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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 22

Todd had stood impassively as Samuel read about the rape. He too felt the onslaught of memories surrounding the event. He remembered his anger being so out of control, Pete had wanted revenge and he had taken it. Todd had been unable to stop the rage. Everything had just escalated. All those memories culminating in his fall into that icy river after fighting with Bo. The shock of the wound and the icy water had forced Pete to retreat. Todd had pulled himself out of the water and had somehow once again found himself back in Llanview, but this time he had been looking for Rebecca. Todd smiled as he remembered little Sarah accepting him as a genie and then finding him shelter in the Llanfair garden shed. Sarah and her brother CJ had become his true friends and he had come to love those children. That bond was the only thing that kept him alive later, when he contemplated suicide. Some time after that he found out that CJ and Sarah were his nephew and niece.

 Todd knew that Samuel sustained a big shock when those memories returned and he had felt him almost give in to it. Thank God for the young lady who was helping Samuel. Samuel made it through some of the worse memories Todd had and survived. It had been one of the biggest hurdles they would all face. Todd surveyed the gaping hole in the wall and watched as memory after memory escaped. Samuel was probably in for rough ride tonight.

He shut the front door and took his coat off hanging it on its hook. Wearily he entered his sitting room. Samuel gazed around at his girls, tonight he needed the warmth he had always felt from them. He was cold and knew it was the effects of the shock he felt. He walked to his loft and found Marty's painting. He had to face her, now that he had the whole truth. With shaking hands he picked up the canvas and set it back on the easel. Although he himself had not perpetrated the rape, he was a part of the man who had. Therefore he would also have to accept the guilt. As Samuel stood there looking at Marty, more memories seeped into his consciousness and he remembered facing Marty in a hotel room and asking forgiveness. That night a truce had fallen between them and they had both begun to pick up the pieces of their lives. Samuel felt some of the coldness lift as more memories came, events where he and Marty helped each other, always fated to be in each others lives. They would never be friends but they had an understanding of each other like few others could possibly realize. 

Samuel rubbed his forehead, "I'm tired." he said to himself. He turned and headed to the bedroom, he paused and turned into the bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror, He looked at himself.

"Todd?" he asked.

 "Yes Samuel" he heard in return.

 "My god Man, how could you do that?! What drove you to those extremes? What other terrible memories are in store for me?" he begged.

Todd answered. "I have no excuse for my actions that day and I live with the horror of it as you will have to, until I can take over. I fear there are more ugly truths that haven't surfaced yet. You'll handle them because they are as much a part of you and me, as the beautiful memories. Remember you're a part of the whole and the whole of us can tackle anything."

Samuel looked once more in the mirror seeing Todd and himself blend into one image. He could do this. He would do this. Samuel turned and left the bathroom, made his way to the bed, took off his shoes and laid down. He was too tired to change, as soon as his head hit the pillow he was out.

'Samuel was running to get away from someone, he was looking for his mother but he couldn't find her. .. He had to hide, that man was getting closer he was going to hurt him. .. Samuel saw a flame in front of his eyes and his hand hurt it was hurting bad but he wouldn't cry. .. he was running again he found her everything was going to be ok... no...she's gone .. more flames .. more pain .. his back was so painful he didn't want to lay down it hurt.. birthday cake and candles .. no not again the flame .. no more .. wait no oh god no...blackness' 

Samuel sat up screaming. He was drenched in cold sweat. He had had nightmares before but Samuel knew these were more than nightmares. He was beginning to understand a little of what drove Todd, that desperation, a constant undercurrent, that push Todd through life. Samuel recalled the black void that he suddenly couldn't enter. That was one area that Todd couldn't or wouldn't go. Samuel wondered if that was the memory that would bring Todd out, still, he didn't know why but Samuel suspected the black void was separate from the horror that had made him come out. Just what kind of horrors could split a man so completely. Samuel laid back down almost afraid to close his eyes. What was he going to see next?

Samuel's night took another turn into the darkness.

He was lying in a bed screaming in agony, burning up, god he felt like his insides were burning through his skin... he had to run.. couldn't think ..had to think... anger raging through him, had to get her..she couldn't see now he had her...she stabbed him, darkness again ...running never going to be free...running.. he was struggling.. a gunshot pain ...so cold... there he had to climb they were coming....agony ....falling... darkness once more...no she's there... Rebecca ...more darkness.... so angry want to hit out.. my hand...trapped again ..didn't do it..no one believes...he sees the knife descending catches it fighting... can't breathe...searing agony again.. darkness..her voice...don't you die..you hang on Todd... he sees her his Blair... no...my son's dead...anger... can't take it ...she crying he's standing over her, God, he wants to hurt her..can't...won't...NO!!!'

Samuel once again snapped awake.  He remembered. He saw himself standing over Blair.  He was so angry, she'd hurt him more than he thought was possible. He wanted to strike back to hurt her the way she'd hurt him. She was on the bed in front of him as he reached for his belt.  She was scared but defiant, daring him, he started to take her,,,he couldn't.   As his heart ripped to shreds, he raced from the apartment.  He wandered out to the alley behind Rodi’s  There's where he belonged with the trash..he collapsed. Samuel felt his tears sliding down his face. All that anger, fear, shame and love, such deep love filled him at once but surrounding all of the feelings was an intense self-loathing that he wasn't worth anything. Todd felt so much but didn't and couldn't express it.

Samuel got up and headed to the sitting room. He said quietly to himself, "Todd, you're more than trash. Come I'll show you." Samuel then walked over to the mantle he looked at his picture of Vicki, "Todd, she's our sister and she loves us no matter our flaws, don't you see it in her eyes..look at the bench, she’s overjoyed to see you, she missed you." he moved to his Dee, his beloved Dee."She's been with you a lot . she's kept me sane when I had nightmares. She did the same for you. Your Delgado defended you and loved you even when you were cruel to her. Why? Because she saw you, not the person you think you are. Look at her, remember when we got her necklace from the river, she was terrified for us. And Todd, never doubt that Blair still loves you. You were there when we kissed, there is no way that Blair could ever hate you and kiss us the way she did." Samuel went to the final painting to make his point. "See Todd, all you have to do is see the love in her eyes. I know I painted the picture but that is you in her arms, she told us in that moment that she wanted to stop time, nothing before or after. It's stopped Todd. Look at it, believe it. There will be a time when all of us will be able to reach that moment. We do have worth and eventually maybe you will come to feel it. So, Todd, do we continue our journey?" 

Todd responded overwhelmed by his alter's revelations. "Samuel, we'll continue this journey to its conclusion and I will try to overcome my own personal roadblocks so I can meet you halfway, but I promise nothing."

Samuel stood there a moment. Todd was definitely stubborn. Samuel realized that getting through the protective shell that surrounded Todd was not going to be easy. It was early morning,and Samuel had had enough bad memories for one night. He wasn't going to let them take him over like that again. The memories were coming back pretty quickly, and he couldn't get over the numerous traumas and injuries that Todd had endured. Obviously some of the other scars on his body were as old or older than the horizontal scar on his cheekbone. Samuel had been able to figure out that the man Todd had been running from at first was their late father Peter Manning. He had hurt Todd physically and mentally. In fact, he was the reason Todd fractured. Samuel sensed a deep hatred for Peter, that went clear to his soul. The alters he had met, Tom, Rodd, Pete and Ms. Perkins had been with Todd for a very long time. Most likely since Todd was a teen. The trauma that occurred during that time was hidden from Todd but Samuel sensed that his four alters knew what had happened and continued to protect Todd from that event. It was a memory that had been separated and shielded from Todd. Very likely because he stubbornly refused to look at it.

"So, let's try and make some sense of Todd's life; he was abused as a child, later in life he committed the crime of rape on a young girl; he's been to prison, escaped and returned there, only to end up pardoned for his crimes. In the process besides the scars from his father, he's almost committed suicide, has been shot twice,and been stabbed twice. The other memories are the people in his life and mine. We have a sister Vicki.  We have three nieces and three nephews;Jessica, Natalie, and Sarah, also CJ, Kevin and Joey.  There are or were four other woman in our lives: One is Marty, Two is Rebecca, Three is Blair, and Four is Tea.  In one way or another these women have affected Todd's life. There is so much more to remember, and a new memory emerges every minute. Some of the memories will probably still be elusive, until I am in the States.” Samuel surmised.

It was time to go back to the States. Samuel knew that Blair and her friend, as well as Alex, had all left the previous night for the States and more than likely were arriving there shortly. Did Blair know Alex? That was something that hadn't occurred to him till now. Was Alex connected to Carlo Hesser? He would have to wait for those answers. He needed to tie up things here, then he would arrange a flight to the States.

Samuel had one more piece of artwork he needed to complete before leaving Paris. It was to be a Thank You for Jessica. He owed her a lot for her help last night and for that first moment when they met. He fixed himself a quick breakfast, ate and headed for the loft. Grabbing his acrylics because he needed a fast drying medium, he began to paint the background. Using warm colors of brown , beige and peach, he drew her at the outside cafe table with the sunset behind her. Then he closed his eyes for just a moment to remember how she would smile every time he had gone to the bank, he opened his eyes and began to draw her. Samuel worked well into the afternoon finishing her portrait, then he put his name at the bottom and dated it 2011. He stepped back and gave one final look. She was beautiful and she deserved to be in the sun. He knew that she had a crush on him that was never going to be fulfilled. If he couldn't give Jessica her heart's desire, he would leave her with a piece of him in the painting.

When he was finished, he began to pack his supplies, he had decided that he was not coming back. "If I'm going home, I'm going home to stay." First thing in the morning he needed to get packing crates for his portraits. Most of them would be shipped to the states. He picked out a handful to be taken to the gallery. Then he added Blair's portrait next to Vicki's and Dee's , they would travel with him. Not wasting any more time, Samuel got on the phone and got the overseas operator to connect him with a climate controlled storage facility in Philadelphia. After a short discussion, arrangements were made for the storage of his art. Next, he got the name of a realtor in Llanview.  He informed them he was looking for something in an upstairs apartment with plenty of windows for painting. They told him of a penthouse that had been on the market for some time, and with the market being what it was, Samuel was able to negotiate terms acceptable to both parties. Finally, he made arrangements for a flight home. He had a flight out of Paris leaving the day after next. It was perfect. "Okay, ladies, we're going Home."



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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 62

Timothy went to the solarium, and as he hoped, he met Miguel there.  He was reading a magazine, quietly, and in very much solitude.  The older man almost hated to interrupt.

He approached quietly, and Miguel said, "I know why you're here."


"Ya do?"


"It's Aiden, right?"


"No, Lad.  I'm sorry to mislead ya."


"Oh, no problem.  I'm rather relieved."


"Yes.  I . . . have something delicate to talk about."


"Okay.  You want to know how we gay guys do it?"


"No, nothing vile, or offensive to ya, I hope."


"I'm listening."


"It's about y'ar friend, Malcolm."


"He was my friend, yeah.  I . . . don't know about now."


"What do ya mean?"


"He's not been in touch with me.  I got two text messages.  Both were a little, let's say, off."


"Ya mean he wasn't acting like himself."


"Yeah, sort of like that.  He would have called me, I really believe that.  Something's definitely up."


"How well do ya think ya know him?"


"Pretty well.  We've been friends for years.  Since I got here."


"I have to tell ya something.  Malcolm's been accused of doing something horrible.  Something very disturbing, back in the states."


"I don't get it.  What is he accused of?"


"The Mannings were attacked.  Supposedly, by the new gardener.  The dog was killed, neck broken, in front of the middle son.  He's only nine.  Todd's daughter, Starr, just turned twenty.  She was beaten almost to death, trying to protect her brothas.  And, the three year-old, Little Raymond, was kidnapped."


He swallowed before quickly adding, "No.  That's not Malcolm.  End of story."


"I thought ya might say that.  Which, if ya want to believe that I believe ya, leads us both to a question, eh?"


"Who was it."


"Yes.  That's the question."


"Shit.  This is fucked up."  Miguel seemed rattled.


"I'd say that's accurate, yes."


"Todd gave Malcolm a new chance.  Malcolm would never hurt a child, or beat a woman.  He's just not that person.  He'd never hurt Todd after the help he received from the guy.  Never."


"All right.  So we're here, trying to figure out who would have something against Todd."


"Those guys?  The Men of something?"


"The Men of 21?"


"Wouldn't they?"


"Maybe.  Can ya think of anyone else?  Someone who would have known where Malcolm was headed."


"Oh, God."


"I was hoping for that," Timothy said, half to himself.


"There's this guy, he was our friend.  Calvin.  He got real, I don't know, strange, after something happened, where he lost some kind of money.  When he found out I was gay, he started bashing me and shit, you know, just saying rude comments.  Malcolm always defended me.  Anyway, he was our friend, originally. He was here before both of us.  When we got here, he showed us the ropes.  How to steal from the cafeteria, how to get the best food.  How to get cigarettes, not that either of us cared.  How to get a peek at the nurses' locker room.  Stuff like that.  Was here for a heart transplant, I think, originally, and then, had it replaced, again, with new technology and stuff.  He wanted to be able to be out of here.  It all cost a lot of money.  When he ran dry, he sorta got pissed.  His attitude changed.  He kept talking . . ."  Miguel looked up, as if realizing something for the first time.  "He kept talking about a revenge plot.  Malcolm and I laughed it off, because of the kinds of pranks and stuff he'd gotten us into.  Neither of us took it seriously."


"Perhaps he was the one taking it that way," Timothy said.


***


"I want to help, and I know how,"  Jenna said.


"Okay," Jack responded, "but not sure you really can help."


She pulled out her sketch pad.  "I can.  Give me all the details of Malcolm's face."


"Huh?"


"Describe him to me.  In detail."


Jack began to explain to her the facial features of Malcolm Carlisle.  She started slowly, with the shape of his face, and went forward from there.  Within a few minutes, Jack said, "Hey, that's shaping up pretty well.  Almost can start to see him."


"It won't be long.  Just tell me everything you can think of, and I should be able to get a decent likeness, with your help."


They continued, him relating details of the man's face, and her, sketching rapidly, shading, and erasing, until it was more like the real thing.  Between the two of them, within twenty-five minutes, they had a perfect sketch of Malcolm Carlisle's face.


"Not too bad if I say so myself," Jack said.


"See?  I told you to trust me with this."


"I should have from the start.  Wow.  You're an amazing artist.  Not like I've never said that before, but this is really a talent."


"Can I see?"  Dorian asked, getting up and walking toward them.


Jenna flashed the page, and Dorian said, "Very lifelike.  Somehow, I think I've seen that person before.  I know it's impossible, but he just seems slightly familiar to me."


She shrugged and went back to her seat, and folded her arms, finally attempting to try and rest.  It was after four in the morning, and none of them were budging to leave Starr and Sam's sides.


It became very quiet in the emergency room.  Jack thought to himself, "It guess emergencies don't even happen at this hour.  Do I have school?  I don't even know what day it is."



Blair rushed into the main waiting room where Jack, Jenna and Dorian were seated.  "Jack, where's your father?"  Blair asked, unable to disguise how frantic she was.

"I don't know.  He was with you."


"He's not with me.  He's . . . please, Jack, did you see him?"


"No, why?"


Dorian piped up, "He's gone again?"


"And you, just . . . just shut up."  Blair said, rushing away from them.  She went out the doors, and then back in.  "I'm going after him, I . . . what's that?"  she said, pointing to the drawing on Jenna's lap.  It was an uncanny likeness of "Malcolm."


"Jenna drew it for us, from my description,"  Jack said.


"Jenna, can you draw another?"  Blair asked.


"Of course," she said.


"Please, give me that one."


Jenna tore it off the pad.  Jack said, "Mom, what the Hell are you doing?"


"Going to help your father," she said, "and hopefully, get my baby back."


She and the portrait were gone.


***



"It's bedlam over here, and I need you to do something, quickly."  Dorian said.

John McBain rolled his eyes at first.  It was four-thirty in the morning, and he wondered how and why he gave Dorian Cramer his personal number, ever.  "What's the problem, Dorian?"


She proceeded to tell John everything, and he found himself out of bed and dressing within a few minutes of hearing the words, "Ray" and "kidnapped."  His heart was going out to The Mannings already; his son was near the same age as Ray, and he couldn't fathom it.  Also, having been married to Blair for a short time, he was close to Starr and the other kids.  He had to be there, as soon as he could get himself out of the house.


"Why didn't Blair call me?" he asked.


"I don't know.  Timing?  Fear?  Being wrapped up in the injuries to the children?  Waiting for you know who to get around to being here for his family. . ."


"Dorian, from what I understand, Todd has a brother whose life is in the balance?"


"Whatever.  He puts himself halfway around the world, and then expects to be heralded as a good father?  Aside from the fact that the man who took the children was sent to Unforgettable by Todd himself."


"I'll be right there," he said, and a myriad of thoughts crossed his mind.  Manning, again dealing with guilt attached to something he did, inadvertently or intentionally, to endanger his family.  Blair, facing the prospect of losing yet another child; Starr, beaten and battered in the attempt to save them; and Jack, guilty for not being home when he was asked to be.  All this weighed on his head, but not more than the question: who is the kidnapper and what did he want?


***


She hated riding taxis, but Todd had taken Williams, and she didn't have another choice.  She was certain, almost, that he was one of two places:  Mountainview, which was her destination, or the airport. She ran over everything in her mind, again:


Todd had flashes of memory when in Switzerland that his father is alive.  He remembered the burn, on his arm, so did I.  Bitsy started dreaming of things that come true, like the baby's birth, and how small she would be.  Bitsy drew things, pictures of Peter hurting us, then she had a breakdown.  


She fingered the drawing Jenna did.  Very lifelike, and certainly appeared to be "Malcolm," as she knew him.  


God, Todd dreamed of it, too.  We brushed it off.  Ray even tried to convince him he was confused.  Then, "Malcolm," supposedly sent by Todd, acts "weird" and tries to get Sam alone.  He tells Starr she's like her father.  He kills the dog, and pets it after it's dead.  That's so sick, it's . . . Oh my God, it's like Patches.  Todd had that dream, back before we went to Ireland to save Patrick.  He had that dream of his father. . .killing . . .


She blanked her mind a moment.  She couldn't let herself believe that the abusive, child-abusing rapist, Peter Manning, was alive and had her son.


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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 61

He held her until she was seemingly cried out, and tears streamed without the decimating sobs.  She caught her breath, and looked into his eyes, and he into hers.  She kissed him with everything she had left, and he tasted her tears on her lips.  She said, "Some welcome home, huh?"

"I should have been here," he said, regretfully.


"You couldn't have.  Aiden."


He kissed the tip of her nose, and ran his hand over her hair.  "I should have been here to protect my kids."


"You didn't know, and we need you now.  You'll have to worry about guilt later."


"How's my little girl," he said, looking at the basket right next to his head on the chair.


"She's beautiful," Blair's voice cracked.  "She's strong and perfect like her Dad."


"If she's strong and perfect, then she's like her Mom."


"Todd, my baby boy," she said, starting to cry again.  He brought her back close to him, and she rested her head on his shoulder and wept.  


He swallowed, determined not to succumb to his own despair.  "He'll be back.  I'll find him, whatever it takes."

"I just feel . . . so much better when you're here.  Like maybe you can make everything okay."


"Not everything."  His own tears ran, and he didn't try and stop them.  She looked up to his face, and this time, brushed his tears with her thumbs, the way he always did for her.  


He said, "I'd brush yours away, but there are just too many to keep up with."

"I know," she said.  "I just can't stop."


"You will," he said, touching her face, "you will when you can."


"How's your brother?"


"The same."


"Where's Ray, Todd?  Is he okay?  Is he, alive?  Will we ever see him . . ."  she cried again, and their foreheads touched.


"We'll see him again, and chase his little ass all around the yard.  He'll be back." He was afraid to ask her his next question.  "Blair, is Starr all right?"


"She's . . . unconscious.  She's beaten up pretty badly."  


Jewel made a small contented noise from her basket.  He said, "I want to see Jewel, and then, I want to see my other little girl."


Blair touched his cheek, her fingers once again lingering on the scar, as they always did.  "Todd, she . . . looks pretty bad."


"It's my Shorty, Blair," his voice cracked.  "However she looks, I have to see her."  He reached and lifted the basket gently.  His tiny daughter was awake, not sleeping as they had thought.  He rested the basket on the floor next to them both and brought her out, putting her onto his shoulder and chest, and she rested there, like a small bag of flour, against him.  Blair put her hand on her daughter's back, and one of Todd's tears fell onto it.  He said, "Hey, little girl.  Don't even think of dating for fifty years."  He kissed her head, and put his hand over Blair's on Jewel's back.  Blair finally closed her eyes, her head resting on Todd's chest next to Jewel.  He stroked Blair's hair, and rested his chin on her head.  Looking past her, he could only see vengeance against Malcolm Carlisle - or whoever he was - as they rested against the wall in the emergency room.


***


Tina looked up from Aiden's bedside.  "It's been days," she said to Timothy.


"Ay."


"Where's Sister?"


"She's at the chapel.  I left her there and wanted to see him.  Ya know, I missed out on his death, when he was a child and I thought he died.  I was dragged away from the shooting and never able to hold his hand while he suffered.  Then, I missed out on his life.  I will tell ya, I am glad that I am here, now, whatever this holds."


Tina cried.  


Timothy came to her side, and sitting in the second chair, put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her in.  She said, "He's not going to die, is he?"


"I don't know.  There's never an answer to these questions.  Who knew my grandson would be kidnapped by a maniac, and that my granddaughter beaten to within and ounce of her life?  Life is filled with unknowns, it is."


"I'm so sorry about the children.  All of them are beautiful."


He didn't answer her, just remained stolid, and they both looked back to Aiden.  


She said, "What if he never wakes?"


"Then, he never wakes."  Timothy said.


"I wanted to ask you, about Malcolm.  Do you really think . . ."


"No," he interrupted her.  "I don't."


"Then, what?"


"I can't say.  But I am working on it, up here."  He pointed to his temple.


***


Todd, Blair and Jewel made their way back to the lobby, so Blair could give the baby to Dorian, and go see Sam, while Todd went to see Starr.  Dorian was awake, Jack with his arm around Jenna, was sleeping, and so, finally, was the girl.


"So, you've arrived,"  Dorian said to Todd.  She was venomous, before saying much.


"Yeah, I just got here a little while ago.  I wanted to go straight to my wife."


"Too bad you weren't thinking of her when you left in the first place.  And then, sending a stranger into your family's midst, and allowing this to happen?  After all they've been through because of you, it wasn't enough?"  She was standing, and shouting.  Jack and Jenna woke, and the few people who were in the hospital waiting room at that hour, looked over.


Blair, having placed the basket on Jenna's lap, stepped forward and slapped her aunt.  The impact of her hand on the woman's cheek made a decidedly pointed sound.  She pointed her finger at Dorian, and Todd tugged at her sleeve, saying, "Blair, no, don't," softly.


Blair pulled away from Todd's attempt at restraining her, and pointed again.  "You don't talk to my husband that way ever again.  You think he wanted anything like this to happen?"  her voice was filled with utter horror.


"Blair," he raised his voice.  She stopped and looked at him.  "Stop.  She's right, just stop."


"She's not right, Todd.  She's not, and she's never been.  All the way back to when she tried to take Starr from you, until today."


"Blair," he said again, and his hand was on the back of her head, "Babe, stop.  Come on," he said, and she fell against him, sobbing.  He said, "Dorian, she's . . . in pain, without her son.  And you're right, everyone knows whose fault this is."


Dorian was still standing, with her hand on the cheek that was struck.  Her face was one of astonishment.  She, in her embarrassment, walked off to the ladies' room.  Todd walked Blair to the chairs, near Jack and Jenna, and sat her down.  She leaned against him, still crying.  At this point, her eyes were swollen and red around the edges.


Jack said, "Dad."


"Hi, Jack," Todd said, and he wanted to embrace his son, but had his arms full with Blair.  
"Don't say a thing, Son.  This is no one's fault but mine."

"I was supposed to babysit."


"No, I was supposed to take care of my family.  No more, okay?"


"I'm . . . just glad you're here."


"Me, too, Buddy."  He motioned with his free arm, and the boy got up and went to him, leaning in for his father's support.  Todd said, "Let's put this family together, all right?"


Blair sat up, "Can you go with me to see Sam?  He . . . can't talk.  He wants to, but he's in shock."


"Of course, I want to see him.  Then, I'm going to see Starr."


Blair knew she couldn't stop him from going to see her, but wished she could.  Starr's battered face, swollen cheek, and bruises would make him see more red, and she knew it.


The two parents got up, leaving Jewel in capable hands, and went to Sam's cubicle.


Blair opened the curtain, and her son was awake, staring off.  Clearly, he was reviewing the traumatic events of the kidnapping, and turned to her when she came in.  She said, "Hey, Big Guy, I have someone who wants to see you."


Sam pushed himself up on the bed a little, so that he was more upright.  The curtain pushed open and Todd revealed himself.  Sam's face immediately lit up, with joy, and then twisted into sadness, as he held his arms out to his father.  Todd went directly to him and held him against his chest.  Sam, crying, said, "Dad."


"Yeah, Bud.  It's me."


"Dad."


"I know, it's all right."


Blair covered her mouth, and her tears came back.


After a few minutes, Sam pulled back from Todd and said, "Dad, the bad man got Ray.  He killed Mixie.  He beat Starr up.  He made me wet my pants, and I ran and hid because Starr told me to."


Blair sighed in relief; her son was talking.


"Well, I'm glad you listened to her.  You're always a good listener, Sam."  Todd said, attempting to mask his burning hate for the man who hurt his family.


"He was real mean."


"I know.  I'm sorry that you had to experience that.  Did the man say anything, you know, weird?"


"I don't know."


"It's okay.  You don't have to think about it."  Todd said, hugging him to his chest again.


Blair stepped forward.  "How about your old Mom?  Can she get in on the action?"


"Mom!"  Sam said, and fell into her arms, crying and talking, and she comforted him and rocked him. 


Todd saw this as his perfect chance to leave and go to Starr.  He wasn't sure he was ready, but he wanted to see her breathe, and know she was still part of his world.


He opened the curtain to her area, and almost turned away.  Instead, he made himself look; he wanted to see what had been done to her.  The purple, swollen side of her face was a stark, disturbing contrast to the angelic, ivory side.  The latter was closer to him.  He went to her bed, and sat in the chair.  At first, he sank back, as if exhausted, and just looked at her.  Next, he leaned forward, and touched her hair as gently as he could, and said, "Shorty?"  Last, he broke down and put his head onto the thin hospital mattress.  He didn't care who heard him, or who saw.  He wept openly, until he felt a light touch on his head.  He looked up, and she was petting him, and looking back.  


She said, "No," in a throaty voice.  Then, "water?"


He handed her the cup with the straw that was next to her bed, and she drank a little.  He wiped his tears with his sleeve, and she said, "No, Dad."


"Starr," he said, touching her hair, lightly.  "Shorty, I . . ."


"I'm okay.  Tired."


He nodded.


She said, "Listen.  He . . . took Ray."


"I know," he said, and of course, his tears would not obey his command to stay back.


"He . . . was laughing."


He swallowed.  He wasn't sure he wanted to hear, but she'd asked him to.  He would do as his daughter wanted.  


Mommy's the prettiest . . .


"He was going to take Sam, too."  She spoke slow and laboriously, one word at a time.  "He didn't see Jewel because of the basket."


"Lucky thing."

"Yes."  She licked her lips.  "I tried."


"I know.  Maybe you should rest and stop talking a while?"


"No." That was more forceful.  "No, Dad.  Listen."


"I am listening," he said, sweetly, and as much as he wanted the tears to stop, they came continuously.


"He was too big.  Tall.  Taller than you."


Todd squinted, looking off to the side for a moment.  She repeated, "Taller than you.  Like Shaun, almost."


He was puzzled.  Perhaps she was wrong.  She could have misjudged.  She went on, "Big hands, long arms.  Big hands."


It wasn't Malcolm.  Whoever that was, was not Malcolm Carlisle.


"He . . ." she stopped, mid-sentence, and tears ran down her face.


Todd was afraid.  He didn't want to hear that she was abused, or used, by this sick maniac.  He was afraid, but she wanted to tell him everything.


"He backhanded me, punched, and kicked.  That's all."


He sighed out, and leaned in to kiss her forehead.  He was as gentle as possible, as not to hurt her.


"Dad, Sam?"


"He's okay."


"No, Dad, Sam . . . saw something."


He wiped his tears, again with his sleeve.  "What?  What did he see?"


"He saw . . ." she swallowed, and Todd gave her the water again.  She sipped.  "He saw the man kill Mixie."


Todd's stomach turned.  He forced himself not to spew last night's Chinese on the emergency room floor.  The only image he could see, in his mind, was his father, Peter Manning, leaning over and giving Patches a treat.


"He . . . tricked Mixie into trusting him."


No.  No fucking way.  No.


"How did he do that?"


"He had something . . . in his pocket."


Todd felt bile rising in his throat.  He said, "What else, Starr?  Is there more, Shorty?"  he was tender, but now, determined.


"He . . . picked up Mixie and broke his neck."


Todd closed his eyes.


Peter said, "Come outside, I want to show you something."


Todd just looked at him, from the kitchen table.  Bitsy was quietly eating.


"I said now!"  Peter boomed.  Todd followed him.


He knelt down near the woodline and held out a small can of tuna, slightly opened.  From the trees came the small, black cat with white patches of fur that Todd had been feeding.  The cat came closer and started to eat the tuna from the can, just as he had done other times, at Todd's doing.


Without warning, Peter snatched the cat up, and snapped its neck like a small branch, while Todd watched.  He let go of his water in his pants.  Peter put the cat down, and strangely, pet it one last time.  He turned to Todd and said, "That will be you and your mother, next time you want to give away my hard earned money to a stray," he said, and walked away.


"He . . . twisted it, and we heard it.  Dad?"  she said.


"Yeah, I'm here."


"He killed Mixie and Sam saw."  Her words were still deliberate and her voice, husky and strained.


"Did you notice his accent?"  Todd asked.


She appeared puzzled.  "No accent."


He breathed in, ire building in his chest.  "What else, Shorty?  What else did he do?"  His voice was different now.  No tears.  He was flat, methodical.  "Okay, it's okay, now."


"The dog . . . he went limp.  The man dropped him to the ground, and petted him.  But . . . Dad . . . he was dead."


Todd, unable to contain himself, pushed the chair back from her, saying, "I'm going to get your baby brother," and raced out of the cubicle.  She didn't call after him, she just closed her eyes, and two single tears rolled onto her face.


***


Blair was still holding Sam, and he was in the mood to talk, almost like a compulsion.  He said, "Mom, that guy was weird, I always knew he was."


"What do you mean, Sam?"


"I told Jack he was weird.  I just knew it.  His eyes never smiled."


Blair, how could YOU not see these things?


"What did he do that was weird?"


"He killed Mixie," Sam started to cry.  "He took his head and broke it."


She swallowed, realizing how horrific the day had been for her son, and for her daughter.  She said, "That was mean, wasn't it?"


"Yeah.  He petted him, too, when he put him down."


She felt sick.  Petting the dog, after its death. . ."Anything else?"


"No.  Just that the other day, I figured out he was weird, when he asked me to go into his cottage and have lemonade."


Her heart leaped into her throat.  "He . . . what?"


"He asked me to go have lemonade with him in his cottage.  And I said, 'no thanks,' and he said, 'what about soda or milk and cookies?' and I said 'no.'"


She contained herself.  "That was very smart to do, but you should have told Mommy that."


"I just went in the house and told Jack the guy was weird.  I didn't tell about the cottage, though.  I told Shaun, too.  Just about him being weird."


This wasn't Malcolm at all.  This was someone else.


"He knew Dad."


"Yes, well, he . . . how do you know he knew Dad?"


He started to cry again, "He was beating up Starr, bad, and she talked back, and he said, she was just like her father."


Blair, alarmed, hugged her son, and kissed his cheeks, each in turn.  She said, "No more about this, right now, I'll be right back, okay?"


She stepped out of the cubicle.  The image of Bitsy's latest drawing, the one she was making at the lake, popped back into her mind.  And then, one by one, she remembered Bitsy's other drawings.  The little boy, with the man, with the bat.  The little boy . . . that looked like Todd.  


She knew, she knew something was going to happen.  She . . . Oh my God!

Blair went to Starr's bedside to find and tell Todd, and when she saw he was gone, she said, "No!" aloud.  Starr opened her eyes.  Blair said, "Hey, beautiful girl, you okay?"


"Dad.  Was here."


"Yes, I know.  Where is he, Starr?"


"He . . . ran out.  He . . . went to get Ray."


"My God," Blair said.


"I told him . . . everything.  He asked me if the man had an accent."


Blair knew he didn't.


"I told him, how he killed the dog.  With his hands, Mom."


"Starr, I have to go.  I . . . have to take care of something.  I'll be back, and Dorian is here.  I love you."


"Mom, don't let Dad . . . don't let him leave us."


"I won't, Precious."


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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 21

Samuel looked over at Todd. "Okay, whatever you need me to do, I'm game, but I have one question."


"What's the question, Samuel?" asked Todd.


"How the Hell do I get out of here?" inquired Samuel. He couldn't see any doors or anything. How was he supposed to get back out in the world? Samuel saw that he had arrived back at his apartment. 'Rodd' was looking at all of his art supplies. "God I hope he doesn't try and do any painting."


Suddenly Todd was laughing. "Boy, are you right, That would be a disaster." He chuckled. "Don't worry, Rodd's a lover not a painter. By the way, you're pretty even tempered, I suggest you keep it that way. If you were to lose your temper, I'm afraid Pete might try and take over and he's very volatile. We'll do our best to keep him contained here. Things have a way of getting out of control when Pete's in charge. But you were wondering how you get out, it's simple. Stand here."


Samuel stood where Todd told him, not sure what was going to happen next.


Todd suddenly yelled."Rodd get your butt back here!"


Samuel jumped when another man similar to Todd appeared in front of him. "Samuel meet Rodd", but before he could shake Rodd's hand he felt a lurching motion in the pit of his stomach, he was dizzy all of a sudden. He reached out to stop himself from falling over and realized his hand was touching his easel. He was home. Whoa that was wild. Then he heard Todd's voice in his head. "See simple, ok you're set. Remember we're here and doing what we can to get the memories free. Good luck." Samuel rubbed his forehead. Well that had to be the craziest encounter he was ever likely to have. but he felt pretty good. He wasn't alone and now he knew why he was here. It was time to figure out his next move. Samuel walked back over to the Medical File. The next answer was going to be found at that clinic. He needed to search out the clinics around Philadelphia. In this day and age the quickest way to do that was by computer, but he didn't have one. Who did he know that had access to computers? Hmm, this is where being a recluse was a disadvantage. Well, he didn't know many people but he still knew a few. Of the people he knew, a couple of them worked with computers. Simone, whom he had just met, and his friend, young Jessica, the bank teller. It wasn't yet closing time at the bank. He would try Jessica.


Samuel walked over to Dee's portrait. He looked at her, "You are my Dee, my beautiful angel. It was Todd who called you Delgado. To me, you are Dee and I think you'll remain my Dee. I know your real name is Tea now, but that doesn't work for me either. So my lovely Dee, it's time I exchanged some more money. I hope I'll be able to persuade Jessica to help me." He opened the safe and took out some more currency, pocketed it and put Dee back in place. "I'll see you later." Then he headed out the door. On the street, there were several cabs at the stop. Picking the first one, Samuel instructed the driver to take him to the bank. It was a short trip, but Samuel had chosen to ride there, as opposed to walking, because of the lateness of the hour. He needed to get there before closing. Samuel paid the driver and entered the bank. He headed over to Jessica's station and waited patiently for her to finish with the customer in front of him.


Jessica was finishing the paperwork from her previous customer. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a customer move up to her window. "May I ..." she stopped stunned. Monsieur Toddman was standing in front of her and he looked different. He wasn't hiding his face, which in itself was amazing, but his whole demeanor had changed too. The man in front of her exuded confidence and he was smiling at her. She felt herself blushing at his gaze. "Monsieur Toddman what a surprise! I didn't think we would see you for a while. It's been less than a week since you were here last."


"Yes, dear Jessica, I understand. You see certain circumstances have caused me to make some changes. So I find myself in need of exchanging some more of my funds. My visit is two-fold. I am in need of your assistance on another matter and I hope you'll be able to help me out." Samuel looked at her expectantly.


"Monsieur Toddman, I am here to help in any way I can. Shall we take care of the exchange and then you can tell me what you need next." Jessica became all business as she worked on the money exchange. Wow she thought, he's asking for my help, I wonder what he needs? She completed the transaction and looked at him . "What else can I help you with?"


"This is going to sound strange, but Jessica, I am in need of someone with computer skills who can help me with a search. I'm hopeless with all of that kind of technical stuff, but I thought of you, and hoped you might be the one who would be able to get the information I need. Can you aid me?" asked Samuel.


"Monsieur, I would be delighted to help. Is this something that needs to be done immediately?" Jessica asked. "The bank is closing, and I won't be able to use their computer, but I do have my own laptop. There is a cyber connection at the cafe across the way. Perhaps we could go there and I could help you then."


"That would be great, Jessica. As it is nearing the early dinner hour, I hope you'll allow me to buy you dinner in appreciation for your help." Samuel said. "If the guards will allow me, I'll wait for you to finish up."Jessica quickly closed her station, She didn't want to keep Monsieur Toddman waiting. He had invited her to dinner. It was a dream come true. After all these years, she was going to spend time with him. Over the years she had fantasized about her mysterious client. He had always been so polite and she had never been able to find out anything about him. It was that elusive quality that attracted her to him. She loved the mystery that seemed to surround him. He had always hidden his scars, but today when he was standing there in front of her he seemed unaware of them. Whatever had prompted him to hide them, was no longer relevant. Jessica picked up her laptop and went out to meet him. God, he’s Gorgeous! She smoothed her skirt, as she walked towards him.


As Jessica drew near, Samuel gave her his elbow to hold and led her out of the Bank. He covered her hand with his free hand and they crossed the street to the cafe. As it was nearing dusk, they entered the cafe looking for an interior table, Samuel noticed one in a secluded corner, where they could work and eat, away from the general commotion. Samuel turned to Jessica, "Shall we eat something first then we can take our time with my search." Samuel asked. Jessica nodded and Samuel ordered some wine to start with and then they made their choices for dinner.


Jessica had so many questions. What was this search that was so important to Monsieur Toddman? Why had he stopped wearing the mask? Where had he gotten the scars? Did she dare ask? The waiter came with the wine and poured. Jessica picked up her glass and took a sip. What the heck. I’m here, I’ll ask. She cleared her throat and asked. "Monsieur Toddman, I was most surprise to see you without your mask today. Could you tell me why you stopped wearing it?"


"I will tell you Jessica, because you know what that mask has hidden all along and never asked a single question about them. First though, would you please call me Samuel. We've known each other long enough to be on a first name basis, don't you think?" Samuel smiled at her.


"Yes, I agree. Samuel please explain. I would really like to know." Jessica felt the flush begin in her cheeks, as she used his first name. He was so handsome when he smiled.


"I've had the scars for a number of years. I can only tell you I hid them because I was ashamed of them. Your next question is going to be, why was I ashamed of them? The truth would be, I didn't know. I know you have been curious about me since we met. Would it surprise you to hear that I myself was curious about me. When I met you seven years ago, I was as much in the dark about myself as you were. I came to Paris, a man with no past,no memories. I have lived in the shadows ever since. I had no memories of who I was before coming here to Paris. I knew my name and that I could paint so I came here to do that. I'm an artist and surprisingly a good one. I've been able to make a comfortable life for myself here. But a couple of days ago, I started getting snatches of memory returning. One of those memories concerned this scar." Samuel fingered the scar along his cheekbone, "It wasn't a pretty memory and I almost gave up, the night of that memory, but something else occurred that night. A beautiful woman told me that my scars were not frightening. And she wanted to be in my company. Something in me righted that night. I faced that memory and decided to face the world along with it. It is time I found my memories however horrible they might be. I believe you might be able to help my search."


Jessica was stunned. Samuel really was a man of mystery. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. He had no memories. Had he truly almost given up. That would have been such a shame, she was grateful to the woman who had stopped that. He really didn't know just how fascinating he was. Maybe it was that air of complete unawareness of self that he projected, that made him so charming. Samuel wasn't like so many other men, he didn't believe he was God's gift to women, he had no ego. He had no ego, but he possessed an innate confidence in himself to face any obstacles. She was going to do anything she could to help him. She was deeply flattered he trusted her enough to ask. The waiter arrived with their food and they ate in comfortable silence. As the waiter came back to get their plates, Jessica reached for her laptop. "Samuel, after what you just told me, I would be truly ashamed if I didn't help you in every way possible. The night is young, shall we get to work." She smiled across the table, laid her laptop down, and turned it on.


Samuel reached across the table, covered her hand briefly and said:"Thank you."


Jessica looked at Samuel,"Where do you want to start?"


Samuel took a moment to order some more wine and then turned his full attention to Jessica. "Well I'm trying to find out how many clinics and medical facilities there are on the outskirts of Philadelphia Pa. I received my records from the hospital I woke up in eight years ago. Nothing in those records could tell me why I've suffered the memory loss, but I discovered a curious item reported by the ER attending, on the night I was brought to the hospital. It seems that I spent some time in a clinic outside of Philadelphia before being sent to the hospital. But there is no information concerning the name of the facility in my records. The records do say that I must have been at this other facility for several months because some of my injuries had partially healed. I know I'm looking for a needle in a haystack, but something tells me that clinic or facility is important. I was hoping we could look up the various clinics and research facilities around Philadelphia. Since I'm looking for places that might have worked with people who had head injuries, I figure we'll be able to eliminate a number that have nothing to do with those types of injuries. So shall we start."


Jessica started by googling research facilities around Philadelphia, Pa., to her dismay a large number of facilities popped up. They started eliminating facilities that were for children and cancer patients. Then they crossed off all college research facilities and big name pharmaceuticals. Surprisingly they managed to knock the list down to a handful of places that might fall into the category that Samuel was looking for. Two places showed the most promise. There was the Brain Injury Hospital outside of North Philadelphia and there was the The Kipling Neuroscience Research Facility that was south west of Philadelphia. There were also several small town clinics that spoke of having ER capabilities, the Cherryvale Clinic and a small hospital, the Silver Mountain Hospital in the mountains between Llanview Pa. and Philadelphia. Pa.. Samuel had the waiter bring a piece of paper and he wrote down all the pertinent information.


“I can't thank you enough Jessica. These will definitely give me a starting place. I don't know why, but I feel one of these places saw me that night long ago. Now I was wondering if you could look up a name for me. What kind of information is there on a man called Carlo Hesser?”


Jessica typed in the name, but wasn't prepared for what popped up when she clicked on it. It seemed Mr Hesser was a notorious criminal mastermind currently wanted in the United States, Ireland and several countries in Europe. Samuel realized Todd had been right when he said Carlo Hesser was dangerous. He and Jessica read of Hesser's leadership of a group of men known as the Men of Twenty-One a terrorist organization with ties to several deaths in Ireland and the United States. Mr Hesser engineered a prison wide riot in order to escape the Maximum Security Penitentary back in 2005 . Mr Hesser was considered dangerous and his whereabouts unknown.


"Samuel, this is a very bad man,is he someone you know?" Jessica asked.


"I don't know him, but unfortunately he is aware of me. Now I have to ask myself why he is interested in me. That is a man who I sense is real trouble." said Samuel. " My dear, I need to look up one more gentleman. I'm not sure what we'll find about this man but I give you warning that I've been said to resemble him. I assure you right now that I am not him, but I think he and I are somehow connected, and finding out about him might stimulate some of my memories. Are you willing to look him up?"


"Oui, Samuel, I'm here to help you tonight. We will look at this man together and face the truth about him." Jessica said resolutely if somewhat apprehensively. "What is his name?"

"His name is Todd Manning and I understand he lives in Llanview, Pa." said Samuel.


Jessica typed in Todd Manning’s name and the town of Llanview, Pa. Then she clicked on the site. The first news item that came up was about a gang rape that took place on the Llanview University Campus. Todd Manning and two other fraternity buddies gang raped a young Co-ed named Marty Saybrooke. Jessica gasped when she saw the picture of the three rapists, one of them could have been Samuel's younger brother. She glanced at Samuel and could see he was visibly shaken by what he was reading. There were other articles about a prison break and Mannings' subsequent rampage through town terrorizing his ex-lawyer, kidnapping a young woman, and accidentally killing a man. Then they came across an article that stated that Manning had saved his rape victim and two children from a car crash and was then pardoned by the governor. Later articles told of Manning being recognized as the Lord heir and taking his place in the Llanview upper crust. Then Jessica and Samuel came across an article dated 2004. It spoke of Manning, who had been presumed dead in 2003, returning to Llanview with a new face. Both his old and new face appeared in the article. An article in 2006 told of Manning being sentenced to death for the murder of a mother and child and being saved right after he flatlined at his execution, because his victim wasn't dead. There were a few more articles but Samuel had seen all he could stand.


Samuel's hand was shaking as he reached over and shut Jessica's laptop. He had thought he could handle any other shocks that might come his way, he was mistaken. Jessica looked over with alarm as Samuel lost all color and appeared to be having trouble breathing. She quickly grabbed his wine and held the glass to his lips. He managed to drink a little and he began breathing easier. Samuel sat there, not saying anything, in his head he saw the rape of Marty, and he also remembered Nora and Suede and Rebecca.

 The memories had come rushing back like a tidal wave and he had almost gone under.
He had known Todd had done something horrible to Marty and now he remembered the whole sordid story. Todd had been a monster back then, but as he sat there Samuel realized that there was much more to Todd then those horrible actions. Suddenly more memories came to him of two young children, who had loved and protected Todd and became fast friends with Todd. Todd had saved the young boy, as well as Marty, and the young boy's cousin Jessica. Samuel blinked and focused on the young woman looking anxiously at him. Now he understood why he had developed a liking for her. She reminded him of his niece. He smiled at Jessica and once again reached for her hand. "Dear Jessica, Thank you. I'm sorry if I scared you but I’m much better thanks to your quick thinking. I'm afraid though, that my searching is at an end tonight. Please allow me to see you home."


"It is I who will see you home, Samuel. I fear the shock you received isn't fully gone. Therefore I'm not leaving you until you're safely in your apartment. I'm a big girl, Samuel, and I will accept no arguments." Jessica got the check from the waiter and Samuel paid it then they exited and got a cab. A few blocks later they pulled in front of Samuel's apartment.


Samuel climbed out and insisted that Jessica remain , "I'm quite back to normal I assure you. Thank you for all your help. Driver, take this young lady where she requests." he pulled out a generous amount of Euros, paid the driver and said a final goodbye to Jessica, and watched as the cab pulled away. "Todd, I'm not so sure I'm as strong as you think I am." he said as he walked to his apartment and entered for the last time that day.


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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 60

The next morning, Tina, Timothy and Sister Rebecca Katherine went to breakfast together.  It was early, and they went in, grabbed their trays and began talking about The Mannings.

"Is there any word?"  Tina asked.  She had just found out from Timothy and was worried about her nieces and nephews.


"Nothing new.  Todd's just landing in Llanview about now.  With all that's going on, I suspect we won't hear for a while."  Timothy said.


"When I think of that little boy, alone with some strange man . . ."  Tina said.


"Which brings me to the next thing.  Malcolm."  Timothy began.


"I don't know, but it just seems so wrong about him.  I mean, he just didn't seem the type, in the least."  Tina said.  "Poilte, refined.  Just seems wrong." 


"He was so grateful to Todd," the nun added.  "It doesn't seem like it would happen, but then again, just how much do we know the man, eh?"


"Is there any way it could be someone else?"  Tina asked.


There was silence.  The nun admitted to herself that she hadn't thought of it.  Timothy, however, was a different story.  "No telling," was all he said.


The nun caught his tone, and decided to wait until Tina went back to Aiden to ask him about it.  "I am sick over this.  Starr, Poor Dear, beaten almost to her demise, and that Little Ray, he's so precious and full of energy."


"Sam was found," Timothy said.  "Jack knew where to find him.  He's in shock, not able to speak."


Tina's eyes brimmed.  "My God, I love Sam, and I adore Little Ray.  He and I are bonded.  From the Mitch thing."


"I remember," Timothy said.


"This can't be happening," she said, putting her spoon down.  "My brother, he's . . . been so much in turmoil.  He and I were never really close, but, there's something . . . " her voice trailed off.


"Tina, it will be all right.  They will find Ray if he does not run his captor ragged first."  Sister Rebecca Katherine said.


"Hmf.  That's true."


"The family is going to need a great deal of support.  Sam will need counseling, and Jack, who's taking the blame, Todd, who is going to feel responsible, and Starr who may need medical attention for a while.  It's such a shame and so sad, really," the nun added.


"What can we do?"


"Only pray," the clergywoman said.


***


Jack was slumped against the chairs in the waiting room, dozing.  Jenna, who was watching Jewel, now noticed her starting to stir.  The teenage girl could not sleep; what had happened to Jack's family was too disturbing and too real.  She shook Blair, gently.  "Mrs. Manning?  I think Jewel needs to be fed."


"Jenna, my goodness, I just realized it's almost three in the morning.  Someone should come and get you, and take you home.  Or we can call a taxi, or our driver. It's very late."


"Lynnie knows.  She understands."


"But you need your rest as well."


"Mrs. Manning, please.  I think . . . with all due respect, I think Jack needs me."


She had to give the girl credit.  Standing by her man, at a young age.  Blair said, "As long as it's okay with your sister."


"It's fine, I promise you," she said handing the baby off to her mother.


Blair got up to take the baby into the bathroom with her for privacy.  She said, "Thanks," and went on her way.


Dorian was also awake.  Like Jenna, she couldn't find a way to sleep.  She said, "You're quite the young lady."  Having worked with Jenna at the gallery, Dorian was quite familiar with the pleasant, mature girl.  


"Thank you."


Jack jerked to sitting, and looked around him.  "Tell me this is a dream."


"It's not," Jenna said, taking his hand.


"Ray's gone, for real?"


"Ray's gone.  Starr's in there, and Sam."


"My father will be here soon.  He'll know what to do."


Dorian didn't say anything, she just got up and walked away.  She wanted to peek in on both Starr and Sam.


Jenna said, "Jack, you know this is not your fault."


"I don't want to talk about that.  Of course it's my fault.  If I was there, he would have had Starr and me to deal with.  Or I could have gone with him, instead."


"That's beautiful, that you want to support your siblings that way, but . . ."


"I was selfish and stupid.  If I were there . . . I don't want to think about it.  Please, Jenna, I can't talk about that."  His eyes were full of watery fire, and his cheeks were flushed.


"All right, we won't, not now.  But I know we will have to talk about it sometime."


"I just . . . I just want my family back.  I just want us to be happy.  I'm so. . . scared."


She sat next to him and put her head on his shoulder.  "What are you scared about?"


"Can't you tell?"


"Tell me.  It's good to say it out loud."


"I'm scared the man could hurt my little brother.  He's innocent. He never did anything to anyone.  And my sister, that she could not recover, or that she was raped, or something."


"Those make sense to be scared of."  She herself had thought of all of them.


"And Sam.  Like what if he can't get over what happened?  He never talks again or something."


"I know, I understand.  But time and love fix a lot of things.  Sam will talk.  He wants to.  He just can't, that's what your mother said."


"You know, I just wish my father was here," he said, and his voice caught.  


She touched his face and said, "He'll be here.  On his way.  You know that."


Blair walked back from the ladies' room, with Jewel in her basket, and for a moment, looked at her sleeping daughter and realized that Bitsy had known everything about Jewel's birth, as well as her size.  The basket was perfect for her, and had actually turned out to be a protective camouflage for her when needed; the kidnapper never noticed the little baby, and this saved her from being taken along with Ray.


Blair pushed the image of her little boy from her mind, but it kept seeping back:  the little smile; the long, mousey-brown curls that touched his shoulder; his running around and ignoring directions; the way he looked like Todd.  The lump in her throat became stronger, and she couldn't fight it anymore.  She wanted her baby boy, and she longed for his little face to be in front of hers and to kiss his chubby cheek.  Overtaken by her feelings, she began to cry, in fact, she started to sob, as if the damn had finally broken.  


She stepped over to a small section of chairs in an empty area of the emergency room to rest the basket on, and poured her sadness out through her tears.  The pain in her chest and her throat was physical.  It was more than emotion and more than sadness.  It was as if a part of her was ripped from her, and she recognized the feeling from her loss of her other babies, Brendan, Sommer and her first child with Todd so many years ago.  It felt the same, and she despaired, wanting to lie down and stop living.  


She leaned on a railing, and lost her composure, sliding to the floor and leaning against the wall, her sobs devastating the facade she had put on since she'd discovered what had happened at Unforgettable in her absence.  Her cries were audible but soft, and longing, and she put her face into her hand and let all of it go.  


He walked over to her, his face covered with pain and knowing, and slid down the wall next to her, until he was sitting alongside her.  She uncovered her face and saw him, and somehow it made the outpouring even stronger.  She wasn't prepared for strong, muscular arms to wrap around her and pull her close into safety.  She wasn't even sure he was real, until she heard, "Babe, it's okay, I'm here, now.  Come on," and he pulled her across him, holding her to his broad, warm chest.  


"Todd," she said through her wails.  


He'd arrived, and he was with them.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 59

It was not quite six in the evening when Calvin filled his tank with gas and readied to make the drive out of Llanview.  He looked at the baby, who was sitting in the passenger seat, belted in, and hoped no one would notice.  That was when he got a better idea.

"Boy, we're getting you a new way to travel," he said, picking the toddler up.  He contemplated the trunk, before settling on putting the toddler onto the back seat, and covering him with a blanket.  He said, "Now, be very quiet."  


Ray was somehow complying.


He completed filling the tank and paid, and got back into the driver's seat.  "You look like your father, you know that?"  he asked no one.  The little boy said nothing.  He was playing with the stuffed toy Calvin had given him to keep him quiet.  It was an airplane with a cute, happy face.  Calvin could see that under the blanket, the kid was pretending to make it fly.


He almost smiled to himself, then stopped, reminding himself why he was taking the kid in the first place.  The money, wasn't all of it.  He wanted revenge, as well, but the more he thought of it, the angrier he became, so he pushed it back into his memory for review at a later date.  Leaving Manning's eldest daughter in a heap of bruises, and letting the little mongrel witness the death of his pet was a good start.  There was definitely more to come for Todd.


***


"Hi, Sam," Blair said, entering the cubicle where he was.  His color was remarkably better.


He put his arms out to his mother, and she went to him and held him.  She rocked him gently, saying, "It's all right, My Sweet Boy."


He looked at her, with his eyes wide again, as if he were trying to convey something to her.  She said, "It's okay, I know you want to talk to me and can't.  I know."


He took her hand and squeezed it.  "I know, you told Jack things.  It's all right."


He was still crying, and wanting to speak so much, that he was practically grunting.  She said, "Do you want to tell me something?"


He squeezed her hand.  Yes.  She remembered from Jack's previous statements that he used this signal.


"Do you want Mommy to guess?"


He squeezed her hand.  "Do you want to ask me if Ray is all right?"


He squeezed her hand again.  She made a conscious decision to lie to her son.  "Yes, he's all right."


He closed his eyes, and tears sprung out of them onto his cheeks, and he fell back onto the bed, exhausted.  He soon fell into the rhythmic quiet of sleep.  She brushed his hair back from his forehead.


"You're not ready to talk to me, Little Man, but I hope you will be, soon."


She looked to the ceiling, and the to the clock.  "He'll be here, in about six hours.  Not too much longer.  I know you want your Daddy, in order to feel safe," she said, leaning in to kiss him.  "Me, too."


***


Dorian made her way into Starr's makeshift room of the emergency room.  She brushed Starr's hair back from her face, and revealed purpling bruises and cuts to her cheek bone and lip.  Biting her own lip, she said, tears brimming, "What happened to my girl?  Who did this, and why?"


Starr, of course, did not answer.  She just remained still, bandaged and battered. 


"Whoever he is, I'd better not meet him, because I'll give him what for."  Then she whispered, "and he better not have hurt you any more than what we see right now.  I swear it."  Tears spilled over the matriarch's cheeks.  "You'll say you're a Manning, but you're a Cramer, through and through.  We know what you did, that you stood up for those little boys, and probably fought back.  We know.  I can only imagine what you tried to do to save them."

She sniffed, brushed water from her cheek, and pulled a chair up.  "Everyone's here for you.  Your mother, Jack, and me.  Sam's okay, he's just a little scared.  All of us are waiting for you to come to and talk to us.  We love you, and we want you to be all right.  You have a little girl waiting on you, so wake up soon.  Come back to us."


***


Todd had been on the plane for over three hours, and was anxious about getting to Llanview.  In his frustration, he had told off the airport manager, as well as two flight attendants and a newsstand worker.  Thinking back on it, he knew he was in the wrong, but he couldn't have controlled his anger if he had tried.  His little girl, his Shorty, was hanging on for her life; his son, Sam, was traumatized (according to Jack's texts,) and his baby son, the one he held to his heart when he was going through some of the worst revelations and memories, was kidnapped.  He sighed.


In a flash, he was remembering Starr, at the penthouse, with Blair, Tea and The Coach.  His mind drifted back:


"I don't want you to go," Starr had said, wearing a pink sweater and a pink headband to hold back her golden hair.


"I don't want to go," he'd said.


"I don't like saying goodbye."


"I don't either.  Listen.  There are a lot of people in this world who don't like me, and a lot I don't like and a lot of people I don't care if I ever see again for the rest of my life."


"Not me, though," she'd said, moving her long blonde hair off her shoulder.


"No, not you.  Starr, every time I see you, I think the world's a little better.  So, what's your favorite color?"


"You know."


"No, I don't know.  Is it pink?"


"Yeah, right, because it's so pretty!"


"Right.  You like pink better than red, right?  And you like pink better than white."


"White's not really a color . . ."


"Whatever, you mix up red and white and what do you get?  Do you know?"


"No."


"That's how you get pink."


"You do?"


"Yeah, you do.  Me, I'm red.  And Blair, Blair's white.  And we got all mixed up, and what did we get?"


"You got me!"


"Yeah, we got you.  And you're better than me, and you're better than Blair.  You are, you're prettier and you're smarter than both of us put together."


"Mommy's the prettiest."


"I think you're the prettiest, Starr."


"And you're smarter than me."


"That's right, I am.  I'm going to miss you," he'd said, starting to give in to his sadness.


"I'm going to miss you, too," she'd said, hugging his neck.


"I'm going to miss you, Starr, because you're the best thing that ever happened to me.  You make me happy."


He wiped his eyes, and looked back out the rounded window.  They were above the clouds now, but it was dark, and he could barely tell where the clouds were and where the sky was.  Starr was beaten . . . he closed his eyes.  He didn't want to imagine it, and still worse, he didn't want to see it.  Not Starr, not his Shorty.  


He turned his attention to the details he had.  Malcolm.  The man who had lost his wife, and pined over her, not even able to step outside because he had lost her, was the same man who beat his daughter almost to death and took his baby son?  


"There has to be more to this," he said, aloud.  "A lot more.  Just what it is, I don't know."  He tried to call Blair, and he couldn't get a signal.  He was alone with it and alone with what he'd done.  


He'd sent the man to them.

When he had hired Malcolm, he'd been so sure about him.  He seemed genuine.  To beat a young girl to death, would have taken more strength than Todd gave him credit for; not a small man, but smaller than he was, and more delicate, it seemed, if that were the right word.  His hands were those of an artist; his fingers were slender and petite compared to Todd's, and his refined way of speaking and approaching conversation reflected years of specific upbringing.  He'd understood about Blair.  Most off, the man had been grateful to Todd for helping him to bridge the gap to a new life, so why in the HELL would he do this to my family?


The question was haunting him, and would be until the final day when he could confront him himself.  And there would be a confrontation, on the day he got his hands on him and beat him the same way he beat his daughter.  His beautiful, "pink" daughter, Starr.


Before he knew it, another hour had passed.  The guy had his son, and he began to guess at what he wanted him for.  He knew that his thinking would be skewed by his own experience.  Did he want to hurt him?  Molest him?  Was he a sick pervert who might brutalize and kill his little boy, for his own sadistic needs?  The face of Little Ray danced in his mind's eye for a moment, the way his hair bounced on his shoulders, and Todd's eyes filled with water.  


No.  He probably just wants money.  What did I tell him?  I'm filthy rich?  He's out for a buck, and the kid will come back, unscathed.  That's all, he wants money . . .


Then, he wondered why his daughter was beaten so badly if that were true, and tried Blair again.  Something to deflect his thoughts.  Just to hear her voice . . . just to . . . he remembered Skype, on his tablet, and how he had recorded her a few nights back.  He fished his tablet out of his bag and turned it on, and fumbling at first, located the file and played it.


Mr. Manning has asked me to make a verbal statement that he can tape record and save.  I, Blair Manning, will love him until the end of time.  No one else ever.  Not even a single look in another man's direction, and my question is, what other men?  When I'm around you, Mr. Manning, there's no one else in the world.  There never was.  I love you, My Love.  Get home soon.


He shut the device and covered his eyes with his hand perched at his brow.  Had he sent a crazed maniac into the solace and safety of their home?  And if he did, how could he find and destroy the man? 


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