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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 71

Jenna was at the front door when Dorian opened it.  "Yes, Jenna?"

"I'd like to see Jack, if that's all right."


Dorian pursed her lips.  "I suppose.  I'll get him."


Addie stepped forward.  "Jenna, go right up.  You know which is his room.  Just leave the door open, will you?"


"Of course, I know the rules.  I'm just here because, well, he called me.  He needs someone right now."


Addie said, "We know.  Go on ahead now."


As she walked off, Dorian closed the front door and said, "You undermined me."


"You needed it.  I had to.  You caused him to be upset.  Now he needs a friend.  Jenna's a good girl, a positive force in his life.  He needs that without his mother and father here."


She didn't answer, she just walked into the living room, and Addie followed.


Jenna turned at the top of the stairs and went to the door of what used to be Jack's room.  She knocked, and he said, "Get away."


"It's me," she said, and within seconds the door opened.  He fell into her arms and held her close to him.  She continued, "I think it's going to be okay."


"I don't want to drink," he said.  "in case you're worrying.  I promised my father.  He can't come back to me drinking.  Neither can Mom."


"That's a good thing.  And you don't have to drink.  You can talk, with me.  As long as you want."


She sat at his desk, and he sat across from her, on his bed.  "Shaun's really hurt.  Starr's all beat up.  It's because I left them."


"No, it's not.  It's because of that man, Malcolm, whatever."


"He's not Malcolm," Jack said.  No one had told him anything, but in the pit of his stomach, he knew it wasn't Malcolm Carlisle that had hurt his family.  It was someone else.  A force, a demon, someone very evil, and he thought he knew.  He said, "He's some crazy dude.  Whoever he is, he's sick."


"Then there's no possible way it's your fault, Jack Manning.  No possible way."


"I was supposed to be there.  He would have had more of us to fight off."


"It's over with.  You can't go back.  No one blames you."


"No, just me," he said, getting up and pacing, with his hands in his front pants pockets.  "Just me.  I blame me.  I was supposed to be home.  Maybe the old guy would have gotten me instead."


"You're just tormenting yourself.  You can't change a thing."


"Maybe.  Better than who my Aunt Dorian is blaming."


"Your father?"


"Yep."


"She can't blame him.  He had nothing to do with this."  Jenna sounded indignant.


"He did, in his own way.  She believes he brought the guy here, endangered us.  I don't believe that.  Whoever he sent can't be this guy.  No way."


"Then let her talk.  Your mother and father are who they are, together.  Your aunt can't change that fact, either."


"No.  But she can make his life miserable.  She's done it before.  She's one of the reasons my parents were apart when he came back from Ireland when Starr was a baby."


"That sounds like a long story.  Is it?"


"Yeah.  I just . . . don't want to be alone," he said, stopping in front of her.  She looked up at him from his desk chair.  "I don't want to drink, I don't want to think."


"All right."  She stood up, and went to the bedroom door, and to his surprise, she closed it.  Turning back to him, she took his hand and led him to the bed.  


He said, "Um, I . . ."


"Don't get any ideas.  Just lie down,"  she said.


He did.


She crawled in next to him and held him in her arms.


***


Blair was almost to her feet when Peter pulled the gun out from inside his shirt.  "Sit down, or I'll blow his head off."


She froze.  Todd was nowhere; he wasn't moving or reacting.  He's gone.  The lighter.  No.  She didn't sit down, but she didn't move, either.  Without warning, Peter went to the door and left the house.  At that point, she went to Todd, put her hand on his head and stroked his hair.  "Todd?  Todd, come on now, we need you.  Ray needs you, Todd."


He looked up at her, instantly, and seemed confused.  "What's going on?"


She sighed, and tears left her eyes.  He reached up and touched her face gently where it was bruised. "I think I . . . left for a minute.  Shit, he hurt you." Then, he became agitated.  "Where did the fucker go?"


"Outside.  I was scared I wouldn't be able to get you back."


"The lighter, he had it, right . . .?"


"I know, My Love," she said, hugging his head to her.


"I'm going to kill him, with my bare hands, you know that."


She dismissed it.  "He went out, Todd, he's going to get away, and we'll never find the baby."  She was panicking.


He got up and went to the window.  "He's not going anywhere, look."  The black Chevy was still there; Peter was making his way into the backyard instead.


"What's he doing?"  Blair asked, as she came up behind Todd and peered out the kitchen window.  He was walking across the yard with determined, long strides.


Todd knew.  "He's going to the shed.  He's probably got Ray in there.  Put him in there because . . . he wouldn't listen, maybe."


Blair was shaking so much he could feel it against his back.  Manning, come on, get it together.  She needs you and so does your son.  His numbness finally went away; it was replaced with a tingling sort of buzz in his head and limbs.  He turned to her and held her, briefly, as he continued to watch.  She said, "Let's go get him!"


"No, wait a minute," Todd said, trying to collect his thoughts.


Peter emerged from the shed with Ray in his arms.  The little boy was quiet, and Todd and Blair both knew it was from trauma or shock.  She said, "Oh my God, he has Ray.  Look at him, Todd, he's so scared!"  She was crying, and shivering, her lip crusting over from the break.


Attempting to determine which was the best course of action, Todd thought, with one arm still around Blair.  Peter was heading back to the house, but not on the route he came.  I can't shoot him while he's holding the baby.  Where's he . . .


He looked at Blair, and for a moment, he was unable to speak.  He just waited for things to register with her, when she also noticed where he was heading.  She said, "My God, he's going inside the house through the basement door.  He's . . ."


"I know.  Let's go."


"Your mother!  She's gone!"  At this, he looked at the place where Bitsy's crumpled form had been lying, and saw nothing.  "We don't have time for that.  We have to get down there," he said, taking Blair by the hand and racing to the door that lead to the basement.  It was locked, and he took his pistol and shot the lock off.  


They went down the staircase, to be there before Peter was, and made it.  It was dark, dank and musty, just as before.  Blair feared for Todd's mental well-being as they stood, once again, in the room with the white stained sink and paneled wall with the small door.


***


"Are we flying?"  Timothy had said to John.


John had closed up his office and answered, "We're not doing anything."


"Ya can't leave me out.  I just buried a son.  I'll be mincemeat if I lose the other."  John looked at the man, and their eyes locked.  "I'll do what ya say, I'm no hero.  I'm Todd's father, but not a Manning, if ya know what I mean.  My head can stay cool."


John liked the guy, and his approach.  "You'll follow my lead?"


"Yes.  I'm not Todd, I don't go off and do things half-cocked."


"If you put it that way, come on, then."


John remembered the conversation in Llanview he'd had with Timothy hours before.  Now, waiting in the airport bus depot, and just finishing his calls, John looked up to see Timothy approaching him, with a set of keys.  "I've secured a rental car."


"Good, let's go."  In situations like these, he took his time alerting authorities.  He could handle it.  He'd size up the situation and then decide if he needed help.  He went rogue when it was personal.  And this was personal.  For Blair, and he hated to admit, for Manning, too.


They got into the car, and Timothy said, "Are ya sure we don't need parts?"


"What?"


"Parts, ya know, guns."


"You mean pieces?  I've got one."


"What about me?"


"You don't go off half-cocked, remember?"


"Ah, yes.  I do recall that."


"Okay then.  You won't need one.  Things will be all right."


"Okay." Timothy looked out the window, as they pulled off.  He didn't care much for Chicago.  Everything seemed gray.  He didn't like the feel of it, and he didn't like what had happened to his son and Bitsy there.  He tried Todd again, on his cell phone, and got no answer.


"No answer?"  John asked.


"No."


"I'm sorry about your son, Aiden."


"I know, as am I.  This may not make sense to ya, but from this old Irish heart, I'm relieved that I was there when he was born, and this time, when he died."


John, swallowed, and at the next light, stopped and handed Timothy a pistol.  "Here, just in case."


***

"I should have killed him when I had the chance," Todd said.  The dampness of the basement chilled him, but he shook it off.


She said, "You couldn't.  You didn't know where he had the baby."  


She understands how I think.


"I wasn't talking about today.  I knew he had a gun," he said.  "Starr told me.  I . . . didn't want him to shoot me, and have his way with you and Momma . . . and Ray.  I was talking about . . . when I was fourteen."


"Don't go there, Todd, just, don't."


The cellar doors opened, and the light pouring in from outside, though dim, made them squint.  Peter stood at the top of the cellar steps, silhouetted, Ray dangling from under his arm.  "Just moving him to a safer place," Peter said, with caustic sarcasm.


Todd said, "Put him down, and we can talk about whatever you want."


"Nothing to talk about," the man said, walking toward them into the room.  The outside light wasn't doing much to help them see; so he reached up and pulled a ratty curtain back from a small window.


Blair could see her son's eyes adjusting to the small amount of light, and she tried to gain composure and fix her face, so he would not be as frightened.  She smiled, "Hi Baby Boy," she said.


"Mommy.  Daddy.  He's bad."


Todd swallowed, hearing his son say the words he knew to be simple but true.  He's a bad man.  Understated.  Simple.  It rocked him, to his core.  He pushed to the back of his mind how Ray may have determined that fact.  


Blair said, "Ray, are you all right?  Did he hurt you?"


Peter had Ray tucked under one arm, and clearly, his grip was tight.  "Shut that bitch up."  He continued, "You want to talk?  Talk about what?"


"Whatever you want.  Just put him down.  Better yet, let Blair have him, and she can go.  Right?  It's just really about you and me, isn't it?"


Todd was surprised when his father laughed, and said, "No.  It's not.  It's about me.  Period.  What you want isn't in the equation."


Todd and Blair still were standing where they started, in the center of the room, the staircase behind them.  Todd so wanted Blair to leave, but he knew she'd never go without her son.  He feared what Peter had planned next, and knew she was not off-limits to the man.  He'd seen his handiwork for years.  He said, "All right.  Then, you call the shots."


Sweat was dripping off Peter's brow, and Todd realized the whole event was physically taxing the older man more than he let on.  With the heart problems and his age, holding 35 pounds of kicking, squirming human had to be straining him.  But he didn't let on.  "I do call them.  That's the whole point.  That's how it was then, eh, 'Boomer?'" he sneered, mocking The Coach's name for him.


"Yeah, that's how it's always been."  Todd agreed.  He just wanted an opening.  A second where he could grab the baby, hand him off to Blair, and shout at her to run.  He had the car keys, she didn't.  He went into his pocket, indiscriminately, and fumbled for them.  Being from a rental car company, there was only one key on the ring, no jingling conglomerate of house and other keys.  He took them into his palm, and as Peter backed up toward the secret room door looking to his feet as not to trip on something, Todd found her hand and gave them to her.  Her only response was a soft, barely audible, "No."


Peter didn't even notice.  The strain was wearing on him.  "And it always will be that way," he added.  Ray started to cry.  "Shut up, kid."


Blair almost broke free of her husband's grip on her hand and lunged at Peter, but Todd pulled her back.  She sobbed a few times, and Ray cried harder.  Her heart was pounding in her chest, and Todd could feel her pulse beating in her hand.  Gotta stop this, now.  Gotta get them out.  "Seems we agree on that, at least.  So, what do you want?"  Todd said.  It was a fight like he never fought to contain his rage.


"To have you suffer and crumble right in front of me.  You spent your whole life fighting me."  Peter said.


He has no idea how right he is.


Peter continued.  "Different ways.  You were always rebellious against me.  You always stopped yourself from crying when you should cry.  You kept yourself from yelling out when you should have.  You had to show me you wouldn't break.  You always had to have the last word, without even speaking."


Blair leaned over and heaved.  She let go of Todd's hand again, and he could feel the key was no longer in it.  She'd taken it, and now, she was throwing up the day's nourishment onto the floor.


Peter laughed.  "I guess that was too much information for her."


"Listen, time's wasting.  It's getting dark, you'll be able to get really far from here overnight.  You've got that car, you can have the money, whatever you want.  You want the last word?  You've got it."


"I want more than that," he said.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 25

Samuel walked out of the airport, he hailed a cab and instructed the driver to take him to the nearest luxury car dealership. Once there, he purchased a black sports car and drove southeast out of the city. He took the route that would take him past the Kipling Neuroscience Research Facility. It was a large facility with an incredible amount of security for a research institute. He wondered what they were researching inside. He made a mental note to get his contacts working on the Facility first thing in the morning.

Samuel took the interstate and found himself outside of Llanview in no time. The first thing he had to do was close the deal on the penthouse he had purchased. He found the realtors office, signed the closing papers and received the key to the property. Samuel was curious what his money had bought. He drove into downtown, heading for the address given to him by the realtor. The more he looked at the address the more familiar it seemed. He pulled into the parking garage and headed up to the penthouse floors. It couldn't be, but Samuel felt that definite sense of Deja Vu. As he stepped out of the elevator he headed straight for a very familiar door. Was it the right one? He checked the address, there it was, Penthouse # 2.  He put the key in the lock and walked in.

 For a moment time stopped, a memory assailed him and he again saw Blair on the floor as he walked into the living room. Then the scene in his head changed and he saw Dee standing in front of him vulnerable and crying in her red negligee. God!  He remembered what had happened next. He, or rather Pete, had thrown Dee out. It had been snowing that night. Samuel wandered around, the furniture from that time still was there. He saw himself, sleeping fitfully on the couch and suddenly waking up and accidentally flinging Dee to the floor. That had been the night Dee had stayed with him and watched over him as he slept. Samuel neared the stairs and saw Blair looking out the windows, waiting for a surprise that Todd had promised her. He saw her face light up as Fireworks exploded in the night sky. He set his luggage down and walked to the window looking at a building across the way. There it was. The Manning building. "I'm home. Look out Llanview, we're here to stay."

Samuel came out of his daydreams, there was work to be done. He walked over to the desk and blew some of the dust away. He better gets a cleaning crew in here and he needed to get some food. He reach for the phone and realized he still didn't have any service. It was probably better if he stuck with throwaway cells for the time being. Well, he'd better find a grocer, and he needed to locate a frame shop. Samuel wanted to get the girls on the wall as quick as possible. This penthouse was familiar, but it wouldn't be home for him until the Girls were where he could see and talk to them. He also better check with the building manager and find out if his supplies had arrived yet. Samuel needed the smell of paint and canvas surrounding him.

 It was a nice day, as Samuel stepped out of the elevator. He decided to take a walk, figuring to pick up some food while he was out. He needed to get familiar with the area, as his memory still had plenty of holes that needed filling. Samuel had walked for over an hour and found himself walking into an area with a statue of an Angel in the square. He was getting hungry and saw a cafe called the Buenas Dias Cafe and then noticed a grocer not much farther down the street. I should probably stay out of gathering places like restaurants for a while. Now isn't the time to run into someone who might have known Todd. He walked to the grocers and purchased some staples like bread, fruit, and cheese and walked back toward his penthouse. He stopped at a Liquor store and picked up a couple of bottles of wine too. With his arms full, he flagged down a cab and rode back to the penthouse. He got to his new home and once inside put the food and wine away. He had found out his supplies had been delivered while he was out.

 After putting his food away, Samuel opened the one box he had labeled cleaning supplies. Although that basically applied to his paint cleaning supplies he knew he had some clean rags that he could use to get the dust off most of the furniture. Samuel went to work making the living room more usable for him. After some rearranging, Samuel was satisfied with the setup. He had set up his easels for the time being close to the windows. He hadn't checked out the upstairs rooms yet, one of them might make an ideal studio, if not, then where the easels currently stood would work. Samuel hadn't passed a frame shop on his walk so he pulled out the telephone book and looked a few of them up. He found one out close to the cemetery. He would drive over and see what they had. 

While he had the phone book opened, Samuel looked up the only two names he knew, Blair Cramer and Todd Manning. Hmmm, Blair lived in one of the fancier neighborhoods, that was close to some estates. One of the estates was called Llanfair, that name rang a bell as he remembered something about Todd hiding out on the Llanfair estate. He found Todd Manning had a home in another exclusive area of town. So tomorrow he would look into those households, but he wasn't sure if he should let Blair know he was in town yet. Better to keep her in the dark until he figured out what was really happening here.

Samuel opened his luggage and pulled out the three canisters containing his portraits. He unrolled them to make sure they were undamaged and laid them side by side on the couch. "Welcome to our new home my dear ones. I have to go out, but I should be home shortly," then he left for the frame shop. When he pulled into the parking lot of the frame shop he noted it was across the street from the entrance to the cemetery. His eyes were drawn to the gates. The place seemed to be drawing him in. He shook his head and went into the shop.  After a bit of searching, he found the frames he needed to make the girls beautiful and whole. He purchased them and exited with them on his arm.

 As he got to his car, he felt the pull of the cemetery. Something was telling him he should go in. Samuel put the frames in his car and started to walk across the street. For some unknown reason he felt there were answers waiting for him in there. He was halfway across when a horn blared in his ear. Careful, Samuel, you almost became a permanent resident. A chill rippled through his body. Samuel turned and returned to his car.

Todd was petrified as he saw where Samuel was headed. “ No! Don't Go There!” He tried shouting at Samuel, but no words were coming out, what was the matter with him? He felt like he was going to pass out.  That was it, something happened in the cemetery. Todd managed to get out one word before collapsing. "Help." Pete was next to him and caught him as he toppled.

"Ms. Perkins something's happened." said Pete.

Ms. Perkins rushed to the bed where Pete had just laid down Todd. "What happened! Pete do you know what made him collapse?"

"How the hell, should I know, I was working on the wall like all of you." replied Pete. " I heard his cry and he dropped into my arms. That's when I called you."

Ms. Perkins looked out the windows trying to see where Samuel was. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. Samuel was driving back to town. He wasn't acting like anything was wrong. His heart was beating strong. Still, something Samuel did caused a relapse in Todd. She needed to find a way to communicate with Samuel. Of course! She could use the mirror in the car, but they needed to get Samuel to pull over. "Ok boys, we need to get Samuel to stop and get off the road. I have to talk to him. All together now. Everybody yell, Samuel Stop, on the count of three. One, Two, Three. SAMUEL STOP!"

Samuel jerked as the words popped into his head. They wanted him to stop. But why were they yelling, and how come Todd wasn't talking to him? Samuel saw a parking lot in front of him and pulled in. He stopped the car. Now what? He thought, "Todd what do you want?" No answer. Something was wrong, he tried to recall what he had done when he first heard the voices. Oh yes, he remembered the mirror. Well it’s worth a shot. Samuel flipped down his visor and opened the mirror "What happened? Where's Todd?... This isn't going to work, I'm crazy."

      "You’re not crazy, Samuel. This is the only way we can communicate when Todd is out. " said Ms.Perkins. "Something made Todd collapse, what have you been doing recently."

"What do you mean Todd collapsed? How long ago?" asked Samuel.

"It just happened, that's why I need to know the last few things you did. Something you did caused this and whatever it is Todd has retreated. I hope only temporarily but we need to know the cause, so when he faces it again he does it with us supporting him. So tell me where have you been?" pleaded Ms.Perkins.

"I just came from the frame shop where I picked up some frames." said Samuel.

"Did you see anyone or talk to anyone?" asked Ms Perkins.

" Other than the shop owner, I saw no one. I left the shop and put the frames in my trunk. I didn't speak to anyone else. Of course I almost got run over." answered Samuel. "I had been on my way across to the cemetery. Right after I almost got hit, I remember thinking that I almost became a permanent member. It was weird, a sudden chill ripped through my whole body right then, do you think that is when Todd collapsed."

 "Yes, I'm certain of it. Something about the place terrifies him and he's not strong enough to face it yet. For now, you must avoid it. I believe that it’s the key to the memory that is buried so deep right now. He's stirring I think he's coming back. Remember Samuel this particular memory is yours to protect until he's ready for it. I think you'll know when it's time to return to the cemetery. For now, it's too soon. Keep up the good work we're close to freeing all the rest of your memories. Goodbye for now,"

Just like that he was alone in the car again, Samuel took in her words. Something had happened in that cemetery. Something far worse than all the horrific memories he had encountered so far. Once again the cold raced through his body. Ms. Perkins was right, it wasn't time. Todd wasn't the only one who wanted to avoid that memory, Samuel wasn't ready to face it either. Samuel arrived back at the garage and parked his car. He gathered the frames and went up to the penthouse. After some dinner of bread, cheese and wine, he got to work mounting and framing the Girls.  Soon he had them hung on the wall above the fireplace. With the Girls in place, Samuel headed over to the desk and got out a piece of paper. He started making a list of things to do in the next couple of days.

Samuel knew he had to keep a low profile until Todd was ready to reappear, but he wanted to catch a glimpse of Vicki and Tea. He wanted to see the two women who had helped him all these years. It was going to be tricky but he knew there had to be a way. On thing he could do was drive around and find out where everybody lived. Samuel grabbed his coat and headed out for an evening drive. It would be fun the see places that were starting to pop up in his memory although he was sure some of those places might have bad memories too.

Samuel had several memories of the docks so he decided to head there first. He parked his car and took a slow walk towards the end. He paused at several locations, as he came upon them. He recalled sitting on the edge at one point and talking to Marty, he felt a twinge of pain in his heart when he realized the conversation had been about the loss of his child with Blair. With that memory a little too painful, he moved on to a portion in which he remembered standing over Delgado, his Dee, holding her necklace and then carefully putting it back around her neck. For one moment, they had been so close but he had managed to mess even that up.

Samuel stared out over the water and thought about how messed up his and Todd's life had always been. For eight years, he had been living in shadows but Todd, he had been living in hell most of his life and had only had glimpses of warmth and love to brighten his existence. Samuel felt deeply for Todd and hoped with all his heart that one day Todd might be free from his personal hell.

****
Todd laid there, he couldn't make himself open his eyes, something inside of him was terrified. He felt around and breathed a sigh of relief he was on the bed. Slowly he opened his eyes, he faced the windows and saw that Samuel was standing on the docks. He was cold and found a blanket suddenly next to him. He wrapped it around him and sat up shakily. "Ms. Perkins, what happened?" She was there next to him. Then she sat down and joined him on the bed.

"You collapsed. At first we didn't know why but I was able to have a talk with Samuel. I think we might now have some idea what brought you here eight years ago. Todd, I don't think you're ready to face it yet." answered Ms. Perkins.

"Maybe I'm not ready to face it but I need to know as much as you can tell me. The last thing I remember is watching Samuel go into a frame shop. What happened afterward?" asked Todd.

"Brace yourself then, Samuel came out of the Frame shop and after stowing the frames Samuel started to cross the street. He said he felt drawn to the place across the way. Before he made it across though he almost got run over so he changed his mind and headed home." said Ms. Perkins.

"That's it, he almost got run over. That doesn't make any sense, You're leaving something out. Just where was Samuel headed to?" Todd looked at Ms. Perkins directly into her eyes and said grimly. "Tell me."

"Very well, Samuel was headed into the Cemetery." as she told him, she kept a close eye on his reactions.

"The Cemetery." Todd gripped the edges of the blanket and drew it around him tighter. He felt so cold. He was shivering. Todd held on to the blanket for dear life and Ms.Perkins held on to Todd. He didn't collapse again, but he couldn't stop shaking. Slowly the shaking subsided and Todd turned to Ms. Perkins and held on to her as if his life depended on her. He whispered in her ear. "That's it, I know it. Something in there waits for me. It's been waiting for a long time. I don't think I'm strong enough to face it. I don't think I'm ever going to be strong enough." Even as he said those words, Todd remembered saying something similar to his sister Vicki. He was on that ledge again. Only this time he was trying desperately to hold on. The abyss below was trying to pull him in and it was taking everything he had to not let go.

Like his sister many years before, Ms Perkins merely held him and said. "You are strong Todd, you've lived a horrible strife-filled life but there is a strength in you that has always kept you going. It was that strength that created us to help you. There is also an innate goodness in you that has enabled you to have the love of others even though you feel unworthy. You must believe now that somebody out there does love you. That love is yours for the taking don't let the darkness win."

Todd withdrew from her arms, and sat up straighter. "You're right, I can do this. I lived through bullets and knife wounds, injuries that would have killed a normal man. But I'm not normal, I'm Todd Manning. I've beaten Death and I can beat this Abyss. I always have been and I always will be Todd Manning."



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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 70

Dorian had her hands full.  Jack, who was dealing with guilt, hadn't eaten since he arrived.  Sam was not sleeping, and the small boy had dark circles under his eyes.  Starr was not yet released from the hospital, and Hope, who was still very sick, was still on bed rest and liquids.  Jewel was running out of Blair's breast milk, and Dorian was reading magazines, looking for the best kind of formula in case she needed it.  She was frazzled, her hair out of place, and her face flushed.  

Sam came into the kitchen, behind her.  He said, "Auntie Dorian?"


She turned around, at first exasperated by more neediness, but when she saw his face, she softened.  He was gaunt, gray; his eyes were sunken.  She said, "What is it, Sam?" as tenderly as she could.


"I want to ask you something."


"All right," she said, going toward him.  She picked him up by the waist, and it surprised her how light he actually was.  She sat him on the kitchen chair and sat in one, across from him.  "What's on your mind?"


"I want to know if my Dad is going to die."


Dorian sighed.  "Everyone dies, Sam.  It's part of living."


"No, I want to know if he is going to die now."


"I don't think so, no."


"I . . . think of those pictures that Grandma Bitsy drew.  The man, it was the same man.  He was the same man in the yard.  In the pictures, he hurt Mom.  In the pictures, he did bad things, and he hurt my Dad."


"Those are drawings, Sam.  You know they are not real."


He swallowed, and his eyes were brimming with tears.  "No!  Some of them were real."


She was losing her patience, but kept reminding herself the trauma the child had experienced.  Todd.  Never a dull moment with him around . . . "Explain exactly what you mean, Honey."


"There were some real pictures, that she drew.  She drew a little boy, he was scared, the man had a bat, he was big and mean.  Jack said that some of the pictures were real, and Dad did, too.  It was his father, he said."


"He told you that?"


"Yeah.  I didn't like that he had a mean father.  He's lucky to have Grandpa Timothy, though.  He's a good man."


Coming out of Sam, it seemed so true and so real.  Timothy was a beautiful man.  She got lost in thought a moment, since she hadn't heard from him in the last day or so.  Then, she turned back to Sam.  "He is a very good man.  Your father is all right.  Nothing is going to bring him down.  He's probably got his mind set on getting Ray back."


"Yeah, he probably does.  He would do anything for my mom, or for me, or our family.  Even you.  He'd do anything for us."


She studied the little boy, and couldn't fault him.  His love for Todd was pure, and she knew she had no place disturbing it.  She said, "He would, wouldn't he?"


"Yep.  He told me.  He would give his life for us.  He did, a couple of times already.  He means it."


"I know he does," she said, and swallowed back tears herself.  "He certainly does mean it."


"So, is he going to die, Auntie Dorian?"


She took his hand.  "Sam, I don't want you to worry, please.  Everything will be all right.  You just think of something else."


"Like something happy?"


"Yes, like something happy."  His face changed.  She said, "See, that's much better."


"Yeah.  I was just thinking about my dockshun day.  It was so nice.  Dad paid for everything, and there were balloons and a Spiderman house.  That was the best part.  And that he and Mom did the fake wedding thing."


"That was the best part?"


"No, not really.  The very very very best part was that he was my dad, and he loved me."  She gulped and turned away, going back to her magazine.  He said, "I didn't mean to make you sad, Auntie Dorian."


"I'm . . . I'm not sad, Sam.  I'm . . . just thinking."


***


"Daddy said no stwangers."  Ray looked up at the large, looming man with wide, brown eyes.

"He did, huh?  Well, I'm not a stranger."


"You're bad."


"You're smart, kid."


"You're a bad man.  You hurt Starr."


"So?  Everyone hurts people.  Your father hurts people."


"No.  Daddy's not bad."


"Hmf.  I take back what I said about smart," he mumbled to himself.  Peter was still carrying Ray over his shoulder, when he heard the sound of simultaneous car doors.  He looked back toward the driveway.


Ray said, with an excited tone, "People!"


Peter opened the shed door, by turning a key in the padlock, unchained it, and put the little boy in.  "Stay in here and be quiet."


"No.  Mommy and Daddy," he said, starting to cry.


Peter paid no attention to the tears and slammed the shed door closed, relocking the padlock with his key.  He turned back to the driveway, and said, aloud, "Hmf.  This should be interesting."


In the driveway, Todd, Blair and Bitsy walked toward the house, looking back and forth to see if there were signs of life.  Nothing seemed alive about the house in Chicago.  It all seemed dead in different ways to each of them. 


Blair stopped behind Todd, who had paused at the side door.  He said, "Momma, this is where you sent us, remember?  The letter?  I think it was Christmas."


She nodded.  


Blair said, "Let's go in.  He's got Ray."  Todd pushed the door carefully, and it opened without any resistance.  The three of them stepped into the kitchen, and Bitsy grabbed Blair's hand for support.  Blair said, "Momma, it's all right.  You can wait in the car if this is too much."


The woman looked around her, and surveyed the room.  Memories came flooding back, and she made no effort to stifle the tears that were falling onto her face.  The rooms were all unlit, and it was early evening.  No light was being brought in from outside, and everything was shadowed and had an eerie appearance.  


Todd put an arm around her and said, "Momma, you can go.  In fact, Blair can take you . . ."


She shook her head.


Blair said, "I guess she told you, huh?"


He walked in front of both women, one hand protectively behind him to keep them from following too close.


"No, Todd, now . . ." Blair said, turning to the right and stumbling over something at her feet.  Looking down, she gasped.  She said, "Oh my God, there's a woman, here!  I think she's . . . Todd, I think she's dead."


Bitsy was now shaking so much it was visible to the eye.  Todd went to Blair's side, and his mother, who was vibrating like a rattlesnake's tail, stood wide-eyed in the kitchen a few feet behind them.  He said, "God.  It's Connie Bensonhurst.  Shit."


"The woman who . . ."


"He killed her.  Which means, he's desperate."  Todd said, getting back up from checking for a pulse.  The woman had been cold when he touched her.  It struck him strangely for a moment that in all the years he thought of her as a cold bitch, this kind of cold couldn't be described.


"Where's my baby, Todd?"  Blair began to panic.  "What has he done with our baby?"


All at once three things happened:  the side door swung closed on its hinges; Bitsy gasped so loudly it startled them both; and Peter Manning stood, staring at all of them in the dim light of dusk.  


"That's what we're going to talk about," he said, and Bitsy's head hit the kitchen table on her way down to the floor.


***


Dorian came down the stairs from putting Little Sam to bed.  It was early, but he had been so sleep-deprived he had fallen asleep with a small cup of warm milk and, she admittedly chastised herself for, a small dose of Benadryl.


She came into the living room, and looked at it; this had been Todd and Blair's home for years, before she had come back into it.  It was the place they had made for their growing family, years back before his disappearance.  For a moment, she could almost see Jack, as a small child, in front of the fireplace, looking up at her and asking where his father was.  She shook it from her memory, and went to the couch.  Collapsing onto it, she put her feet up on the ottoman, and saw Addie entering the room.  


"Dorie, Hope's asleep, too."


"How are we going to explain Starr's face to her little daughter?"  Dorian asked.


"I don't know.  But it's up to Starr, not us."  Addie reminded.


"Yes, I suppose it is."


"You look tired, Dorie."


"The baby doesn't have much of Blair's milk left.  Not sure what we're going to do."


"We can find a wet nurse," Addie said.  "Maybe?"


"Do they even have those anymore?"


"I don't know."


"It will likely be formula, then.  Sam's asleep, too."  Dorian bent her leg toward her and rubbed her foot.  "He had a lot of questions."


"Like what?"


"Like if his father was going to die."


"The poor thing," Addie said.  "He's so sensitive.  According to Blair, Todd was like that when he was a boy."


"Hard to imagine he could grow up to be a cold-hearted rapist."  Dorian said.


"Not this, again, Dorie.  Please.  That was years ago.  He's different."


"Some things don't change.  His penchant for getting his loved ones in danger is one of them.  I know this is going to sound really dreadful, but sometimes I wonder what would have happened to my niece and her family if Todd just stayed dead in Ireland all those years ago."


Addie gasped and said, "Dorie!"


Jack walked directly from the foyer into the living room.  He was just staring at Dorian, and barely moved, his hands tucked into his front pockets, as his father would do.  He said, "You know what?  There wouldn't be a me.  Or a Ray or a Jewel.  That's what would have happened.  Mom would have been ruined.  She almost was.  The sad thing is, you just don't see what he's about.  Not really.  You never do.  You don't see how Mom is around him, and the good he's done.  I've seen her with other guys, Eli, Tomas, McPain, even Zeus.  She never looked at any of them the same way.  Never.  So, that's what it would be like.  Mom without the guy she really loves and without us."


"Now, Jack, give me a chance to explain. . ."


"There's nothing to explain, Aunt Dorian.  You've made it clear a lot of times.  I just thought you'd started to get over it.  But I guess he'll always be that criminal to you.  The bad guy.  The problem is, he's not a bad guy to me, or Sam, or Ray.  And he's not to Starr, or Hope, or Mom.  I . . . I just feel sort of sick, I'm going upstairs,"  he turned to go.


She said, "Jack," but he kept going.  


Addie stood up.  "Dorie, sometimes I wonder why you do what you do."  She followed him out and up the stairs.


Dorian closed her eyes and sank back into the sofa.


***

"What's the matter, don't you recognize me?"  Peter said.

"Momma," Blair said, going to her side.  The woman had a gash on the side of her head that was already slightly swollen and bleeding.  She was unconscious.


Todd was fixated on Peter.  Sweat had already sprung to his brow and his shirt was sticking to him.  "You bastard.  I just want my son.  Nothing more."


"Your son.  Hmf.   That's all you want?"


"Yep.  Nothing more."


"You don't want to wring my neck?  You don't want to try and kill me, like you did back then."


Todd swallowed.  He realized, with sudden strong awareness, that he was sweating more profuseland his mouth was so dry he could barely speak.  He said, "Nothing more.  Give me my boy, and I'm out.  No questions asked.  Just over."


"You're not getting your boy.  You're doing what I say."


"Whatever you want.  I just want my son.  Give him to Blair, she can go, and you and I can hash this out whatever way you want."


"So, you're some kind of great father or something?  I heard."


Todd was struggling not to become distracted or engage.  Blair, who was patting Bitsy's head with a piece of paper toweling, now stood.  She said, "I don't know you, and you don't know me.  But you have my baby.  I just want him back.  You'll never have to see us again, just please, give him back."  Her voice was ragged, pained.


He threw his head back and laughed.  "You think your motherly-love plea is going to do it?  How do you know your son's even alive?  How do you know he's breathing, that I didn't take out all my years of anger and hate for this excuse for a man on him?"  He had motioned to Todd while talking.


Blair's eyes were flames; she could barely tolerate the fire in them.  It raged through her face and into her chest.  She sprung at him like a mother cheetah, and scratched at his eyes.  Todd had never heard the kind of yelp she had let out; it was a cross between a growl and a scream. 


He went to grab her around the waist, amid her cries of asking for her son back mixed with screams about what he had done to her husband, when Peter backhanded her and she flew back against the wall.  She slid down to the floor.

He turned toward Todd, who, suddenly became unnaturally stoic.  Todd pulled his gun, and said, "I want my son.  Give me my son, and I'll let you live for treating her that way."  His tone was icy and sullen.


"Let me live?  Hah!"  Peter pulled his gun as well, and said, "Put that gun down, and be a man.  Let's see what kind of fight you got in you, boy, like the old days, huh?"


Todd slightly cocked his head, wanting to look away, but still keeping his eyes fixed on the man.  "You okay?"  he called to Blair.


"Don't listen to him, Todd.  He's a sick, twisted old fucking pervert!"  She stood, "Yes, I'm okay," she said, but her lip was split and bleeding.  She fixed her blouse as if she was ready for another round.   


Todd was thinking about the same thing, but with a twist.  Keep your head.  He's got a gun.  He's got the baby.  You have nothing on your side.  Keep cool and wait him out.  You can pull his fucking head off his body later and let Blair do whatever she wants to him.  He surprised himself and said, "It's simple," he went to the table and sat down, putting the gun where Peter could see it and it was still in his reach.  Wait for it.  As soon as you know where Ray is . . .


To Blair, he seemed to be in a trance; his movements were robotic and his face was slick with sweat.  Suddenly, she felt panic in her gut for him.  Was he all right?  Was he . . . going to go inside himself and never come out?


Peter laughed, and pushed the chair away from the table with his foot.  He sat in it, facing Todd.  Blair was bruised, and sore; Bitsy was silent, passed out on the floor.  Todd said, "So, what do you want?"


"Everything.  The Lord fortune.  It should have been mine, anyway, for raising a sissy like you."


Todd swallowed, "Better than being a sadist, like you."


"Maybe.  Whatever it is, it's simple.  I get the fortune, you get the boy."


Blair was going to her feet, and out of the corner of his eye, Peter spotted her.  "Tell that little bitch of yours to back off, or I'll shoot both of you and kill that kid.  With my hands."


He flashed to Patches, her neck snapped in Peter's bear-paw grip.  He didn't have to tell Blair anything; she froze and slid back to sitting on the ground against the wall.  Her lip was growing with swell, and her face was painful, her head throbbing.  


Todd said, "Done.  No problem.  None of that money means anything to me, anyway.  Not without my family.  Name a time and place, and it's yours."


This seemed to trigger something in Peter that Todd was not expecting.  He got a look in his eye that Todd knew well.  It was one of power.  He had power over them, because he had their baby.  Letting Peter know that they didn't care one iota for the money was a mistake.  


Shit.  He only wants to hurt me.  He . . . damn it, he knows the money's not going to do it.

"Nah, never mind," Peter said.  "Think I'll just hang on to that boy, for a while.  He's still able to be raised right, not like you."  He looked to the floor, at Bitsy, and kicked her shoe with his foot.  "She made a mess of you.  Turned you into a freaking faggot."


He realized his breathing was escalating, and he fought to control it.  From the side of one eye, inky black was seeping into his vision, and he rubbed his eyes to erase it.  It drew back, and he told himself to breathe and stay with it; too much was at stake.  Blair, his mother, his son.  "She wasn't all bad."


"No, she had her uses."  Peter said, looking from her back to Todd.


"What do you want, exactly?  I'm ready to bargain, if that's what you want."


"I don't know," Peter said, leaning back in his chair, and folding his arms.  "I thought I did, but now, seeing you, all soft and sappy, like I knew you'd turn out . . ."


His hands were twitching at his sides.  He wanted to pick the gun up and shoot Peter through the face, but then, what about Ray?  How would they ever find him?  What if he were hidden somewhere?  What if Peter used his gun, too, and took out Blair, and his mother and son before he had a chance to make things right?  


Without warning, Peter put down his gun and reached inside his shirt and pulled out a small, silvery object that made Blair's eyes widen.  Todd, spotting it, looked up at Peter's face, and saw the blackness coming into his vision at high speed.  


The older man said, "Just like I thought."

Todd went silent.


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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 69

"This rental is out of gas, we have to stop," Todd said.  He had scrambled, behind Blair, to get his gun delivered.  She had given him the look of looks when she realized what he was doing with the messenger boy at the car rental place, but at the same time, she imagined herself blasting a hole through Peter's skull.

She was beside him, in the passenger seat.  Bitsy, who was in the back, was nervously wringing her hands.  She took in all of the sights, as soon as they had arrived in Chicago, and was becoming more and more jittery.  All three of them agreed that waiting on another flight path, that could take hours, was not an option.  They had jumped into a rental car, and Todd had made perfect time, aside from the waiting for the "package."  


Blair said, "All right, then, stop."  She looked over the seat.  "Momma, are you all right?  We know you're nervous, being, well, being back here in Chicago."


Bitsy looked at Blair and just softly smiled, signaling her not to worry.  Yet, when she looked back out the window, Blair saw the fear in her eyes.  


Todd stopped the car, and got out, starting to pump the gas.  Blair got out, and stood next to him.  "Your mom's upset."


"She should be.  This is the god-forsaken place I was raised and she was tormented."


"Which made me think how you must feel, Todd."


"Me?  I've been through all that already, and you were there.  Remember?"


"Yes, I remember.  But how do you feel, being back here?"


He didn't respond immediately, instead, he put the nozzle into the car, and said, "Like a man who wants his baby back."


She raised her eyes to the sky, and hugged her arms.  "God.  He has our son."


"He has our son," he repeated, with finality.  "But he won't for long."


"Todd, what . . ."


He interrupted her.  "I'm going to do what I have to do, Blair.  Nothing matters to me right now but getting Ray away from Peter.  That's all there is in here," he pointed to his head.  "When that's over, we can pine over whatever it is we're pining over."


She marveled for a moment at his composure, but couldn't help wondering how he would fare when standing face to face with Peter.  Then, she looked to her shoes, and they blurred, as her eyes filled with tears.  In a moment, the tips of his shoes added to the blur, as he stood in front of her, and put his hand under her chin.  He lifted her face to his, her green eyes filled with crystalline water.  He said, "It's okay," and held her.


She cried.  "Todd, Ray's so little.  He's . . . defenseless. . . he . . ."


He swallowed before saying, "Has a mean kick to the groin."


She laughed through tears.  Then, "He's with that . . . freak."


Todd had to gulp again, because he knew she was right.  If he touches him, so much as looks at him wrong . . .  "I know.  But it's going to be over very soon."


She didn't like the edge in his voice during the last sentence he'd said.  She whispered against his chest, "I can't lose Ray, but I can't lose you, either, Todd."


***


"Tina, I never thought I'd find ya," the nun said, sitting next to her.  She was outside, in the garden, alone, on a bench.


"That's okay, I have to go back in anyway.  To see Aiden."


The nun looked to the ground.  "Dear," she began.


"Nothing to say, Sister.  I'll just have a few more minutes of sun and fresh air, and then head in."


"Tina," the nun said, touching the younger woman's arm.


Tina looked at her, with a blank expression.  The nun continued, "Tina, Dear, ya know that ya can't go and see Aiden."


"I certainly can," she said, getting anxious.


"No, ya can't.  Ya know he died.  Yesterday."


Tina was slightly rocking, and had turned her head away.  "No, that's not so."


Sister Rebecca Katherine was very quiet for a moment, and then said, "Ya know, Dearest, this reminds me of something."


Tina made no effort to respond.  She just stared ahead and listened.


"It reminds me of one time, a while back, with Blair."


"Blair?"


"Yes.  It reminds me of the day that I had to make her realize that she had indeed lost her babby.  Oh, it was terrible, it was."


Tina didn't say anything, but the sister could see huge droplets of water in each of her eyes.


"She hadn't seen the baby die, and she was unconscious when Sommer passed, so she was in denial.  She even blamed Todd for letting someone take the baby.  It was a terrible time."  She kept an eye on the woman's expression, which was the same, but tears were spilling.  She said, "It was a horrible day.  I'd been with her, when the baby died.  She even mentioned Sommer letting go of life inside her.  But, she'd forgotten it when time passed, and was convinced her baby was somewhere.  Sad, really.  But I was there, and I knew, and I reminded her, and as hard as it was, she accepted."


Tina was very still.  The sister said, "And I was there when Aiden passed.  I was there when ya found out.  I was there when ya came back from our time in the chapel and Timothy was in the early evening shadows in that room.  Ya said something, to Aiden, in his ear, and ya ran out.  When we came back, Timothy was alone, and he was crying."


"No," she whispered.


"Yes.  I was there for that, and so were ya.  Ya saw it, too.  Ya held his hand, and ya said to me that it wasn't real.  Remember?"


"I . . . yes."  Her voice was distant, small.


"He's gone, Dear."


She leaned onto the nun's shoulder as the clergywoman pulled her in, wrapping an arm around her.  Tina said, "No, Sister.  No," and closed her eyes.  


***

Ray was still under the blanket, when he was startled to jumping by Peter's heavy footsteps in the hallway.  The man bellowed, "Kid?  Where are you, dammit?"


The toddler didn't answer, he just stayed under the blanket.


Peter came into the living room, and stood over the boy, seeing his little feet sticking out from under the cover.  He couldn't help but laugh slightly.  "Hmf, come out of there, you."


He pulled the little boy's legs and turned him over.  The boy was face-up, and he said, softly,  "Don't be mad, Cwabby Man."


Peter picked up the toddler, and put him over his shoulder.  "Come on, we're going outside to the shed."  


He brought the child with him through the doorway, stepping over Connie's left foot, that was pointing from the hallway, where he had beaten her to death, toward the kitchen.  Peter hadn't even thought to shield the child from seeing her: lying, in a strange arrangement, her head covered in blood, her hair soaked in places.  He hadn't originally meant to kill her, but when she fought back, which he was not used to from her, he had wanted her to stop and his instincts to control took over.  She'd told him she was going to get the baby and get them to a safe place, and he'd seen red.  Now that it was done, he felt some kind of relief and another feeling he couldn't identify.


"Pway outside?"  Ray asked.


"We might play, sure," he said, carrying the boy to the shed at the corner of the yard.


***

Todd turned onto the street on which he grew up, and looking in the rear view mirror, saw that Bitsy was crying.  She wasn't sobbing, or hysterical, she simply had streams of tears on both cheeks.  He said, "Momma, it's okay.  Do you want to go back to the hotel?  Blair can take you."


Bitsy shook her head "no," hard.


Blair mumbled under her breath, "Momma can go back, but Blair will do no such thing."

He said, "Are you sure?"


Bitsy nodded, and wiped the tears off her cheeks with her palm.  She nodded again and weakly smiled.


He looked at Blair, who was wringing her hands the way she always did when she was nervous, and for a moment, he regretted bringing her and his mother back to this horror hole.  But before he had time to rethink it, he was in front of the house.  It seemed quiet; very few lights, if any, were on.  He parked.  Bitsy was close to hyperventilating in the backseat; Blair was already putting her hand on the door handle to get out.  Todd said, "Wait.  Both of you."


Blair waited, and looked at him, "He's my baby, Todd."


"Our baby, Blair.  Ours.  I'm with you."  He looked over the seat.  "Momma, you okay?"


She nodded, even though she appeared greenish.


He said, "I'm getting out first, you two wait for me to signal you."


"No,"  Blair said.  "You're not becoming a walking target.  It's all three of us, or you've got yourself a divorce!"


When Todd turned to Bitsy to see her reaction, she nodded fiercely, and folded her arms.


"Women," he said, and all three car doors opened at the same time.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 24

Samuel said goodbye to his portraits of Blair. Tomas would protect them. They had agreed that Tomas would put them up for sale slowly to give the impression that Samuel was sticking to his pattern of only selling a few portraits a year. Samuel hoped that would give him the time he needed to get out of Paris unnoticed. He left the gallery without seeing anyone and headed home, going his usual route. He had managed to keep his home a mystery from his watchers, it was imperative it remain a mystery.

Finally arriving home, Samuel entered his apartment. It seemed strange and empty with all the paintings crated. The shipping company was scheduled to pick up the crates soon and they would be sent to the storage unit in the States. He needed to finish packing his art supplies as those were going to the penthouse in Llanview he had recently purchased.

 Samuel walked over to the mantle and looked at the three remaining portraits left in the room. "Well it's been an interesting seven years and you've kept me sane through them all. Now we begin a new adventure, I need to find out why I exist and help Todd find out who did this to us. The answers are out there. Tomorrow begins our new journey and until such time as it's safe to meet you in person, I'm glad I still have you three for company." Samuel headed for the loft and completed packing all of his supplies. He labeled them for Llanview and started clearing out his bedroom next. Once he had everything packed, he headed downstairs to his landlord's apartment and purchased a year's lease on the apartment and loft. He was going to keep the place for appearances sake. He informed his landlord that he was leaving on a short trip but that he expected to return within the week. That way his landlord would not be suspicious when he left tomorrow for the airport.

It was early when the shipping company arrived for the crates that were going to the States. Samuel saw the truck off and went to complete his final task before leaving for the airport. Samuel walked to the mantle and took down the portraits. He then carefully removed the paintings from their frames, first Vicki and then Dee. He then rolled them up and put them in protective cases and laid them in his luggage. He had to carefully cover his painting of Blair with oil skin to protect the newly painted portrait, then it too was carefully rolled up and placed in a tube and laid next to the cases holding Vicki and Dee. After emptying his safe, he took most of the currency and put the majority in a money belt and put it on, the rest he put in his wallet. Taking one last look around Samuel grabbed his coat, he put his passport in an upper pocket, picked up his luggage and locking the door, he departed.

           Samuel sat in his seat as the flight took off, in seven hours he'd be landing in New York. He expected to land in Philadelphia around 11:00 am. Samuel had an appointment that afternoon with the trauma director at Philadelphia General. If the meeting went as planned, Samuel hoped to find out the name of the attending physician who had been in the ER the night he had arrived there almost eight years before. If he could track down that physician he might be able to figure out where he had been before showing up at Philadelphia General.

Samuel found it very curious that he had been transferred to Philadelphia General at all. Obviously he had been in another facility. What had they been doing with him for several months? Why had they treated some but not all of his injuries? Had he been so injured that they had done everything they could and then decided he would be better off in a bigger Hospital. If that had been the case why had they waited to send him until it was almost too late? It was the delay that bothered him. Something had happened to him during that delay and he was sure that it was something to do with his memory loss. Thankfully it appeared that he was overcoming what had been done to him. More memories were returning and soon that most elusive memory would appear. Samuel realized he needed all the other memories in place because he needed to be at full strength when he and Todd faced that devastating memory.

****

 Samuel left the office of the Director, they had managed to find out who had been working in the ER the night he had arrived. It turned out that a young intern had checked him in that night. With the help of the records Samuel had brought with him, they found out the intern's name was Michael McBain. Young Dr. McBain had left Philadelphia General and gone to the Llanview Pa. Hospital for several years. He was now working in Seattle. It was necessary to talk to the young Dr., so Samuel made reservations to fly to Seattle after making a stop in Indiana. First he needed to go to the bank with his safe deposit box. Samuel's flight to Indiana left at noon the next day, so he decided to drive out to the two facilities outside of Philadelphia. Even though he wanted to talk to Dr, McBain, it wouldn't hurt just to look at them. The first of the two, was the Brain Injury Hospital north of Philadelphia, getting on the interstate he drove till he saw the exit sign and the directional sign pointing out the hospital's location. He parked and went inside. After stopping at the information desk he found out the Administrations office was closed but he could check back in the morning. Samuel decided to find a hotel close to the hospital and check in for the night.

The next morning Samuel drove back to the Brain Injury hospital. He was able to talk to someone in Administration but found that no patients with head trauma had been admitted in March of 2003. It had taken longer than he had anticipated and he was going to have to leave off going to the Kipling research facility until he returned from Seattle. Samuel's next stop was Indiana.

All the while he had been driving from the airport, he had been thinking of the last trip he had made to this bank. He recalled the urgency that had driven him there that day, he was beginning to feel that same urgency now. Whoever had started this 8 years ago was getting ready to pull out and they were going to do a lot of damage before this was over. Samuel pulled into the parking lot and got out. He opened his suitcase and pulled out a small box buried inside. Then he locked the car and entered the bank. Signing in, he waited for some help. He was soon greeted by the associate in charge of the safe deposit vault. Pulling the key from his box, he handed it to the associate and was instructed to follow him into the vault. Samuel took the safety deposit box and went into a secure room. He sat down and opened the box. The box contained a bundle of old letters bound with a ribbon. As he looked at them, Samuel remembered his mother Bitsy. He recalled the day Todd had received the letters, those feelings of sorrow and bewilderment when he had realized his mother had written to him and he hadn't known. Then the feeling of shame because he had thought she had abandoned him.

Samuel removed the letters and found Irene's diary he opened it up and found what he had come looking for.  There, in the entry where his real mother talked about giving up her beautiful little boy, was a piece of paper with a list of numbers on it and an international phone number. This was it, these were the numerous swiss accounts that Todd had opened when he had left town after the DID fiasco. Along with the accounts were a list of contacts around the world capable of providing services in whatever you needed. Samuel put the list in his wallet and lovingly stowed the letters and Diary back in the box, he put the box back in it's slot and took his key. After putting the key away, Samuel left the vault and walked up to a teller. There he proceeded to withdraw a sizable amount of cash. Financially he was now set. Now it was on to Seattle to talk to Dr. McBain.

Samuel arrived in Seattle late that night. After checking into his room he called the hospital and found out Dr. McBain would be in the next day. He settled in for the night. Hopefully tomorrow would shed a little more light on his mystery.

Unfortunately, the night proved very unsettling, once again memories intruded into Samuel's dreams. He was waiting for her...she was beautiful and his, they were getting married,...showers of Gold balloons ... then the shattered mirror... he was walking alone in the fog someone shouted... agony ripping through him... falling shattering....broken hurt...Blair ...then he see them his Blair and another man....shattered again... alone so alone...suddenly warmth...love for him from such a little thing...love from his Starr..Samuel eyes flew open...His little Starr, there she was...Vicki had brought her to him when he had been so lost. He remembered. He had a daughter. God, where was she? Was she in Llanview? How old was she now? Samuel couldn't sleep anymore, how could he have forgotten his daughter? What must she think of him to have left her like that? Wait a minute. She didn't think he was gone. Someone else had taken Todd's place. Someone else had raised Starr. He needed to get back home. He needed to find out what had happened to his Starr. He would talk to McBain, but then he was going home.

****

 Samuel wasted no time getting to the Hospital to see Dr. McBain. After last night's revelation he wanted to get back to Llanview as soon as possible. He'd called from the hotel and made an appointment with the young doctor after he completed his rounds around 10:30 am. The nurse showed him into the doctor's office and told him he could wait there. Samuel looked around, he saw a photo on the desk, obviously his family. A cheerful young woman and a child smiled out of the frame. The door behind him open and the doctor walked in.

"Good morning, you must be Mr. Toddman.  I'm Dr.McBain what can I help you with." said the young doctor.

"Yes. I'm Mr. Toddman." replied Samuel and shook the doctor’s hand. "I promise not to take up to much of your time. I'm here tracking down information pertaining to an incident that occurred in June of 2003. Do you recall your time at Philadelphia General in 2003? You see, I managed with the help of the doctors there, to find out you were in fact working on the night I arrived in the ER. Do you think you could help me?"

"Please have a seat Mr. Toddman." Dr. McBain gestured to the chair and in turn sat down behind his desk. "That was quite a while ago. I was an intern during my year at Philadelphia General but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to help you. A lot of people came into the ER while I worked there. Why were you brought to the ER?"

"This is what I know.  I was brought to that ER in a coma. I understand that I had numerous broken bones throughout my body and some of them were beginning to heal although none had been repaired. According to the records I required immediate surgery and that I remained in the coma for several months following all the surgeries. Do you recall a patient like that." asked Samuel

"Now I do. You were in such bad shape I was afraid you wouldn't survive the surgeries. I remember calling the Trauma surgeon to consult and after looking you over, you were removed to the operating room immediately. Mr. Toddman, you are very fortunate to have survived. With the extent of your injuries, only one out of ten usually make it." Dr. McBain looked him up and down and asked. "Do you have any residual effects from all that trauma?"

"The biggest lasting effect from it is a weaker heart. But as you said, I'm a survivor. I'm glad you recall me because I have a second question. According to my records you made note of the fact that I was brought there from another facility. Do you remember the name of that facility?" asked Samuel

"I can't recall it , I'm sorry." he answered.

"Maybe there's something concerning the direction of the city they might have come from. Or possibly a name on the ambulance that brought me?" Samuel inquired.

"Wait a minute. Now that I think of it, I remember seeing a name on the ambulance. It stuck in my head that night, because it was the name of a famous author. Let's see. Yes, I remember. The name on the side of the ambulance was Kipling. Yes, Kipling Research. That's right, there's a Neuroscience research facility by that name outside of Philadelphia. It's possible you might have been at that facility. I don't know if that helps you but that's all I can remember." replied Dr McBain.

Samuel stood up, he had gotten the information he needed. "Thank you for your time Doctor. That bit of information might be just what I need to complete my investigation. I appreciate the time you've given me. Once again, Thank you." he shook Dr. McBain's hand and left his office."

The flight back to Philadelphia seemed endless. Samuel went over the information he had found out. So he had a link to the Neuroscience facility in Philadelphia. Now he needed to find out more about the place. He now had contacts that could help look into the facility without raising any questions. Samuel wondered if they would find a link from the clinic to either Todd Manning in Llanview or to Carlo Hesser. He had this feeling that one or both men were involved in this up to their eyeballs.

Samuel leaned back and closed his eyes. "Todd, are you with me?"

"Always, Samuel."

 "We have a Daughter. She's beautiful, Todd. We're headed home and I'll find her for all of us. Why did someone do this to us? I'm not usually an angry man but I'm beginning to get very angry. Someone played God and ripped us from our family." Samuel felt his heart start speeding up the more he got agitated.

"Samuel Stop! Calm down." shouted Todd who was struggling to hold back Pete.

"No! You can't go out there, you'll ruin everything!" with everything in him Todd shoved Pete to the floor. Rodd and Tom jumped on him and held him down. "This is not the time for violence. You're not going to control me anymore, Pete. It stops today!  Samuel, you have to control the anger. We need your logical mind to remain in charge. Please, I'm mad too. She's the best thing about me and I've missed so many years but now is not the time for the anger. Stick with your plan, it's working. You now have funds and my contacts, use them. For now we need to work behind the scenes. When the time is right we'll get our revenge." Todd looked around, Pete had stopped struggling and was lying there passively. "I need your help with the wall, can I trust you?" Pete nodded and took Todd's hand, together they walked back to the fast crumbling wall.

Samuel felt the tension drain from him. Todd was right. It wasn't the time for anger. There was too much to be done. There was a correct moment for every reveal and his reveal was going to be monumental.


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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 68

The chains scraped across the floor, making rustling clangs.  John was in the gray interrogation room, waiting.  When the door opened, he had to admit, he wasn't surprised to see Mitch less strong, less confident and more old than he remembered.  He said, "Laurence."

"McBain.  How is that hot little red head of yours?"


"Whatever, I'm here for a purpose.  Seems someone from your distant past is actually alive. Did you know?"


The man was genuinely confused.  "Know?  Know what?"


"That Peter Manning is living."


Mitch Laurence's bitter and shit-eating-grin demeanor faded.  "What?"


"He has Manning's son."


Mitch's face displayed a mix between regret and rejoicing.  "Seems he beat me to it."


"No, he didn't.  He actually outdid you, in planning and execution.  But that's not important now."


"It's not?"  He laughed.  "Try telling that to Todd and Blair.  Which kid is missing, the bastard, the little one, the teen?"


"The toddler, Ray."  John said, "He's been taken.  Starr was beaten almost to death."


"She's a smart mouth, no wonder.  Takes after her father."


"Let's just put it this way.  Peter's not the only one from your past who has appeared recently.  I am sure you remember this."


"I don't think I care much about anything you're going to say today."  John saw a crack in Mitch's armor.


"Really?  Not even that the man may have this little boy on your compound, somewhere in Illinois, and that Bitsy may be there, as well."


"Bitsy?  She's . . . not anywhere near Peter Manning."  He seemed genuinely worried.  


He's afraid.  John said, "And how do you know that?  She's not a prisoner, like you, she can go where she chooses."


"She wouldn't choose that."


"If he had her son, or her grandchild, she might."


"Let me see her.  I want to see her."


I've got him.


***


"It's morning, of course he's awake," Connie said, when Peter, who had finally gotten some rest, was disturbed by Little Ray, banging on the table with his spoon.  She turned to the child.  "Stop that, now."


Ray was not cooperating.  "I want Daddy.  Mommy."


"They're not here.  Yet."  Peter said, with a growl.


"Daddy.  Mommy."  The toddler repeated.


"Shut him up," Peter warned, looking through a newspaper.


"Daddy! Mommy!"  The little boy yelled this time, at the top of his lungs.


"Shut that kid up!"  Peter said, pounding his fist on the table.  "If you don't, I will."


Connie was flustered.  She looked at Peter with a question in her face.  She'd never seen him around children, or as angry.  She picked up Little Ray and carried him out of the room.


Peter Manning continued to scour the paper that he had until he found it: the address to The Sun.  His plan's next step was coming to fruition, as he took the information down, and got his keys.  "I'm going to mail the package," he called to her.


She was in the back room, and what became clear to her after a few minutes in it, was that it was Todd's bedroom most of his young life.  In the years of time that had passed, it was dusty and unkempt, but still bared the images of a young boy's world.  There was an airplane suspended from the ceiling, a few trophies on a shelf, a few books strewn on a small wooden desk.  Somehow, in looking around, she felt a sense of sadness as well.  She couldn't place it, but everything seemed hollow and empty in that room.  She looked at Ray, who was quiet now and chewing on the piece of bagel she'd handed him.  She said, "You mustn't upset Grandpa," she began.  "He's crabby.  He's a crabby man."


The toddler surprised her, when he looked up and giggled at what she said.  "Crabby man!" and his laugh carried throughout the barren room.


She laughed, slightly, as well, "Yes, the crabby man!  You must be quiet.  Can you be quiet?"


"No," he said, not as if he were being disrespectful, just honest.


She almost laughed again.  He was adorable, endearing.  She set him on the bed and gave him a wooden puzzle to work on.  He went to work immediately, and she noted, was very quick to solve it.  "You're very smart, Raymond."


"Ray, Mommy says."


"Ray, then."


"Mommy?  Daddy?"  he said, questioning, and in looking at her, she saw his little eyes were brimming.  


They're good parents, he loves them so.  "They're coming."


"Coming here?"  His voice took on a gleeful upswing at the end of the sentence.


"Yes.  They're coming soon."


She thought over Peter's plan again.  The package would be sent, untraceable, to The Sun.  Todd would open it, see the items they took from the baby:  a small toy in his pocket, a lock of his hair, and a sock.  Then, he would see the cryptic message "come alone," and Peter had told her Todd would know where to go by something he included in the box.  She didn't know what the something was, or how Todd would know, but something in her gut told her not to bother finding out.  Then Todd would come, sign a document that Peter had already drawn up, and trade his signature for the baby, end of story.  The last part of the plan included she and Peter, disappearing to a small island that he planned to procure.  He would use part of the fortune and live out the rest of their lives, undisturbed, with all the money they wanted and needed.  


She sighed.  "Not a bad plan, really," she said.  "No one hurt.  Not much trouble.  Todd would certainly give every penny.  He'd have The Sun, though, still, to run and live off.  After all, Peter deserves it, for taking Todd in when he was born, with nowhere to go."  She'd noticed Peter couldn't get ownership of The Sun, or arrange it, and didn't care.  He'd let that go.  "Too hard to liquidate, too time consuming," was his answer.


One thing did puzzle her.  She was not sure how Peter would manage to stop Todd from calling the police after it was done.  He assured her he knew how.  Then, for a moment, her mind flashed on his reaction and sneering expression when she had told him that Todd's mother was alive, and she wasn't sure why, but it made her stomach slightly hurt.  "What Todd said, can't be true," she mulled over.


The toddler said, "Mommy, now."  This distracted her.


"Not now, but she is coming," she lied.  But, she knew there was a chance that Todd would bring Blair.  Even Peter had mentioned it as a possibility.  He said he knew Todd well.  She wondered how true that was, considering he hadn't seen him in many years.  But he had studied his life, in detail.  In fact, she had sometimes thought it bordered on obsession.


"Mommy," he said, sadly, and lay down on the bed dusty bed.  He curled up and held the little stuffed toy they had given him to play with.  He hugged it to his chest, and sobbed, small catches in his throat.  


She stroked his curls.  "Now, now.  No crying, Ray.  Mommy and Daddy are coming.  Soon."


***


"See Bitsy?  Hmf.  Why would you want to do that?"  John said in response to Mitch.


"I don't have to tell you that, I just want to see her, that's all.  I have a right to visitors."


"Say that I can arrange that?  Why should I?"


"The compound is located thirty-five miles out of Evanston.  Isn't that what you wanted?"


"I suppose.  That's a little general.  I'd need more specifics."


"You bring me Bitsy, and I'll tell you."


"Can't wait that long."


"Fine.  Bring her here, and I'll draw a map.  Except . . ."


"I'm not bringing her anywhere unless I get something I can use.  Are the woods where Bitsy was supposedly killed near the compound?"


"Yes.  But 
why would he go to the compound?  He'd go to his own house."

John froze, realizing he may have been duped.  Then, he continued.  "His house.  What makes you say that?"


Mitch looked almost green.  "It was his sanctuary.  His place, where he controlled people.  I . . . can't do much more to describe it, only what I've been told.  Not a pretty sight.  I never saw it first hand, but I heard enough."


John didn't respond.  He had his own thoughts about Todd's childhood home.  "All right.  But that's a little obvious.  I think he'd be more clever."


"Now, bring her.  Here's the address."  He wrote on the paper John had been holding out to him.  "Bring her, and I'll give whatever else you need."


John stood.  "I'll ask her if she wants to come.  You know, Laurence, that she doesn't speak?"


"Yeah, I . . ." he swallowed.


"She was beaten so badly, she can't.  Brain damage, I think."


"Bring her."


"I'll get back to you," he said, walking out.  "If she wants to come, I'll arrange something."  John walked out, certain he would never even ask her.


Mitch looked to the guard standing next to him.  "Going to bring me back to my humble abode?"


The guard said, "Let's go."


He walked, dragging chains behind him.  


***



"Stop smothering that kid," Peter said, peeking into Todd's old room.  Connie had finally soothed the little boy to sleep with promises of his parents.

"He's asleep, isn't that what you'd prefer?"


He looked over her to the sleeping child.  "Never mind that."


"All right, then, what's next?"


"Whatever I say."


"Did you send the package?"


"Yep."


"By private messenger?"


"Yep."


"Okay, then, we should expect something, in a few hours.  Should I pack?"


"Yeah, go and pack.  Get things ready.  Soon, we'll be out of here."


She went out the door, and Peter sat on the bed by Ray.  "Out of here, with you along, for the ride.  You deserve to be raised right, and away from your too-soft father.  He always was a punk."


Ray woke up, and saw Peter, and screamed.  "Mommy!"


"Shhhhh, shut it, kid," Peter said, with a mean sneer.


"Mommy!  Daddy!  You're bad.  You're a bad man.  You hit Starr."


"That's right, I did.  And if you don't shut up . . ."  he leaned in toward the little boy.


Connie appeared back at the door, "Peter?  What are you doing?"


"Teaching him who's boss, what else?  Just like that wimp of a father of his.  Always whining about something."


"He's just a little boy, just a baby!"


"He's not a baby!"  Peter boomed, and Connie admitted to herself that she hadn't seen him this way.  Her heart was thumping in her chest, and Peter said, "He needs to be taught a lesson."


"No, he's just a child.  I'll make him be quiet, just give me a few minutes," she said, going toward them.


Peter snatched Ray up under one arm.  "I'm pretty sure I know exactly what to do.  I've been a father before, and you, you don't even have kids."


Ray was crying, close to hysteria, hanging off Peter's arm like a rag doll.  Of course, he was kicking wildly.  She said, "That doesn't matter, Peter," and she forced herself to keep a calm, steady voice.  For some reason, she flashed on Todd Manning, in her sister's living room: "Why did you leave that house and have it boarded up and never sell it?"


But he couldn't have been right.  He couldn't.  Not the man she had slept with, loved, and cared for, for almost thirty years.  Peter was just angry.  He was just tired.  He just wanted the money he rightfully deserved.  "Let me take him, I can quiet him," she offered again.


The toddler was really screaming now, and crying, loudly, in complaint to Peter's tight grip on him.  Peter snarled, "He needs to be toughened up.  And he's going to listen."


He attempted to go past her, but wasn't ready for her to grab onto his arm, and pull with all her might.  He turned to her with the fire of the end of days in his eyes.  He put the toddler down, who stood, tear-stained, and she said, "Go, run!  Go and play!" before Peter raised one arm and backhanded her to the floor.


Ray ran out to the living room.  He jumped onto the couch, and hid under the blanket, crying.  


***


John was in his office, when he detected a light knock on the door.  "Yeah?"


The door cracked open, and Timothy Broderick poked his head in.  "Hello, John."


"Timothy.  I can't say I expected this."


"My son is . . . facing something difficult."


"Both of them are, I would say.  How's things in Switzerland?"


His face was forlorn, tired.  He walked into the office, and perched himself, with his right hand, against one of the chairs.  "Eric passed on."


John's face showed a mix of surprise and compassion.  "I'm sorry, I had no idea."


"Thank ya.  No one would have an idea.  We haven't quite let it be known.  He . . . went peacefully, but it's still almost impossible for me to talk about without blubbering like a fool."  Timothy wiped his eyes.


"You're not a fool to love your sons," John said, handing him a tissue box.  The older man just used his sleeve.  John added, "I see you've been hanging around someone a lot lately."


"I suppose, and I'm grateful for Todd.  I hope he'll forgive my absence.  It's difficult, but it's done.  I had to be where I was needed most."


"I see.  Then you came home for Todd's sake?"  John asked.


"Yes."  Timothy circled the chair, and sat.  "I'm concerned.  To say the least."


"Go on."


"With Peter alive, there's no telling what could happen."


"I've got the address of Mitch's compound.  Both Todd and Blair feel like that might be where Peter's hiding out."


He smirked, slightly.  "Hmf.  Then both Todd and Blair would be lying to ya, they would."


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