"What?  Go grub?"


"I got it from Jack.  Go and eat."


"Ah, yes.  Well, Jack would know," Timothy said, and sounded like a proud grandfather.


"I'll be in the hotel pub, if you need me," Todd said, wrapping a towel around him and heading to the dressing area.


Timothy put his head back against the edge of the hot tub and closed his eyes.  He was so tired.  He'd had been tired for days and refused to let it set in.  Instead, he had fought it, as if for his life, and now, he couldn't any longer.  Changing his mind, he got out of the hot tub as well, and headed to the dressing rooms.


***

Spying from outside the patio, Calvin thought, "Well, I won't be getting the first born son, but it gives me less to fight with."  He was pretty certain that a teenage boy could at least put up some kind of fight, and he wasn't there to kill the Manning children, just take them, at least at first.  Anyone else didn't matter much.


"Jack's gone," he thought.  "Leaving Starr, with an infant to protect, likely in the house, asleep, and Sam, that sniveling little rat, and the toddler.  Not bad odds.  And that dog.  I'll take care of him, first."


Calvin decided he would wait for the opportune moment to arrive, and watched the house to see when it would.  And then, it did.  He heard the back sliding doors open, and Starr's voice.  "Not too far from the house, Sam," and heard the two small boys' voices carrying throughout the property.  


"Hmf, as I thought, the baby must be napping," he said to himself, and crept along the side of the house.  The anticipation was building in his gut; he could hardly contain it.  "Two, that's fine.  Sam and whatever the little one's name is.  Would be better if I got all three sons, but . . ."


He was almost to the edge of the house, when he peeked his head around to survey the goings on:  Starr was on the patio, in a chair, a sweater on and a blanket covering her, with a pink basket of knitting or something, next to her on a small table; Sam and the toddler were running around the yard, the older one yelling things about Spiderman; and Shaun was out of commission, on the floor in his home.  Perzno, back in town, Blair, who, he figured from all he had heard and her blind devotion to this loser Todd Manning, would fight to the death for her kids, was away, Jack, gone.  Where was that mangy mongrel?


He picked up the hoe.  He figured he would not cause too much alarm at first, if he approached in his work clothes with a garden fixture.  Then, he changed his mind.  He placed it back down, certain his hands were more than enough.  Then, he'd strike when she wasn't ready or suspecting.  The dog was nowhere in sight.  Inside?  Sleeping?  He wasn't sure, but it added to the suspense.  He was ready for whatever came, and this was the ticket to both revenge and fortune.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 16

Blair looked up at Samuel. If this was an alter of Todd's, how come he didn't seem aware of Todd. One thing she remembered about Todd's other alters was that they knew about Todd. That day when she had insisted Todd stop playing his game in front of Starr, he had acted just like Todd when he said he had made it all up. He even told Sam the same thing. Why had he let them believe it was all a lie? If he lied about his alters, then he also lied when he said nothing had happened. The events, as Tom told them at the trial, must have been true. God, Todd, what you went through.


Todd's alters were real. One of his alters was standing here in front of her very much alive and real. He was very different from Todd. He was polite and caring. Samuel had an air of calmness that Todd never had. Todd was like energy, he had always been hard to contain. She had never known when Todd's mood would change. No one had met Samuel during that time. Why was he out now? What event had awaken this man and where was Todd? How was she going to explain all this to Samuel? Blair’s thoughts had been going a mile a minute and suddenly she realized that Samuel was still waiting for some response. Ok, Blair, you got to find the right words to explain your behavior to this man. Take you time. Blair looked down at the picture once more and gathered her thoughts. Not looking at him she remarked. "Oh my, I'm at a loss for words. This is really stunning. I owe you an apology. You are an excellent artist Mr Toddman. Forgive me for thinking you were lying. My only excuse for my terrible behavior is the shock I felt when I first saw you. You bear an uncanny resemblance to my ex-husband whom I haven't seen for some time. Our relationship always leaned toward the bizarre. I really thought you were him trying to play mind games with me again." she smiled and then looked at him again.


Samuel simply nodded. " I understand. If I truly look like your ex then it must have indeed been a shock. Please don't think about it anymore and please accept the drawing as a gift. You are my first guest and I would be rude to take offense over a mistaken identity."


" I don't understand." says Blair , " What do you mean by first guest? Surely you've had other people here."


Looking a bit sheepish, Samuel answered with a wry smile. "Actually I haven't. I'm a bit of a recluse and have tried to keep my life very private up until a few days ago. A couple of days ago an acquaintance of mine for the last seven years made a simple request of me. I was surprised but felt I owed him. He merely asked my name. I stood there that night and a weight lifted off my shoulders. It was time to live again not merely exist. So I gave him my name. Just being able to do that was momentous. So when you knocked on my door, another weight lifted and I was able to open it and not be afraid of what might be on the other side. After living these all these years walled up here with just my girls for company, the past few days have been truly eye opening. You, dear Blair are only the third woman I had any real contact with since I arrived here."


Blair wondered why he was only referring to the last seven years. What about before that? Could he really have spent his time doing nothing but existing and painting? "Mr. Toddman."


"Please. Call me Samuel." said Samuel.


"Samuel are you telling me you've had no regular contact for seven years, surely that has been confining. You've never wanted anyone else in your life up to now? What did you do before and why did you leave it to come and paint? " Blair asked.

           "Well, that is an interesting question, but before I answer that, why don't we return to the sitting room and have a drink. Maybe it's time I told my story." Samuel led her back to the sitting room and went to get some wine.

Blair sat down on the couch. It was disconcerting to sit among all the paintings, but she couldn't help looking at them and seeing the various scenes in front of her. She felt like she was getting a glimpse of Todd's soul as she realized what was depicted around her. His paintings of Vicki were superb. She recognized one of Vicki sitting on a bench and realized she had seen that bench in the cemetery. It was one of the places Vicki went to talked to Ben and Sloan. Blair gaze fell on a painting of Tea, she was standing by the dock holding a necklace in her hand. Blair wondered when that event had taken place. She looked at it and was genuinely curious. She had become friends with Tea last year and could now think of her with Todd. But wait Tea wasn't with Todd. Boy what a mess. Samuel came walking towards her with a glass of wine. She took it and looked at him.


Samuel sat down opposite her. He had seen her looking at the paintings. Did she know Vicki and Delgado? "I hope my paintings aren't bothering you. From what you told me earlier, I've been painting events in your life, perhaps it's time to explain that. You asked me a question in the other room. You wanted to know what I did before coming here and painting. Here's my answer. I don't know. Eight years ago I woke in a hospital bed and the only thing I knew was my name. I had no recollection of my life before then, and I still don't. Well, that's not quite true. I'm starting to remember a few things. The picture you found alarming, depicted a memory that has recently come to light. It is a dark memory, but it helped me remember how I received this scar." He touched the older scar.


"From the look on your face, you wish to know how I got the other one. I can't tell you but I fear something equally horrifying is waiting for me to remember. I can't really explain how I've known all these events which you tell me are real, I only know that an image would come to me; of you, or Dee, or my serene one, and painting it would ease the pain or the loneliness I was feeling at the time. I will be truthful to you now, I've seen you one other time before you were at my door. Two days ago I saw you entering the gallery of my acquaintance Tomas. I didn't know at the time that you were my Muse, but something inside of me recognized you. Earlier today another memory returned. Three names came to me and I knew who they belonged to. They were only first names. But I realized they belonged to my three Muses. Vicki, who I know as my sister; Tea, who I called Dee, but now know she's Delgado; and you, Blair. All of you are important to me but I can't remember why. I think I do have some sort of connection to your Todd but I don't know what it is." Samuel paused and looked at his visitor. What must she be thinking right now. He knew what he would have thought if someone had just told him that story. He would have thought they were nuts. He took a sip of his wine. Should he say more or just let her dwell on the current revelation.


Blair was astounded. She didn't know what she had expected Samuel to tell her, but she hadn't figured on this. Good Lord, Samuel had only been around for a little under eight years. That meant he had shown up to shield Todd from something that happened at the time of Todd's disappearance, but that only explained his appearance. Samuel had no real memories of his previous life. "Samuel, what you're sitting here telling me is that your life is a blank slate before 2003. You said you woke in a hospital, didn't they have anything to tell you about what happened to you?"

          Samuel shrugged. "Unfortunately they could tell me nothing but that I had arrived severely injured and in a coma. Until I awoke I was simply a John Doe. I know that the injuries were extensive. I was a mass of broken bones that needed mending and I had badly burned hands. It took some very careful surgery to save my eye because of the laceration to my face. I tried constantly to retrieve my memories but all I got for my troubles was excruciating headaches that started affecting my heart. On the advice of the Doctors working to keep me alive, I had to stop trying to get my memories back. It was then I knew I just had to make a life in the present moment. Although my hands had been burned there had been no broken bones in them . I started carving as a kind of therapy and then discovered I could paint. When I left the hospital I made my way here to Paris. And here we are."

" You say you have no memories, Samuel. How do you explain all of these?" Blair said and waved at all the paintings.


"Blair, I've always thought they were just fantasies that I made up, to lessen the loneliness and despair I felt at times. You don't understand. There have been periods in my life here that brought me to the brink. If I hadn't seen Vicki one night, I think I would have killed myself. I had encountered a stranger one night that terrified me. The more I had looked at him the more I felt a coldness spreading through me. It made me realize there was something in me just like what was in that stranger. I sensed a blackness inside of me and all I wanted to do was get away. I was so close to ending it, when I saw her. She was brave and confident, but then I felt a sorrow within so similar to mine. In my imagination she reached out, gave me her hand and promised to be there for me no matter what. That night I painted her. A couple of nights earlier when I was having nightmares, Dee came into my head, she appeared to me like a guardian angel and watched over me. She became my second muse. So you see, I had no idea they were memories. I only knew all of you were my saviors, my girls."


Her hand had gone to her heart as she listened to Samuel pour out his tale of despair. She knew what haunted him, but he had no idea. She could feel the tears welling in her eyes and prayed they stayed there. Blair took a moment to compose herself taking a quick gulp of wine. It was too quick and she suddenly found herself coughing and the tears coming down her cheeks. Hopefully Samuel would think she'd teared up because of the choking.


"Blair, are you alright." Samuel had seen her tears but when she started coughing, he just wanted to make sure the wine hadn't gone down the wrong way. The coughing broke the spell and the awkward moment passed.


"I'm alright Samuel the wine went down wrong. Samuel you wondered if there was any connection between you and Todd and I believe there is and I think you might find some answers back in the States. Perhaps you would consider making a trip there." Blair inquired, looking hopefully for some sign that Samuel might take her up on the offer.


Samuel almost said yes right then and there. She was his Muse and he didn't want her to walk out of his life as quickly as she had entered, but he stopped himself. Something was telling him it was dangerous to involve her. He was sure someone had been manipulating him all these years and he had to find out who they were and take care of them. Then and only then could he begin his life again. Now it was time to let her go, but not for long. "Blair for now that mystery connection will have to wait. There is something important I have to attend to first. When I've finished with the task ahead of me, I'll be able to give my full attention to restoring my memories. But my dear, I just realized how long we've been talking. Please allow me to take you safely back to your hotel. I am grateful you sought me out this night. To hear your voice and see the real you fills me with such indescribable joy. I will try to see you once again if you allow, before you return to the states."


Blair knew nothing more could be said at this time, so she replied: "Thank you for opening the door, Samuel. It means more then you can know to have finally found you and I promise you I will not leave without trying one more time to talk you into coming with me to the States. But for now I would love for you to take me to my hotel, I apologize, I didn't realize the time." Samuel help her up and together they left his apartment. As always in Paris, even though it was nearing morning there was a cab at the end of the block. They entered the cab and set off for Blair's hotel. Blair found herself beginning to nod off and suddenly she felt an arm go around her and draw her close. It seemed so natural, so familiar as she laid her head against his shoulder and fell asleep.


Samuel sat there listening to her breathing. This felt so good, so right. He instructed the driver to head out of town and drive through the countryside. She could sleep undisturbed for a short while then they would head back to her hotel. As he sat there he started seeing other moments like this. Samuel recalled an elegant room and her voice asking him to stay and keep her company and just hold her. He had done just that. She fit in his shoulder perfectly. They were in the stables just leaning against some hay, he stroked her hair remembering how long and silky it had been, then she had grabbed his shirt and put it on and gotten on the magnificent stallion he had painted her on. Samuel couldn't believe he was actually holding her. He thought of that last painting he had finished and marveled at the moonlight streaming in the cab, lighting her face much the way he had painted it. If he could have stopped time he would have done it right then and there. This was perfect, except it was incomplete. He had too many unanswered questions. If everything he remembered had happened, why were they not together?


The woman in his paintings had appeared to be a woman in love. He had been afraid to ask about the child he had remembered. He wasn't sure if Blair was the mother of the child or if he had just fantasized about that picture. On top of all his misgivings was one glaring fact. She seemed to be in love with her ex.,Todd. He wanted to feel jealous, but truthfully he was just sad. He knew in his heart that he could never really compete with Todd. He would always fall short because he wasn't all there, something was missing. He knew he wasn't whole and wondered if he ever would be. The morning sky was alight with soft shades of pink as dawn was nearing. Samuel instructed the driver to head back to Blair's hotel. He would drop her off and then he needed to make a stop at the Gallery. It was time he had his chat with Tomas.


As the cab pulled up to the hotel, Samuel gently shook her. "Blair, wake up, we're here." She stirred and slowly opened her eyes. She looked up at him and he caught his breath, once again remembering that look from his painting. She smiled and whispered. "You should have woken me sooner." She reached up and pulled his face to hers and gently kissed him. Samuel couldn't have stopped if he had wanted to. He hungrily began kissing her back, drinking in her taste like a man parched with thirst. Years of yearning poured out in that kiss and she seemed as hungry for it as he was. An eternity seemed to pass in that one kiss, then they slowly parted. His heart was going a mile a minute but wasn't hurting. In fact, he had never felt better. He looked at her, trying to get an idea what might be going through her head at the moment.


Blair was trying to catch her breath, she remember waking from a marvelous dream of Todd and seeing him right in front of her. It had been so natural to greet him with that morning kiss but she hadn't been prepared for the passion that shot through her when Samuel returned the kiss. She closed her eyes and licked her lips trying to hold onto that memory as long as she could. No one before or since had ever kissed her like Todd. The feel of those lips had always taken away her breath and this morning was no different.


Samuel found it hard to take his eyes away from her face. His breath getting ragged as she licked her lips she looked thoroughly kissed but very contented. He smiled as her eyes once more met his. "Thank you. That was the most exquisite Good Morning I've ever received."


Blair smiled in response. "You're most welcome, Samuel, you are truly incredible too. Thank you for your shoulder, I can't believe I fell asleep. Please promise me that we'll see each other again."


"Don't worry, Blair. I promise that we are not finished yet. But before I let you go, what is your full name? I need to know, so I can call on you later." Asked Samuel.


"Oh , I'm sorry, here we've exchanged kisses and I never told you my full name. Samuel, my last name is Cramer. Now don't forget. Just call the desk and ask for Blair Cramer, I'll be waiting for your call." At that she left the cab and walked away into the hotel. Samuel stared after her for a few minutes. "I won't forget Blair and I will call." Then he instructed the driver to take him to the Gallery. If the last 24 hrs were anything to go by, Samuel was now sure he was jumping from the frying pan into the fire. But what a way to go!


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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 52

Starr disembarked the car that Blair arranged for her to make her way to Unforgettable.  She had also asked Williams to remain, as to give her a ride to Mountainview.  Starr made her way into the lobby, and was met with a little yell from Ray.  "Starr!"  he said, running to her arms. 

She crouched and hugged him.  "Oh, you're getting so big!  I can't even pick you up anymore!"


"Hope?  Where's Hope?"  he said.


"Hope is not here, she has the flu, so she stayed with Grandma Addie and Auntie Dorian."


"Oh, no," he said, making a sad face.


It almost made Starr laugh, seeing his bottom lip poked out beyond the other.  "It's okay, she will play another day."


Jack came into the room.  "Hey."


"Hey," she said.


Sam came barrelling after him.  "Starr, hi!"  he said, and hugged her.


"Hey Sam, how ya doing?"


"Good.   Mom's leaving to go see Grandma Bitsy at the nuthouse."


"Sam!  I don't think that's really the way to say it, and yes I know.  Jack and I are going to babysit."


"Uh, we are?"  Jack said.


"Yes, you know that, Jack," Blair called from the kitchen.


"Well, I did have other plans.  Jenna's got some kind of art show, and I . . ."


"Forgot to tell me, which leaves you here instead."  Blair finished his sentence.  


Jack didn't respond, he shrugged, and Starr said, "Mom, it's no big deal, with Shaun here, I can handle all the kids."


"That's not really the point.  We made this arrangement so that you all, all the Manning siblings, could spend time together.  Jewel's even staying behind.  Jack, you know everything about caring for her, and I'll only be gone two hours or so."


He didn't answer, he just folded his arms and waited.


Starr said, "Two hours is not that long.  Who needs him?"


He made a face at her, and she returned it.


Blair said, "I'm going to get going.  Jack, you are staying here until I return.  Starr, see you later.  Kids, be good.  Come on and kiss Mommy good-bye."


Ray ran to her legs, and she picked him up and kissed his cheek.  Sam hugged her waist.  She looked at Jack.  "No hug from my big boy?"


He leaned over and pecked her cheek.  "Bye, Mom."


"Bye.  Everyone, be good and have fun!  Be back soon."  She went to the baby's basket and checked her, and handed the basket to Starr.  "Two bottles in the fridge.  As I said, you brother here knows her routine."


Blair left, and Starr put a cartoon on in the family room and said, "Sam, you and Ray watch TV for a minute, okay?"


"Yeah, okay," he said, taking the little boy's hand.


She looked at Jack, "You know, that was dead wrong of you, doing that.  Mom's trying hard to take care of all of you with Dad gone, the least we could do is help out."


"I help out every day, I feed Jewel, even take her in my room at night sometimes so that Mom can be alone with Dad on Skype, or just rest.  Where are you during all that?"


"I have my own kid, Jack."


"Not my problem you had sex too early without protection."


"Jack!"


"What?  It's the truth.  Aside from that, I do a lot around here, and this day is important to Jenna, and me.  And before you say it, don't even think of telling me my family should be more important.  I do a lot to support Mom and the kids, and she would even tell you that."


Starr remembered a recent conversation with her mother about that very thing.  "Fine.  You want to go, go.  Even though Mom said you should stay, I'm not going to stand here and argue with you, especially when you say mean things."


He went to the stairs and turned and said, "Perzno's on the roof, ready to take off in a few.  And since you put it that way, I will be going.  You take your turn with the kids.  Might as well."


She was angry with him, but at the same time, she remembered her mother's phone conversations, just earlier that week, when she told Starr how much help Jack had been.  She decided to let the situation go, and would deal with his smart ass comments later.  Or, maybe she would just tell her father what her brother said.  


That would do it.

Regardless, she went into the family room, with the boys and Jewel, and they all watched cartoons.  It wasn't long before she heard the door slam behind Jack.


***


"Malcolm" looked at the cell phone, the one that actually belonged to Malcolm Carlisle.  "Another call and three texts from that fruitcake at the clinic.  Hmf.  Maybe those two had a 'thing.'"  He quickly typed and sent off a text back, and thumbed through the rest of the log, finding that he had missed an important call.  He'd given the number to only one other person, and expected the call might come in that previous night.  He had crashed to sleep early, working the whole day in the yard, and got some well-earned rest, while catching up on jet lag.  He dialed.  "I'm all set to go with the first part of this.  You have everything ready on your end?  Don't make any mistakes, we can't afford that.  No, no concerns right now.  I'll get my hands on the sons.  It will take some doing, but I'll nab whomever I can."  


He listened.  "Simple, drugs.  I have enough to tranquilize a horse, and that's what it will take for the big guy.  He's a monster, over six foot four and close to three hundred pounds.  I'd never be able to get him out of the way in any other manner.  He'll be out a few hours.  Once I get my hands on the baby and the little one, the others will do whatever I say.  The eldest?  Whatever.  She's no threat.  Just a woman, and a small one at that.  I've got this under control.  I don't need one of those, but make sure we have one at the house, just in case.  There should be one in the wall safe.  I'll call later."


He hung up, and looked in the mirror, "Well, old boy, you've got it under control.  Lots of money to be made off this one.  He'll give his right arm for these kids, never mind all of his fortune.  Then, the rest will be simple," he said.


***


Miguel was in the solarium, when Tina and Sister Rebecca Katherine made their way in.  "I like this room.  It reminds me of the one at St. Anne's."  Tina said.  She spotted Miguel across the room.  "There's Miguel."


She lead the nun toward Miguel's table.  "Hey," he said, looking up.  "I just . . . I'm sorry, I am reading something on my phone."


His face was confused.  Tina and Sister Rebecca Katherine waited for him to finish.  Then he looked up.  "Strange," he said.


"If you want to tell us, you can," Tina said.


"Well, it's just that Malcolm sent me a text, and I'm having trouble understanding it."


"What do ya mean?"  the nun asked, now curious.


"It said, 'in the states.  I'm fine, stop worrying.'  I never took Malcolm for writing something that abrupt.  He's usually pretty patient, especially with me."


The nun remained quiet, but filed it away for later use, as a small voice recommended she do.  Tina said, "Maybe he's just busy with his new job?"

"Yeah, that's probably it.  You know, I never thought I would miss him as much as I do, but he was an awesome friend.  A great listener."


"Well, he still is your friend, he's just trying to adjust.  Remember, it's going to be tough for him, because he's in the outside world."  Tina added.


"You're right," he said.  "I should have thought of that."


"It's okay.  I understand being worried, the way the world is today."


"I'll say, it's a bit diabolical, it is.  So many troubles and pains,"  the clergywoman said.


"True.  Is Aiden any better, Tina?"


"No, he's much the same.  Thanks for asking.  I'm just keeping hope alive."


"That is what you must do."  Miguel reached out and touched her arm.  


She smiled through tears, and gazed out the window.


***


Sneaking into Shaun's cottage was not as hard as it seemed.  But, once in there, figuring out the best place to put the needle would be a challenge.  And then, it came to him.  In front of the fireplace was a pair of slippers.  They were worn, and in some places, a bit tattered.  He imagined that Shaun would put them on, whenever coming in, and changing out of his work boots.  This was a pretty sure thing, in his mind, because after all, it was March, and the ground was starting to be saturated with water from the thaw.  He'd have to bet on it, and if not, he'd take another, and stab him with it, if necessary.  He'd wait for closer to dinner hour, so Shaun would be returning to his home to make a meal and have a break from the kids.  It seemed a perfect idea.  Of course, there was no telling it would work out as perfectly as he wanted, but he was willing to give it a try.  


He left the cottage, and went to continue his work on the bushes along the side of the house.  Double-checking that no one was looking, he ventured around the side of Unforgettable and continued his work.   He positioned himself so that he would be able to see the large man go back into his abode, and then sneak up to the windows to observe.  Armed with another needle, he would quickly act if he had to, to insure success.  It was a quick-acting tranquilizer, that would render Shaun powerless and unconscious for a few hours.  He'd read up on it, and used illegal means to obtain it from a veterinary supply house.  Of course, he'd had help.  


The next hour passed like a snail in his estimation; when Shaun rounded the corner back toward his lair, his stalker was excited in a strange way that started in the pit of his stomach.  Slowly, he stepped toward the cottage, and sure enough, through an open window, he could view Shaun, slipping his feet into his slippers, exclaiming briefly, "What the heck?" and then falling to the ground, still.


He smiled to himself.  It was too simple.  Perzno was gone, having taken Jack to town.  By the time the pilot returned and even thought about coming to the rescue, he would be long gone with as many of the Manning children as he could coerce.


His ultimate goal was to take the three youngest; that would hurt the hardest and gain the most.  But, however it turned out, he'd take whichever of them he could get.


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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 51

Blair stepped onto the patio outside the house.  "Shaun, it looks like I'm going to end up going to see Momma this evening."

"Oh, all right.  That's fine."


"Starr is coming out, and she and Jack are going to tend to the kids.  This way, you can have a break from chasing Ray and also, it will give them some time being with their siblings.  Todd really liked the idea."


She was always trying to please her man.  He noticed, then said, "Sounds good.  How long will you be gone?"


"Only an hour or two.  I'll go out to Mountainview, and come back after a short visit.  Shouldn't be too long."


"Fine.  What about feeding Jewel?"


"There are two bottles.  Jack knows how."


"Good, well, when are you going?"


"Not for a little while.  But soon."


"Okay, thanks for letting me know."


Blair turned and went inside, and Shaun headed back to his cottage.  Though he was staying in the house, he wanted to go and clean up a bit and make himself a snack.  He didn't notice "Malcolm," hanging around the side of the house, tending the dying bushes, and taking in their conversation.



***

"Mam.  Is that you?"


"Yes, it's me."


"Mammy, I'm afraid.  Things are bad.  I'm . . . not a child anymore, but I feel like one."


"Don't be afraid, Eric.  You're safe."


"I remember now."


"What do you remember, my son?"


"Everything."


"What do you remember?"


"What happened.  When you died.  I was there.  They took me, from Pappy.  They carried him off, and he was crying and yelling.  He wanted to see me, but they stole me away.  I was only six."


"Yes, that is right.  Ya were only six."


"They took my memories, they gave me drugs.  They put things on my head, and electrocuted me, I think.  They worked at it until I forgot ya.  They worked at it until I forgot everything.  Then, someone got me out, Owen, I think he knows the story.  I went to live with Aman and Lily.  But I couldn't remember ya, or Pappy, until now."


"That is good, remembering.  I am happy that ya know."


"Mam, I want ya to come back."


"I can't."


"Can I go with ya, now?"


"I don't know, Eric.  Y'ar a grown man, married now, ya have things to do."


"But, Mam?  Don't go."


"I will always be in y'ar mind.  Ya can see me whenever ya want."


"Mam!  I'm not ready to lose ya.  I can finally see ya, I finally know what ya look like, I remember it myself.  Not from a picture.  I can see ya, holding me in y'ar arms, and reading to me."


"I know.  And I remember, too.  I must go.  Fight, if ya can, my son."


All went black.


***


"What do you want, Runty?"  Jack said, as he spied Sam at his door.


"Nothin.'"


"Okay," he said, turning back to his video game.


"Jack?"


"I thought you said you didn't want anything?"


"Well, I just want to talk to you."


He turned the game to pause, and said, "Okay, what's up?"


"I'm . . . I'm scared, Jack."


"Come over here, Puny."  He patted the bed next to him.  The little boy got onto the bed and rested his head near Jack's shoulder.  "Tell me what's the matter?  Is it those pictures again?"


"Kinda.  They bother me if I think about them.  Dad said the little boy is him.  Why does he look like Ray and why is he so scared?"


"Ray looks like Dad because he's his Ray's father.  He's made from Dad and Mom."


"I don't get that."


"I know.  It's just, well, the way things work.  A part of Dad and a part of Mom made Ray, and Jewel."


"And you, and Starr.  But not me."


"Right."


"Why is he so scared in the pictures?  He said the man is his father, and wouldn't his father never hurt him?"


"Runty, listen."  Jack made his voice more pronounced, and put down his phone.  "Dad would never hurt us.  That doesn't mean all dads are like that.  Remember Zeus?"


"Yeah.  But he was sick, Mom said."


"Still.  He was your father, and he was mean."


"Yeah.  I don't like that Dad had a very bad and mean father."


"Me neither, but it's life, and life basically sucks sometimes."


Sam was quiet for a few minutes.  Then he said, "Jack, did Peter beat up Dad?"


"Yeah."


"Did he shake him, and say mean things?"


"Probably."


"Do you think Dad cried?  Because I don't think so."


"Sometimes, sure he did."


"Oh."


"Is that all you're scared about, Squirt?"


"No.  That guy.  The new one.  He scared me."


"Why?"  Jack was interested.


"He just . . . his eyes don't smile."


Jack squinted, trying to determine what Sam meant.  "What do you mean by that?"


"He smiles, but his eyes don't.  His eyes are like a shark."


For some reason, Jack, all seventeen and a half years of him, got a chill from the base of his spine up to his head.


***



"Dad, why don't we take a break from here, you know, head to my hotel, maybe take a swim?"  Todd suggested.  It had been almost eight hours that Timothy had not moved.

"I can't, Son.  What if he wakes?"


"The hospital will call us."


"I want to be here, when he wakes up, so he sees my face."


"I understand, but your face would scare the heck out of him right now."


"Why?"


"You're so tired.  You need rest, seriously.  You're starting to scare even me."


Timothy sighed.  "I suppose am a bit tired."


"And a nice swim, and then a nap won't hurt.  You can put me up at your place, since it's a luxury hotel."


"A nice treat, it would be, to spend time with ya."


"Then, what do you say?"


He looked at his son in the bed, whose pale face was very still and thin.  "I suppose.  Eric, if ya wake before I get back, know that I love ya."


Todd swallowed, hearing his father say this, and said, "Come on, Dad, let's go.  We'll come back first thing in the morning or if he wakes up."


"Ay, we will."  They walked out.


On the way to the lobby, they passed the chapel.  Todd said, "I bet I know who's in there," and he was right.


Sister Rebecca Katherine had spotted Tina, kneeling in a pew, and went to her.  The two of them were now kneeling, facing the small, simple altar, and praying.  Tina stopped and said, "I don't know why I just feel so wrong doing this."


"That's to be expected.  Ya never relied on The Lord before, and ya don't feel worthy.  But everyone is, if they simply ask."


"Sister, what if . . . what if Aiden dies?"


"Dear," she said, touching Tina's cheek and sliding back up to a sitting position, "The what ifs don't help.  Ya have to believe and have faith in y'arself and y'ar ability to come through this, whatever the outcome.  And, to answer, I don't know."


"It's funny, you know, I never even imagined I'd be in Europe, doing this, married to someone who . . . is sick."


"We sometimes don't know what life has to offer us."


"Just a short while ago, I was staking out Dorian's house, to try and steal that diamond.  Now, it means absolutely nothing to me.  How can that be?"


"It's the way things are, and the way things go." the nun said, "Sometimes, we can't imagine ourselves doing things that we do.  But, we do them."


"I know."


"One thing, I don't want ya feeling badly about the diamond situation.  Ya saved those children, and Todd and Blair, in y'ar own way.  They know that, and so does God."


Tina broke down, and the nun comforted her.  "It will be all right, and whatever comes, ya will be able to handle it.  We'll see to that, we will."


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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 15


Blair and Tomas arrived back at her hotel. She was fit to be tied. They had found where Samuel lived but had missed him. Talk about bad luck. It was as if fate kept stepping in and putting roadblocks in her way. Blair remembered vaguely seeing someone entering a cab as she and Tomas had neared another apartment. She didn't think much of it at that time but in retrospect she was certain that the person who had entered that cab had been Samuel. When she and Tomas had knocked on the door of the next apartment, an elderly gentlemen had answered. Tomas had then asked if Samuel Toddman resided there and had shown the gentleman the picture. To their surprise, they were answered with a Oui. It had been overwhelming to think she was finally going to meet Samuel face to face. But then the landlord dropped the other shoe and informed them that Samuel had gone out for the day. Blair had been stunned. Tomas had thanked the gentleman and they had departed. Blair didn't even remember the ride back to the hotel. The next thing she recalled was Tomas sitting her at the bar and handing her a drink.


"Here Blair, drink this." Tomas said.


Blair took a quick drink and the world righted itself. After a second drink Blair turned to Tomas, "Forgive me, I'm afraid I just lost it there for a time. We found him, but we didn't. I'm so frustrated I can't see straight."


"There is nothing to forgive. It was a bit of a blow to know we had the place where he resides but not him. But we can correct that tomorrow. We will simply call on him in the morning. For now you should get some rest. I can see that today's revelations have taken their toll on you. I will pick you up around nine and we will go to see Monsieur Toddman. Everything is going to be cleared up. You will see." Tomas stood and escorted her back to her room where he wished her a goodnight and left.


Blair put down her bag and the picture and locked the room, but she couldn't relax. "I don't think I can stand to wait till tomorrow. I have to know if Samuel is Todd. I have to know tonight!" she grabbed up her bag and headed back down to the Lobby. She waited, pacing back and forth, until the cab arrived. "#19 Rue Morgue" she informed the driver. Blair wasn't sure what was going to happen when she saw him but her stomach was doing flip/flops in anticipation.


Samuel walked into his apartment. He glanced around making sure everything was where he had left it. The hairs on his neck were once again raised as he recalled the conversation he just had with his landlord. He had just been informed that a couple had been looking for him and they had a picture of him. What did it mean? Why was someone looking for him? Did they have anything to do with Alex? Perhaps it was time to consider moving somewhere else. "I can't leave now, I'm this close to getting my memories back. How much longer do I dare stay? Am I just being paranoid? Perhaps there is a perfectly logical reason someone would be looking for me. No, I've got to leave, I need to be out of here by morning." Samuel started gathering his paintings together. If he worked all night he could leave by mid-morning. Hopefully before anyone else came looking for him.


The cab pulled up to the apartment. Blair looked up and noticed that the lights were on in the apartment that the landlord had said was Samuel's. If she was going to do this she had to do it now before she lost her nerve. Blair headed up the stairs to the apartment door."Ok Blair, it's now or never!" and she knocked.


Samuel stopped what he was doing. There was a knock at his door. Maybe whoever it was would go away if he didn't answer. Then he heard her voice.


"Excuse me. Mr Toddman are you in there? You don't know me but I really need to speak with you. Please if you're there, could we talk?" Blair anxiously asked.


He knew that voice. It was so familiar. The person behind that voice meant something to him and he wasn't waiting any longer to find out who she was. Samuel made quick strides to the door. Everything in him was yelling, "What are you waiting for? Open the damn door!" Samuel opened it.


He couldn't believe his eyes. She was beautiful and she was real. Standing before him was his Muse, his lovely Blair. Where had she come from? How did she know him? Samuel realized he was staring and he started to invite her in, but suddenly she collapsed at his feet.


Samuel reacted quickly and picked up his Muse and carried her gently to his couch. She was truly exquisite. He went to the kitchen to fetch a wet cloth to wipe her brow with. He looked from her to his paintings and marveled that he was really seeing her. Samuel sat down next to her and carefully wiped her forehead. She stirred and opened her eyes. She didn't say anything, just reached up and softly touched his cheek. Samuel flinched afraid of the look he expected next, but it didn't come. Instead she smiled at him and carefully pushed his hair off his face. His breath caught, as he realized she had done that before. She had always touched his hair. He couldn't speak, he just wanted to look and stay there in that moment.


Todd watched also, envious of Samuel. Blair should have been looking at him. Someone had trapped him and they were going to pay. They were going to pay big time. Todd closed his eyes and allowed himself to feel what Samuel was feeling. Those caressing fingers on his cheek and through his hair. He remembered the first time she did that. She had come to him,when he had been all alone that Christmas. She had given him the best Christmas present he had ever gotten. Todd's eyes snapped open. He remembered, suddenly a large crack was heard behind him. He looked around and saw the original crack now extended completely to the top of the enclosure . At the bottom a fissure had opened and memories were starting to seep out. It wasn't going to be long now.


Samuel jerked as the memory hit him and his hand went up to engulf Blair's. He took her hand just like he had done that night so long ago. He didn't know what to do next. Somewhere in his past he'd had a relationship with this woman and a strong one at that. He thought of all the paintings. If they were real scenes from his past then much had happened between himself and Blair. He put her hand down and moved away. He needed to put some space between them at this time until he could figure out what it all meant.


Blair blinked, feeling bereft when Samuel had taken away his hand. Why had he moved away? She gathered herself and sat up. When Samuel had opened the door, she had felt the years fall away as she saw Todd standing in front of her. It wasn't possible but Todd was standing across the room from her. He was older and he had a second scar on his face but the moment she saw him, she knew she was seeing Todd. "Todd, what's the matter? Why did you walk away? Are you still mad at me for something that happened years ago? What's going on?"


Samuel stared at her. Why was she calling him Todd? She had known his name was Samuel at the door but now she was calling him something else. This night had just gone from unbelievable to weird. "Excuse me, but are you alright? I think you have me confused with someone else. My name is Samuel. You came here to talk to me, correct?" If he could get her talking, "Here let me get you a drink. That should help and we can start over." Samuel poured her a glass of wine and brought it over to her. He sat down opposite her. "Perhaps you'd like to tell me what brought you to my home so urgently."


Blair took a deep breath. Just what was Todd up to. He acted like he didn't really know her and like he wasn't Todd. He was putting on some kind of act for her. Why? She looked around the room. All of his paintings were of Vicki, Tea and herself. Blair remembered the young teller telling her Samuel had three women in his life. Were these paintings his three women? What was going on? Samuel handed her a drink and sat down. She heard his question. Where should she begin? "Okay,Samuel, I'm sorry, you remind me of someone I knew named Todd. When I woke up I thought you were him. I'll start at the beginning. I received a painting from my late husband. It depicted a portrait of me during my second wedding to Todd. I came here to find the artist of that portrait and to find out who might have commissioned it. I managed to trace the portrait back to Tomas' Gallery where Tomas informed me that you were the artist of my portrait. You are quite elusive Mr. Toddman, could you perhaps tell me how you were able to paint that portrait? Also could you please tell me where you got such intimate details of my life?”


"Wow!" thought Samuel. "She gets right to the point. Now how do I answer that?" Samuel cleared his throat. " I'm not sure I'm going to be able to answer that. You're right, I'm the artist that painted your portrait but I can only tell you this. No one commissioned me. All of my paintings come from within me. If I see it in here(Samuel points to his head), and feel it here (then points to his heart), I start painting. My dear, I had no idea you were real until you collapsed at my door. You can see what I've painted, are you telling me these depict moments in your life." Samuel sat back as he waited for her answer. He watched her face as she looked around at his paintings of her. She looked at them eagerly then her face became shadowed. As she turned back to him he saw anger and fire in her eyes. God, He'd love to paint her right now.


"How can you do this to me! Just what game are you playing at Todd, you know perfectly well all these moments are real. They're all moments we've shared. Why are you sitting there pretending you don't know me? These paintings are proof you do. Tell me the truth. Why have you been hiding all these years?" Blair was angry. So angry she almost threw her drink at him. He was just sitting there stunned. What was going on?  He wasn't getting angry, in fact he seemed truly confused. In some ways she was reminded of another time in Todd's past when he had appeared confused, but that had been a sham. She thought back to the days when Todd had pretended to have DID like his sister Vicki. He had really been quite good and if he hadn't confessed to her that he was faking, she might have begun to believe that he suffered from the same illness as his sister. " You can drop the act Todd. I'm not sure why you're pretending to be this artist Samuel, but I know better. Just who did you get to paint all of these? We both know you can't paint."


He sat there flabbergasted. She was magnificent when she was angry, but he didn't understand why she kept insisting he was this Todd. Obviously this Todd was someone who she had a strong connection with, and a relationship that must have been extremely volatile. "Whoa... Ms.. I'm sorry I don't know your name. Madame...I assure you that I am Samuel and I am the painter of these paintings. I have no idea who this Todd is that you keep talking about or what you mean by keeping up this act. I am an artist who has been living a rather quiet life until recently, that is until today. I must say since you dropped at my feet not long ago that the day has taken a decidedly delightful and quirky turn. If you would allow me, to prove to you that I am the artist. I would love to do a sketch of the real you. You make my simple paintings of you seem dull by comparison."


Now it was Blair's turn to be stunned. It couldn't be true. Could he really not know he was Todd. It was true he wasn't acting like Todd. She was going to have to call his bluff. If he was Samuel, then he would be able to produce a sketch of her. She needed to figure out what was happening. "Alright Todd, we'll play things your way for now." Blair calmed down. "You say you're Samuel Toddman. I'm going to give you that chance to prove it. Where would you like to do this sketch?"


Samuel stood up not believing his good fortune. He offered his hand to help her up. "Come this way...?" he looked at her askance.


"Blair" she replied and followed him into another room. It was clearly his studio, paints and supplies were everywhere. There was a painting leaning against the wall. Blair gasped when she saw it. That night was emblazoned in her memory. Then she came face to face with the painting on the easel. She looked at it in shock, she had only heard stories of that night but she knew it was the night he had sustained the injury that had left him scarred. "Why was Todd telling all his personal memories to a strange artist and did he really plan to try and sketch her just to keep up this charade?"


Samuel turned at her gasp and saw the painting she was looking at. "Forgive me, Blair. That is one of my darker paintings. Let me remove it. I wouldn't want you disturbed by it." He carefully removed it and placed it out of sight. "There that is better. Would you mind sitting here." He gestured to a settee nestled among some ferns.


Blair sat down. She felt a little self-conscious, was he really going to keep up the act? Oh well, while he pretended to sketch she had a chance to study him. He seemed different that was for sure. There was the beginnings of some grey appearing at his temples and of course there was that new scar on his cheek. Where and when had he gotten that? She recalled the days she had spent looking for him after his disappearance. Blair thought back to the night she had gone to his father's tomb convinced that Mitch had buried him there. It had seemed hopeless. Everyone said he had gone on the run because he had killed Sam and later it had come out that Lindsay was responsible for Sam's death. She had gone through so many different feelings back then. She'd hated him one minute and missed him the next, all the while trying to keep her hopes up that he would come home. When Walker had come into their lives, she had fought tooth an nail not to fall in love with him, but she had. Then everyone began to suspect that Walker was Todd with a new face. That slowly became a reality, and Walker Lawrence ceased to be and Todd took back his life. Walker/Todd was still living Todd's life in Llanview. She would face that mystery when she got home. One mystery at a time and this one was proving to be a doozy.


Todd hadn't been able to take his eyes off her. She looked great and when she had yelled at Samuel, he had wanted to laugh. She was always great on the attack. She really didn't know she wasn't in his presence, but he was pretty sure if Samuel kept drawing, she would soon find out Samuel was real. Damn, he had tried for years to keep that secret. When Sam had forced the issue of his father Peter Manning,he had lost a number of days. He had awaken to find Tom in charge and had quickly stepped back in before anyone realized what had happened. It was funny but his memories surrounding his alters were still somewhat intact. He remembered coming and going a lot during those days as he let Tom and Rodd take over. There was one day that proved to be important to him and the alters but that memory was just out of reach, except for the fact that it had something to do with Blair. It didn't really matter now, Blair was about to find out his alters were real and he was helpless to stop it.


Samuel knew her face like the back of his hand and in no time he was able to capture it on canvas. He wanted to make it special, so he pictured her as if she was a Goddess languishing on a river bank amongst the ferns. Then he reached for his pastels and started putting some color into the picture. She was beautiful, but he had to make her realize he was Samuel. He sensed a lot of anger in her toward this Todd, and he didn't want her to leave before he could figure out what his connection was to both her and Todd. He knew another key to his puzzle had arrived at his door this night. She was as important to regaining his memories as Alex was. Samuel also sensed that he would have to be careful. Alex was mixed up in something dangerous and he didn't want anything to happen to Blair as he tried to unravel his lost past. He paused to look at his work. As always she was still his Muse and he cleared his throat to get Blair's attention.


Blair looked over at him. Aware more then ever how strange it seemed to be sitting here with Todd. Was he finally going to come clean and show her he had just been pretending. How much longer was he going to continue this? She smiled and said. " Are you finished already? You're not going to keep this farce up are you? I know you didn't paint these." she waved her hand toward the art in the room. Samuel smiled enigmatically. "Oh okay, show me this great work" Blair held out her hands. Samuel walked over and placed the canvas in her hands then stood back to see her reaction.


Blair was speechless. The piece of artwork in her hands was phenomenal. He appeared to have captured her in the midst of thought. She felt special because she sensed love coming from the canvas. He had indeed put feeling into the canvas and it was for her. She looked up. This was Todd but it wasn't. A thought entered her mind and this time it took root. What if everything that had happened in the past wasn't faked? Could it really be true? If it was, then the impossible was probable and that meant one thing. The man in front of her right now was Samuel. My God, she was in the presence of an alter and his name was Samuel Toddman.



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