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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 28

The next few days were the happiest days Samuel had ever experienced. The penthouse had never seen so much activity. Blair and Starr insisted they would do everything. The only chore they gave him was to keep his granddaughter occupied. Samuel lost no time doing just that. Soon he and Hope were laughing their way through Sir Dragons magical forest, all the while actually winding through all the boxes and stuff brought over for the move. Then they were making their way up to the home of Princess Shorty as they struggled up the great mountain to reach the castle in the sky.

 Starr watched as her dad took Hope through their journeys. She had promised her Mom that he wouldn't overdo anything. She was worried. Samuel was getting stronger since the attack, but she had seen him pause now and again. He was still having some sort of problem, but he wouldn't talk about it.

 That first night after the heart attack, when they finally had a chance to really sit and talk, Starr had been stunned by all the revelations. Samuel and her mom filled her in on what they could remember of the night he disappeared. Samuel was still struggling with the event of that night, but he was able to fill her in on the last eight years. They had also explained how he was Samuel and not Todd. The funny thing about that was, it didn't matter the name he went by, he was her dad, She saw him when he smiled at her or played with Hope. She also saw him when he'd watch her mom doing something.  He would get a look in his eyes and she knew her Dad was there at that moment.

 They had long discussions about the man who had raised her the last several years. All of a sudden the differences between Samuel and Walker seemed obvious. Like her mother, Starr had begun to think of him as Walker, they no longer saw him as Todd.

 Starr had a dilemma on her hands. She hadn't seen Walker since he had manhandled Dani's boyfriend. In fact, she was still trying to make Dani understand where her father was coming from. That was another problem. Both she and her mom had decided not to tell Samuel about Dani yet. They were uneasy about dropping another bombshell on him right at the moment. All of them were in agreement that it was best if Jack was also kept out of the loop. He idolized Walker and really had no memories of his real dad. Samuel didn't need rejection now, he needed support. Tea and Walker were relatively happy, so it was decided that their lives would not be disrupted yet. Still eventually Samuel or Todd was going to make a public appearance and claim his life back. None of them wanted to think of who would survive the fallout.

 Samuel had put Hope down for her nap when the doorbell rang. Starr had the water running in the kitchen, so Samuel answered the door. A messenger handed Samuel a package. He paid the young man a tip and walked back into the living room. He knew that what he held in his hands was going to change things once again. Samuel walked over to his desk and picked up his letter opener and opened the package. He sat down on the couch and started reading.

 Starr walked out of the kitchen and saw Samuel reading a bunch of papers. "Dad, who was that at the front door? Is everything alright?"  It didn't look like Samuel had received good news. She saw his knuckles turning white as he crushed the edges of the papers.

    "Dear Mr. Toddman, enclosed is a copy of our findings concerning the Kipling Neuroscience Research Facility. At your request, we have managed to uncover the names of the persons backing the facility.  This is a list of all backers, please note that one of the backers is indeed Carlo Hesser. Per your other request, we've managed to find out that the facility has had several research projects concerning tapping into the deep subconscious. One such project funded by Mr. Hesser was a Memory Transference Project known as REMSWITCH. We also discovered a second Project being studied and tested in conjunction with REMSWITCH known as the BLINDSIDE project. This second project involved Brain Manipulations. According to some of the results, they had a high degree of success, with a number of subjects. This project involved the use of new brainwashing techniques being studied for the military and some high tech micro hardware used on the test subjects brains. It is said to be so successful the army is using it to create spies who infiltrate a situation by literally becoming someone else. These spies are so manipulated they are no longer aware of their original pasts."

 Samuel didn't need to read anymore. He now knew what Hesser did all those years ago. He had somehow ended up in Carlo Hesser's hand and Carlo had used the situation to his advantage. Carlo had experimented on him in his weakened state and managed to gain access to his memories. Then some poor man had been given Todd's memories and with the help of some high tech machinery, he had become Todd. Carlo had victimized them both. Samuel was sure Carlo and the facility had been handsomely paid for the Projects and then Carlo had sat back and enjoyed the Show he had created on the Llanview Stage. Samuel wanted to strike out at something so bad. Now he knew why Pete was always held in check. Right now, he wanted to kill Carlo Hesser.

 Samuel put the papers down and smiled up at Starr. "It's OK Starr, I just got some information I've been waiting for. You might want to read it. It's a report of a facility I think I spent time in after my accident. It's my belief that the people in the facility messed with my memory. My contact says that two research experiments were underway at the same time I was missing. I have three unaccounted for months. I also believe that my impostor might also have been experimented on. I believe he might have been the recipient of my memories. That's why he was able to fool all of you. He's as much a pawn as I am. He truly believes he's me. I don't know much about the years I've been away. I think both you and your mom are trying to shield me. Please, I need to know more of what happened in my absence. " Samuel patted the couch next to him. "Talk to me.  Please."

 Starr sat down next to her dad. She wasn't sure what to start with. "Well, I know you've been wondering about Hope. I'll tell you if you promise to not get mad. You're going to hear things that are going to hurt, but they're not about you. Please know I don't blame you for anything that happened. I'm sure you already figured out I'm not married. My boyfriend and Hope's father is in jail for murder. But the man he killed was an evil man who tried to kill Mom and almost killed Tea. The man who died was Eli Clark, Mom's late husband. My boyfriend's name is Cole Thornhart. Yes, Dad, Patrick and Marty's son. I made a foolish mistake a couple of years ago. Hope is the result of that mistake. But I love her dearly and don't regret keeping her. I know you want to know where Walker was during all of this. Walker has always been over the top protective of me and there was an incidence in high school that turned him against Cole, He's never been able to accept Cole since then." Starr awaited trying to gauge how much more she could tell her dad.

 "Do you want to hear more?" Samuel just nodded. " Ok, I mentioned Tea.  Tea came to town to help Walker.  He was in jail for kidnapping and raping Marty Saybrook."

  At that, Samuel got up and started to pace. "What do you mean rape?"

 "Ok Dad, please I need you to sit back down. Please your heart. If this is so upsetting I won't tell you anymore." Starr was frantic. She wasn't getting through to him.

 Todd was seething. He knew Starr had already left out parts of her story with Cole and now she was telling them that Marty had once again been raped. Just what kind of man had been living his life, but he knew the answer. Once a rapist always a rapist. This impostor believed he was capable of atrocities because Todd knew he was capable of atrocities. Ms. Perkins came up beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Todd, you've got to pull him back and yourself with him. We almost died the other day. Don't you feel it. We're in danger again." Then he realized what Ms. Perkins was saying, the heart was beating too rapidly and was starting to skip beats, he needed to calm Samuel down. "Samuel, you must stop. We can't take the strain. Think of Hope, Samuel. That's it. Our little granddaughter. Remember how she looked when you tucked her in. Good, Samuel, we're alright now. You need to reassure Starr."

 Samuel had been seeing red when he heard Todd. What was he saying? Think of Hope. Samuel pulled his thoughts away from the danger zone they were in and concentrated on Hope. He recalled how she had looked so peaceful in her sleep. Samuel took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He felt a hand on his arm and followed it to the concerned face of his daughter. He patted her hand and said "I'm Ok, but you were right, I’m not up to these revelations. I'll need to wait a little longer before hearing anything else. Why don't you pour some wine for me and get a soda for yourself and I'll tell you some stories about Paris." For the next hour, Samuel told Starr about the beautiful city he had lived in.  As always, Starr found his stories charming and humorous. She had truly missed this with Walker. Had she been so desperate to have her Dad back that she had just overlooked the little things that Walker had lacked?  The little things that had made her Dad special.  Like his knack for storytelling and his affinity with children. It was so obvious now. Samuel had stopped talking and was looking at her quizzically. She smiled and leaning over gave him a hug.

 Samuel's night was once again filled with nightmares. He felt like he was in a maze, but everytime he tried to retrace his steps he felt a pain in his head. When he started going forward again and the pain eased. He reached a door and opened it. He didn't enter he merely observed what was in the room. He saw the night he raped Marty. It was like looking at a movie screen as the whole sordid crime played out, then the door slammed in his face. Once again he was being directed forward and another door appeared. Now he was looking at Blair and watching their lives crash and burn with every falsehood that stood between them, but every so often something beautiful would emerge from the shattered pieces, Starr and Jack. The door slammed again, Samuel tried to open it but it was locked.  Why couldn't he get it opened again? More doors opening, more memories, and then suddenly locked away from him. Finally he came to the last three doors. He couldn't get them opened. The forces that had pushed him along howled in anger. He was terrified but he couldn't open the doors. Two doors were more terrifying to him then the pain that was assailing him. He didn't want to open them. The last door held something so essential to him, he couldn't let someone else have it. Samuel knew somehow that those three doors could and would only be open when he wanted them open and no one was going to make that happen by hurting him. Suddenly with one last inhuman shriek the push ceased. He was just drifting, out of the maze but feeling empty.

 Samuel awoke. That had been no nightmare. That had been a memory, of that he was sure. Even though Todd had been unconscious, his subconscious had retained the memory of the research that had been performed on him. Samuel knew what the one room had contained. Todd had hidden his Alters in the one room and because of that Carlo had not been aware of them. Samuel feared the other two rooms held the dark secrets that Todd couldn't face. Samuel had the key to one of those doors. Could he and Todd survive if he opened it?  Samuel felt that deep chill go through his body. It felt like death warmed over. Samuel wasn't going to get any more sleep. An enormous weight was beginning to weigh him down. Samuel had to find something to lift it. He headed downstairs and walked to his supplies grabbing a blank canvas and his paints.  He set to work painting a portrait of Hope. This might be his last chance to paint and he wanted Starr to have it. Letting his imagination take over he painted his beautiful little Hope as Princess Shorty on the back of the magnificent Black Dragon flying through the clouds toward her castle in the sky, guided only by a single bright Star in the night.

 In the morning Starr found her dad asleep on the couch. She had been worried when she went past his room and found it empty. Starr could smell fresh paint and knew Samuel had been painting. After carefully covering Samuel with a blanket, she opened the gate to his little studio and went in to see who he had painted this time. Her little Hope, he had painted Hope. Starr's heart felt like it was breaking, Samuel had only known Hope for a short time, but the love he felt for her just jumped out at Starr. The look of pure joy on Hope's face as she rode her great Dragon was priceless, as was the love that shown in the eyes of the dragon towards Little Hope.

 Starr knew he had painted it for her. Samuel was sure that he would somehow be able to get her Dad back but that he would no longer be around. He had wanted to give her a gift from him, Samuel. Starr looked over at her dad. She didn't care if he was Samuel, or Tom or any of his other alters, she loved him and she wanted him alive. She wished he would give up this idea of facing that awful secret. If it had been so bad to send her Dad so deep within himself, Starr feared this time it would take his life.


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Monday, May 25, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 75

"Momma?"  Todd said.  "Momma, you spoke?"

She seemed distant, staring down at Peter.  She slowly raised her face, and looked at her son.  
"Are you okay?" she asked.

He swallowed, and tears stung his eyes.  "Yeah, I'm . . . I'm fine, Momma."


"Let me take the baby," she said, and leaned down to take Ray.  He had been falling asleep against Todd, and as she picked him up, he rested his head on her shoulder and went into dreamland.


Blair said, "You're bleeding, bad, Todd."


"I'm okay," he said.  She wasn't happy with his pallor and sweat-shined face.  He had been propped up a little to hold his son, but now fell back to the floor.  She caught his head and rested it on her knee. "I like you taking care of me," he said.


"I like doing it," she answered.  "But I'm worried about the blood loss, and you . . . you look pale, Todd."


"I'm going to be okay," he said.


"Just keep looking at me, okay?  Don't go anywhere," she said, one hand depressing a piece of her blouse onto his wound, and the other reaching for her cell.  He winced under the pressure of her fingers against his shoulder.


"Where am I going?" he asked, dreamily.  His eyes fluttered, and his gaze went to the ceiling.


"Nowhere, Todd, now, stay with me," she pleaded.


His eyes closed.


***


"Ah, Jack," the nun said, as Jack appeared outside his brother's door.  "Ya just caught us saying some prayers."


"Hi Sister.  Hey, Runty, ya gotta go and get your homework done,  Grandma Addie said."


"I don't like homework anymore," Sam said.


"Why?"


"Dad's not here to help me.  He always does."  Sam said, as he unenthusiastically headed out the door.


Jack watched him go and then turned back to the nun.  "He's all messed up."


"Yes, I'd say he is.  For now."


"It's . . . a shitty thing for a guy to do to his brother."


"First, what did I tell ya about y'ar language, young man?  And second, what did ya do?"


He fidgeted.  "I caused all this."


"Ya didn't.  I know that."


"I did.  If I were home, if I was there . . ."


"Then what?  Ya would have miraculously faced off with a bloody gun?  No, Lad, ya just may have made things worse, and cost y'arself y'ar life."


"Maybe, but he has Ray."


"He does.  But not for long.  Ya know y'ar parents are not going to leave Chicago without their babby."


He walked in and sat next to her.  "What if something happens?  What if Jewel has to grow up without Dad, the way I did?"


"Laddy, the only thing ya can do is pray.  And wait.  But ya can't take on the blame."


"I can.  I was supposed to stay with Starr.  I was supposed to help babysit.  She had three kids to watch, how could she fight him off?  If I was there, we might have had a chance."


"I don't think ya will ever know that.  It's best to move on, and try to make sense of it another way."


"What other way?"


"Y'ar mother, how she would have been if ya died.  Ya know how y'ar father's father was.  He would be abusive to ya, as he was to Starr.  He may have killed ya, then what would y'ar parents have done?"


He didn't answer.  He just sat, thinking.  "I don't know."


"It's going to work out, just have faith, Lad."  


*** 


Without warning, the sound of the cellar doors banging against the house startled Blair to look away from her husband's still body for a moment.  She looked up, and to her surprise and also relief was John McBain, shouting, "Freeze, police!" holding a gun in front of himself and cradling it with his second hand.  She could see a man behind him she'd never seen before, and then Timothy, who's expression went from determined to devastated as he lowered his gun.


She said, "He's dying," causing Timothy to come to life.  The older man raced to her side while fumbling with the pistol as he put it into the back waistband of his pants.  He crouched next to her.  "What happened, Bridgette?"


"He got shot, trying to save us."  She collapsed into tears.  John also made his way to them while calling for an ambulance, and the stranger, who seemed concerned as well, did the same.  


The unknown man said, "Excuse me, why don't you come over here with me, and let's take a look at you and the baby?"


"No, I can't leave him.  I won't do that again," she said, remembering her promises to him from the day he set foot back into her life.  


"Must be Blair," Ribsky said to himself.  "And one of his sons."

Timothy looked defeated and suddenly very old.  John was putting pressure on the wound, having taken that position from Blair.  Her hands were covered in Todd's blood, and there was a smear of it on her cheek.  She realized he had put it there when he touched her face before he passed out.  She could tell the stranger was going into "sympathy" mode.


He's not dead.   You're wrong.  You're so very wrong.

Bitsy was crying, her tears were silent.  She stared down at her son and watched as his blood oozed onto the cellar floor.  Peter's body had done the same, but differently.  He was dead, and she was positive of that fact.  There was barely nothing left to the back of his head.


Within a few minutes, Todd slowly revived, responding to the pain in his shoulder provided by John as he depressed the wound.  His cry startled Blair but also relieved her.  She looked into his face and turned it to hers with her hand.  "It's all right.  I'm here.  It's okay.  Ray's fine."


"Momma . . . talked," he said, and John turned toward the woman for a moment.  


"Yes, she did," Blair said.  At this point, Bitsy was nothing more than a shell.  She stood, silently, and watched her son struggle for life.  She seemed in a dream, except for the fact that she held sleeping Ray on her shoulder.


"I . . . I'm tired, Blair."  Todd said.


"No, no, you're not.  You're not tired, you're here with me, with Ray.  You're staying with us."


"I feel . . . tired.  I can't . . . stay awake."


"No, Todd!  Stay with us, please?"


He faded.  She crumpled against John's shoulder.  He continued to work on Todd until the paramedics came through the cellar doors, pushing a spray of early evening light into the room again.


At this, John stood and pulled Blair with him, back and away from Todd.  Timothy, who hadn't said much, stood alongside her as well, and she fell into his arms.  "Please, don't let him die.  I can't live if he's gone."  


Ribsky swallowed, trying to take in the truth of the scene.  John went back to Todd as Timothy took Blair to his chest.


The older man didn't answer.  Everything he had experienced within the last few weeks was flooding back.  He'd lost one son.  He couldn't . . .


"He's not dead, he's going to make it," announced Jack Ribsky, who Blair still didn't know.  The medics carried Todd, on a stretcher, out through the cellar doors, and Jack approached them.  "He bled a lot, but don't be alarmed.  He's going to be fine."


Ribsky turned his attention to the carcass and Bitsy, standing by it.  "Who's this woman?"


"That's Todd's mother."  Blair said.


Ribsky seemed concerned again, as his eyebrows furrowed.  He looked around the room, and surveyed it, for the first time since he had gotten there.  He walked toward the paneled wall.  "What is this place?"


"This," Blair said, still crying, "is my husband's torture chamber of a long ago past.  I have to go, John, I have to be with him," she said, attempting to break free of Timothy.


"I'll bring ya, Bridgette, let's go," Timothy said, as Blair took her son from Bitsy, who made no protest or eye contact, and walked out hurriedly.  Bitsy made no move to go with them or to react. 


John looked at Ribsky.  "Should we check the rest of the house?"


"What about her?"  Ribsky said.  


John noticed that the woman was unnaturally still.  He walked to her, "Mrs. Manning?  Hey, Mrs. Manning?  Can you look at me?"


She didn't respond or raise her eyes.  Her view was fixed on the place where Todd was just lying in his own blood on the floor.  John walked past her, still not noticing the injury to her head which was camouflaged by her hair.  He was followed by Ribsky, and spied the secret door in the paneled wall.  "I think I know what this is about," John said, searching his memory.


Jack Ribsky said, "Yeah?  Well you should share it with me, then, because I have no idea.  What the fuck is this place?"


John pulled the small door open, and the two of them ducked and walked inside.


Bitsy was still behind them, now staring down at Peter.  John and Jack went into the room, and the older man pulled the chain on the single light in the ceiling.  John, looking around, said, "Blair was right.  This is a torture chamber."


Jack walked to the closet, and opening it, reached up and moved the chains.  "Ceiling cuffs," he said, "nasty stuff."


Bitsy had wandered in behind them, and when she entered the room, she looked around her, an expression of horror on her face.  She closed her eyes and then screamed, falling toward the ground.  John instinctively had moved toward her and caught her in his arms before she hit the cellar floor.  "My God," he said aloud.  


Jack Ribsky said, "Let's get her out of here."


"Not soon enough," John answered, and as she fell back, her head tipped, and her hair cascaded back, revealing the gash in her forehead.


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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Failings of the Fathers: 74

A car pulled up in front of The Manning house in the neighborhood where Todd Manning grew up.  Inside, the driver tucked his holster back into his jacket, and looked into the rearview mirror.  

Jack Ribsky sat for a minute, thinking, "Suspicious activity, huh?" as he noticed a car in the driveway.  

"Airport rental," he said.  He noticed, further in, more hidden, a black Chevy.  "So, what's going on here, Connie?" he asked aloud.  The neighbors who had called to tell him there was something strange going on at the house were also concerned that they thought they may have seen Connie Bensonhurst, his sister-in-law, going inside.  And, he remembered, the neighbor also mentioned hearing screams coming from the house.  This made his stomach sour.

He looked from the car window onto the property.  Everything seemed all right.  It looked like a regular day in a suburban, quiet community.  There were few lights on, and dusk was releasing its dim purple haze over the town.  He checked again, as part force of habit, that his gun was in place, and the safety was off.  Just in case.  


He opened the door and started to disembark when another car, airport rental, drove up and parked behind him.  Catching it in the rearview, he noticed two men, one younger, the other about his age, peering into The Manning property, just as he had done moments before.  He got out and went toward their car.


John turned to Timothy.  "Who the Hell is that?" he asked the air.


Timothy said, "I don't know, Lad, but we're about to find out."


The man was approaching their car.  


The man came to the window, flashing identification.  John flashed his badge in response.  The man said, "Police, eh?  Ribsky.  I'm a private investigator, ex-serviceman.  Someone called about suspicious happenings at this house.  My sister-in-law owns it.  Was left to her by one Peter Manning."


"I'm Lieutenant John McBain, this is Timothy Broderick.  I'm off the clock, but some friends of mine may be in trouble in there."


As he spoke the words, a shot rang out from inside the house.  John said, "Let's go, there's a child in there," and threw open his door, almost butting into Ribsky.  But the man didn't balk.  Instead, he moved, faster than John would have guessed, toward the front door.


Timothy and John went to the side entrance, and within a few moments, all three were inside the house. Timothy, breathing heavily, and John, standing over Connie Bensonhurst, as Jack Ribsky came around the corner and saw her.  


"No, oh God," Ribsky said, crouching beside her.  He looked up, "Cold.  Looks like . . . she was beaten to death."


John didn't respond, but both he and Timothy knew who had done the honors.  Guns drawn, all three men looked around and searched the upper level.  That was when they heard the second shot, and could tell it was below them.  Timothy, suddenly remembering, said, "The chamber!  In the cellar!"  


John's face was contorted a little with hearing the words, and Ribsky was stuck, momentarily, on them as well.  What chamber?  What the Hell . . .  Instead of trying to garner an answer, he followed their lead and headed for the cellar stairs.


***


"Sam, what is the matter?"  the nun asked from the doorway to his old room, which now was empty since his family had moved to Unforgettable.


He was lying on the bed, his head turned toward the wall.  She saw him sigh and draw in a ragged breath.  He was crying.  She approached, sitting on the bed next to him.  He kept his back to her.  She said, "Little one, ya shouldn't hide y'ar tears."


"I'm supposed to be a big boy," he said, through sobs, "but I only want my Mom and Dad."


She patted his back.  "So?  That's all right.  I want mine as well, and I'm an old lady."


He turned to her, "You do?"


"Of course.  I think about them all the time.  They're no longer on this earth, but I miss them and want them.  But y'ar parents are alive and well, and probably on the way back to ya."


"My Dad almost died, before."


"I know that, Little One."


"He almost died in Ireland.  Mom said he got brought back to life."


"Yes, that's true.  He's a tough one, that father of y'ars."


"I don't understand stuff," he said.  


She could hear the pain and sadness in his little voice, and her heart broke.  She said, "Like what stuff, may I ask?"


"I don't understand a lot of stuff.  I'm too little, that's what everyone says."  


"Well, sometimes they can be wrong.  Sometimes even little people can know things.  Why don't ya tell me what's confusing ya?"


He turned to her.  His face was red and tear-stained.  He said, "My Dad."


"All right, what is it about him that confuses ya?"


He thought for a very long time, his facial expressions demonstrating concentration and emotion.  "He had a bad life."


The nun, petted his head.  "Yes, he had a bad life.  Until he had ya, and y'ar brothers and sisters, and of course, because of y'ar mother."


"I don't like those stories about his Dad."


"No one does, Sam."


"I want him to come home.  And Mom."


"They will, they'll be home sooner than ya think."


"And Ray."


The nun thought of the tiny boy, with the likes of Peter Manning, and shuddered.  She said, "Any time now."


"Okay," he said.  He looked up at the nun with his eyes, large, and tears resting in the corners.  "But can we pray so God will help them?"


"Yes, of course.  We can pray.  I'll show ya how."


"I know how.  Mom told me."  He got off the bed and knelt at the side of it.  He closed his eyes, and his lips moved without sound.  She found herself in awe of his innocence; as he closed his eyes, and a tear spilled over onto his cheek.


***


In the continually dimming light of the cellar, Blair tried to strain her eyes to see who had shot Peter dead through the head.  On the inside staircase behind her was a figure, she could not make out at first in the dark, the gun still smoking, raised and pointed still where Peter had stood.  

In her amazement, Blair forgot to shield Ray's face as they both turned to see the shooter.  Her son said, in a clear and sweet voice, "Gamma Bitty!"


Blair instinctively shushed her son, and looked back to the scene.  Todd was lying, splayed on the cellar floor, crumpled and unmoving.  She was overcome with fear.  


No.  Not this, please.  Not now, not in front of my baby, not ever. . .

Her mind went back to all of the times he'd told her that he'd die for his children:  Leona in the nursery, Mitch in La Boulaei, the bear.  She felt a surge of pain and sorrow rise through her, starting in the pit of her stomach, and ending in her throat.  She heard herself whimper like a child.  He just got back to us.  He fought his way BACK TO US.  No, not this.  Please.  Don't make it that his son just watched him die.


She wanted to go to him, but she was so afraid.  She wanted him to get up and come toward her, and take his baby son and hold him.  He didn't move.  Ray, who was pressed against her chest again, said, "Down, Mommy.  Want to see Daddy."


"No, Ray, not now."  She held her son to her, and closed her eyes.  For a moment, she was hoping to open them and see him, standing before her, in all his stubborn, beautiful turmoil.  She kept them closed, hoping to shut out what might be the truth.  That he might not ever come back to her this time.


I love him so much. 


Then, she heard his voice, laboring.  "Blair, get the baby out of here," he said.  He sounded far away.  As she ran to his side, after putting Ray down at his grandmother's feet, she called to him.  

"Todd, please," she practically stumbled to the ground beside him.  First, noticing he was breathing, and starting to move, she could see he was in pain, and spied blood spattered on his clothes.  "My Love, we're fine, the baby's fine," she said, crouching beside him.  Don't let him die.  Don't let him leave us.  "Don't leave us, Todd," she heard herself say quietly.


He reached for her hand.  "I feel like we've done this a lot before.  Me hurt, me bleeding.  Me in peril.  Such beautiful memories, huh?"


She broke through her panic and tears and laughed lightly.  "Oh, Todd, just say you're all right?"


"He just got me in the shoulder, that's all.  He's a shit shot.  I'm okay, but it hurts like a bitch.  What about Ray?"


"He's fine.  He's over there, just worried about his Daddy."


Todd pushed himself to sitting the best he could.  "Come here, Ray.  Come on."


Ray hesitated a moment.  Todd said, "It was Momma?  She shot Peter?"


Blair shook her head in agreement.


The little boy ran to his father, and Todd was able to embrace him with one arm, and pull him close to his heart.  Ray said, "Daddy," very softly, and cried.


Bitsy dropped the gun, mechanically, onto the staircase, and then walked past them to Peter's body.  She stood over him, robotic.  She looked to Todd a moment, and he said, "I'm okay, Momma."


The older woman sighed, and looked down at Peter.  Then, to their amazement, she opened her mouth, and said:  "I should have done this the first time you touched my son, you bastard," and she kicked his still body.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Todd's Saga 35: A Step Closer

        Bo finished looking at the paperwork that had been delivered by a special messenger that morning.  He glanced across his desk at his niece Natalie. “What do you think?  Is this a hoax?  Is something like that even possible?”

Natalie continued to look at the paperwork in front of her.  “These lab results aren’t faked, Uncle Bo.  Besides, whoever sent this was thorough.  Did you see these pictures?  This source seems to have taken pictures showing lab technicians loading the bottles. Oh my God!  Uncle Bo, look at this one.”  She pulled a picture from the group and handed it back to her uncle.

        One look at the picture and a chill went through Bo.  It showed a man’s arm with a very familiar tattoo loading one of the baskets. “Damn, I missed that one.  It all makes sense now.  Someone wanted me to know that these people are the same ones that drugged Dani and had Victor.”

          Natalie continued to study the lab results. “This drug is dangerous.  Why would they be putting drugs in the gift baskets?” Even as she said that she spotted a photo showing a couple of completed baskets with gift cards attached.  As she read the names on the cards it suddenly became clear what the organization was attempting. “They’re trying to drug the members of Congress,” She said softly to herself. 

         Bo caught her last words. “What?”  He reached for the photos again and saw what Natalie had just seen.  “I’m an idiot.  Instead of wondering if this was a joke, I should have taken a better look at everything.  I’m calling the FBI.” He stopped what he was doing as he spotted Nigel walking into his squad room carrying what appeared to be an identical basket to the ones in the picture.  Viki was following.  “Natalie, look!” He stood up and made his way around his desk as Natalie turned to see what her uncle was looking at.  

        Nigel and Viki moved towards Bo’s office and stopped just as Bo opened the door.  Viki spoke before he could say anything.  “Bo, I need a favor from you.”

        Bo stood back and let them enter his office shutting the door behind him. 

        “Mom, what are you doing here, and where did that basket come from,” asked Natalie?

        Viki was a little taken aback finding Natalie there, then she spotted the pictures lying on Bo’s desk.  Sam Vance had done her job.  She squared her shoulders.  It was time to bring Bo and now Natalie up to speed.  “I think you know where this basket came from,” she looked down at the photos.  “But you might be wondering how I got it.  It was delivered to my office yesterday, by messenger service.  I need to have it checked for fingerprints.  Nigel, you can set it down there and I think I’m going to be here for a little while.  You can go.  I’m sure Natalie or one of Bo’s officers can see me home.” 

        “Very good, Madam.”  He set the basket down and departed.

        Bo waited until Nigel left and then turned back to Viki.  “Viki, why is it important to get fingerprints off that basket?”

       “Because I need proof of something I only suspect right now.  Bo, I think it’s time to tell you where I’ve been over the last couple of weeks.  Natalie, this concerns you too.  Maybe we should all have a seat.” Viki sat down and waited for Bo and Natalie to do the same.

         Viki  set her purse on her lap and started. “First off, the basket.   Someone warned me I might be receiving it.” 

        “Mom, I don’t understand.  You brought the basket here.  What made you do that?” 

        “Because the same person who warned me I might be getting it, also told me what it contained.   He warned me that a person I trusted might be the one who sent the basket and I wanted to see if he was right, which is why I want it fingerprinted.” She opened her purse and pulled out a newspaper article she had carefully put in a plastic bag.  “I need to know if any of the fingerprints match the ones on this article.” 

        Bo’s eyes narrowed. “Whose fingerprints are on that article, Viki?”

       “Jeffrey King’s.”

        Natalie sputtered, “But he’s your new top reporter and Matthew’s roommate.” she stopped and looked at the pictures of the baskets that had been taken by the source. “Surely you don’t think he’s part of this?” She indicated the pictures.

         Viki shifted in her chair. “I hope not.  That’s why I need the basket checked.  If his fingerprints are on that basket, then this next part I’m telling you will make more sense.” She looked at her daughter and Bo.  “I found Clint.”

****

Todd hung up the phone and took a moment to look at work laid out on his desk at the OTB office.   Phil had kept the office running efficiently while he had been away.  He sat down and began to go through the important items she had laid out.  There were details that the natural gas strike in South Dakota  was already showing a profit.  It had been a couple of weeks since he had sent Sid and his family out of harms way.  Todd frowned.  After everything that had happened.  Sid Reilly was another person who could link Alison Perkins and Carl Peterson.  Todd hated what he was going to have to do, but they needed Sid, which meant for a short time he’d have to leave his brother and sister.  Reaching for the phone again he made another call.

Sid gingerly took the phone from his boss.  He had been called in out of the field suddenly and then had been told to report to the main office.  The foreman informed him that the owner the Company wanted to talk to him.  He was worried.  Why would the owner want to talk to him? “Yes sir, this is Sid Reilly.  What can I do for you?” Sid watched his boss leave the office and then heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line.

        “Sid, it’s me, Tony.  Relax, you’re not in any trouble.”

        “Tony? You’re shitting me.  Do you own this company?  I guess I should have realized something was up, the private jet and all.  Man, I can’t thank you enough.  This job has been a godsend.”

         Todd shifted in his seat.  He was always uncomfortable when people thanked him.  “That’s good Sid, but I was wondering if you could help me out this time?”

         “Sure man. Whatever you need.” Sid relaxed against the desk.  

         “This concerns the compound.”  Todd let his words sink in.  Sid needed to know just what he was agreeing to.  

          As soon as he heard the word compound, Sid felt a little sick.  Even though he had needed the money, he wish he had never heard of or seen the place.  If Tony hadn’t gotten him out that night, there was no telling what would have happened to him.  He stood up straight.  “I’m guessing you got what you went into that place for.  What do you think I can help you with now?”

         “You know what Alison Perkins and her goons are capable of.  I have to ask.  Did you ever see Alison Perkins with anyone who looked like he might have been a partner?”

        “I don’t know, Tony.  Baker kept us all pretty busy moving that drug.  Wait a minute... there was one time.  Baker sent me to the lab with a case of the drug and I did see Ms. Perkins  walking around with some older guy.”

         Todd got excited  “Did you get a good look at his face?  Do you think you might recognize the guy if you saw him again?”

         “Yeah, I got a pretty good look.  They were too busy talking to the doctors in the lab to pay attention to some grunt like me.  I pretty sure I’d know him if I saw him again..”

        “Sid, I want you to hold on.  I’m going to fax a picture to the office there.  When it comes through, let me know if that’s the guy you remember.”

“Sure Tony.”  Sid leaned back and waited.  He could hear Tony talking to someone else in the background and the next thing he knew  a machine in the office was whirring.  He watched as a picture of a distinguished man in a tux printed out.  Taking the sheet Sid gave it a good look. It certainly looked like the man he had seen. He set the phone down and grabbed a piece of tape from the desk and put the picture on the door at eye level. Then he walked across the room trying to put the space between himself and the picture the way it had been in the lab.  There was no mistake, that was the man he remembered. Suddenly he heard Tony’s voice call out from the phone.

         “Did you get the fax?  Is that the guy you saw, Sid?”

         Sid picked up the phone. “Yeah. I got the fax and yep he’s the guy.  Who is he?  He looks kind of important in that picture.”

         “His name is Carl Peterson and he’s a very influential man who just happens to be Alison Perkins’ brother.“

         “Whoa.  So they’re brother and sister.  Well they’re up to no good.  That’s for sure.  Does it help knowing he’s involved, Tony?”

          “More than you know, Sid.  Listen, if this plays out the way I think it will, would you be willing to testify you saw them together at the compound.”

           “You bet.  That place needs to be shut down and if I can do my part, I will.”

            “That’s great.  I’ll be in touch.  By the way, I’ve heard nothing but praise from Rogers.  I’m glad the job is working out for you.” Todd hung up before he got mushy and asked after Sid’s little sister.  He could still picture her with her stuffed animal.  Thinking of her, turned his thoughts towards Blair and the child she was carrying.  He looked at the calendar. It wasn’t possible.  Almost two months had passed since his Key West time with Blair.  March was a week away and she was due close to Mother’s Day. “No matter what Blair, I promise this will all be resolved before our baby is born.”

****

Blair picked up the burner phone off her nightstand and sat on the edge of her bed.  Her heart was racing.  Knowing what she had found out recently, it had been exceedingly hard to remain cordial when Carl Peterson had suddenly shown up on her doorstep.  After a few minutes of conversation, he had taken his leave and she had made a beeline for her bedroom.  She sat there for a moment and took some deep breaths, then made the call to Todd.

“Blair, hi.  Is everything alright?”

“Yes, I just wanted to hear your voice.  I miss you.  I…I”  She paused, her voice had started to break and she didn’t want Todd to worry, but the moment she heard him she had just wanted him to hold her.  She had been around Carl Peterson many times but today she had felt like she was in the presence of a snake. It had unnerved her.

         Todd sat up straighter in his chair.  It wasn’t like Blair to stutter. He could hear the quiver in her voice.  “Babe what’s wrong?”

         “It’s nothing.  I just wish you were here to hold me.  Look, I know I’m not making any sense.”

         “Stop that.  What happened?  What brought all this on?  Babe, you know I’ll be there in a heartbeat.”  God, all she had to do was ask. “The organization be damned, I’m coming home!”

         Blair was even more alarmed. “No! It’s not safe.  You know Alison’s men could be watching.  I won’t let her get her hands on you because I’m jittery. It’s been a weird day and my hormones are all over the place.  David’s acting queerly.  The baby’s been really active lately.  When you come home I want it to be permanent.  We have to stick to our plan.  It’s just all this latest news you’ve found out.   Here I thought Carl Peterson was just a heartbreaker, but now we know he’s been behind Clint’s abduction and Victor’s strange actions.  I was just taken aback when he showed up here today looking for Dorian.”

          Todd realized Peterson’s visit was responsible for Blair’s mood. “I’m sorry,  I should have known telling you about him would put additional stress on you if he showed up.  Damn it!  Dorian should be there keeping him occupied.  It’s not your job to keep him happy.  Have you heard from her?  Is there any word she’s headed home?”

          Blair settled herself against her pillows. “No, but you know Dorian, she lives by her own rules.  She’ll be home when she’s ready.  I think she’s been trying to figure out how to break things off with David so she can help trap Carl.  I feel sorry for David.  I think he’s cracking a little bit, wondering where she’s at.”

          Todd moved to sit behind his desk, he punched in some information on his computer and continued the  conversation with Blair.  He could tell by her tone, that she had calmed down but something she said suddenly had him curious. “That’s the second time you’ve mentioned David.   What’s that idiot up to now?”

          “He’s just been strange.  Last night I came home from work and found him sitting in the living room drinking wine and admiring all his head shots.  He was so absorbed he seemed to be in a trance when I tried to talk to him.  Then he did something unbelievable for him.  I told him he needed to get his act together and clean up his mess.  I also happened to mention he might want to stop mooching off Dorian and show her he could change.”

         “That guy has been needing to clean up his act for years.  What’s strange about that?”

          Blair moved to get more comfortable.  “That’s just it.  He got up immediately and cleaned up the room, then he said he was going to get dress and go look for a job.  Todd, it was two  in the morning.  Naturally I stopped him and pointed out the lateness of the hour.   I figured he was just drunk and he would sleep off the weirdness.  But this morning, he actually headed out to find a job.  Even Jack thought he was acting unusual.”

          Todd thought about everything Blair just told him.  In his mind he saw a guy protesting breaking some bottles of wine and then becoming docile as soon as a technician gave him a shot.  It couldn’t be.  Peterson wouldn’t have sent a basket to Dorian, would he?

         “Todd, are you still there?”

          “What, oh sorry Babe.  I was thinking.  You say David was drinking wine when you got home.  Do you know what kind?”

         “Not offhand, I only took a cursory look at the name when I put it away last night.”

         “Blair, I need you to go search David’s room and tell me if he has a gift basket of goodies sitting in there.”

         “Todd, I don’t understand.  What makes you think there’s a basket  in David’s room?  Are you saying that’s where the wine came from?”

           “If I’m correct in what I believe. Yes.”

            Blair got off the bed. “Okay, I’m headed there now.  Do you want to tell me what’s so special about this gift basket, if he has one?”  She walked down the hallway to Dorian’s room and entered.  Sure enough, a large gift basket was sitting on the day table by the window.  A second bottle identical to the one from the previous night was still nestled in the basket.

           “Blair?  Did you find one?”

            “Yes Todd, I’m staring right at it.  Now tell me how you knew about it?  Are you telling me you sent it and David took it instead of giving it to me?”

            “I didn’t send it.  I think Carl had it delivered. Is there a card?”  Todd crossed his fingers.  If David had left the card alone they might have one more nail to put in Peterson’s coffin. 

           “I don’t see one.  So you think Carl sent this as a present for Dorian.” Now that she had a chance to look at the items and the bottle of wine she could see that it was a gourmet collection and a very fine gift.  She laughed.  “I’ll bet David got rid of the card and figured he’d let Dorian think it was from him.   Obviously he couldn’t resist trying one of the bottles of wine.  Well if he had to get drunk at least it was with the good stuff.”

           “Blair, whatever you do, don’t let Dorian have any of that wine.  It’s been drugged.”

            “What!  My god, what about the candies and the caviar and cheeses.  Oh my god, Sam could have come in here this morning and gotten some.  I’ll get rid of it.” As she started to reach for it Todd stopped her.

            “Blair don’t.  David has already been drugged but even drugged he’s going to wonder what happened to the basket. The food items are safe, so if David offered some candy to Sam, he’d be okay.  I need you to see if you can find a card.  Maybe David just threw it away.  Can you go check and see if it’s out front?”

            Blair stomped her foot. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me why you expect me to just leave that basket setting where it is, instead of throwing it away.  I can’t believe you want me to leave something dangerous in this house where Sam or Jack could be exposed to it.  What about David?   You said he was drugged.  Is the drug going to hurt him.?”

          “Blair, I assure you. the only thing dangerous is the wine, but won’t hurt David.  I should know, I packed a number of those baskets not that long ago.  Look, Carl sent that basket because he’s going to try and control Dorian.  He had no way of knowing David had gotten back with her nor that David would intercept it.  That basket is further proof for Dorian that I‘ve been telling the truth.  Look, tell David you don’t think he should keep the wine bottle lying around where the boys could get it.  The drug in his system makes him compliant.  If you ask, I’m sure he’ll willingly hand over the wine and you ‘can put it safely up until Dorian returns.”

          Blair wasn’t happy with Todd’s explanation but at the same time the sooner they got proof against Carl and Alison, the sooner Todd could return home.  “Fine, I’ll leave it for now, but the minute David returns home, he’s giving me that bottle.”

        “Great.  Don’t worry, David won’t be able resist anything you tell him.  I need to call Sam Vance.  Blair, this could be the break we’ve been hoping for.  Really, see if you can find a card.”

        “Okay, I’ll go search the bushes out front, but you’re going to owe me big time when you get home.”  she headed for the stairs. “Oh and by the way.  Don’t you dare come home until this is settled .  Do you hear me, Todd Manning?” She said softly into the phone.

        Todd looked at the itinerary on his computer screen. Damn she really knows you Manning.  “I love you Blair.”

        Blair’s heart beat a little faster. “I love you too.” she whispered, then hung up. 



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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 27

Samuel sighed and turned into Blair's embrace. He looked into her eyes smiled and said,"Just you and me against the world. Right, Blair?"

There he was. Todd smiling the way he always did when they would start one of their schemes. Blair reached up and moved his hair out of his face. "Yes, you and me, and don't you worry, we'll make them pay, the ones who did this. You'll see." She let him go and moved back to her wine. She turned back to him and said," Remember this one. House Rules. Well, these are the new House Rules. No more recriminations. What's past is past. You got that buster. You're back and you're going to get back everything taken from you or my name isn't Blair Cramer." She smiled, raised her glass in a toast to him and drank what was left in the glass and threw it at the fireplace, laughing.

Samuel chuckled, "Looks like I'm going to have to get new glassware." He moved back to the couch perching on the end the way Todd used to do. "You know, thank you for giving me back my son. Can you tell me about him?"

Blair replied " I can do that and more," she grabbed her purse and opened the wallet then she removed two pictures from inside and handed them to Samuel. "Jack just started High School, he’s just like you. Impulsive, very direct, he tells it the way he sees it."

Samuel looked at the picture of a young man in his teens. He had been much younger when Todd had seen him last. He saw himself in Jack's young face. This was a confident young man who wasn't hampered by all the baggage his father Todd carried. Jack appeared happy. Samuel then looked at the second picture that Blair had handed him. A beautiful young woman holding a lovely child smiled up from the picture. He recognized his Starr. She was all grown up. His little girl wasn't little any longer. He closed his eyes remembering all the adventures and secrets they had shared when she was younger. Well, he couldn't roll back time. He started to hand the pictures back to Blair, but she stopped him. "You hang on to those Samuel, I have others." He looked at Blair and carefully stored the pictures in his wallet, then he said. "Blair, I need to see Starr.  Can you get her here?  I know it will be a shock. but it's important to me. It's important to Todd. I won't ask to see Jack yet, but Starr is older she deserves to know the truth."

"You're right Samuel, she of all people deserves to know you're alive. I'll try and bring her by tomorrow afternoon. Will that work for you?" Blair answered.

"That will be fine, Blair. I sense that I don't have much more time. Ever since arriving here in Llanview, I've felt this pull. I almost followed that pull this morning. I would like to see Starr, she's always given me the will to survive and I think I need that boost right now. Todd especially needs to know that you and Starr will be waiting for us. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I just recalled something you said in passing on the telephone earlier. You mentioned meeting someone on the plane from Paris. Someone you said had a connection to Carlo Hesser. Who was it again?" he asked.

Blair looked at Samuel. She was worried about him. What was this talk about not much more time?  God, she thought  I just got him back. Am I going to lose him to that memory already? One way or the other I've got to make sure he knows both Starr and I are going to be here this time and we're not leaving. She heard him change the subject. Blair knew he was trying to take his mind off that fateful moment. "Oh, yes I remember. That's right. The person in question is named Alex Olanov she used to be married to Carlo Hesser. Why the interest?"

"Because, Blair, I encountered a charming woman in Paris named Alex. We started off just having a drink together, but I sensed something was off and wasn't going to see her anymore. That same night I got it into my head that she might have been sent by the people who've watched me these last eight years. In fact, I spent an entire afternoon with her the same day you showed up at my door. She had been trying to get information and I believe she had been sent to wrap me around her little finger. I'd thought I might be able to glean my own information from her, but she got skittish and then she suddenly had to leave town. It's my belief that whoever is behind her is behind all of this. Now you tell me that she is connected to Hesser. The same man who's been buying my paintings for a number of years. Blair, I think Carlo Hesser is the person who did this to me. Now I have to find proof. I'm hoping my contacts will find a link between the research facility and Hesser. If there is one, then I'll be able to concentrate on just what the facility is researching."

Samuel got up and moved to the window staring down at Llanview. "You know, Todd hates this town. I feel it in my bones. Don't get me wrong, He loves you and the kids, Tea and Vicki, but he can't stand the town. There is a blackness in this town that eats at him. I don't know if I can help him purge that hatred or not. If he survives to return, he'll need all our help to remain.

****

Samuel had spent the morning painting a portrait of Starr. He pictured her sitting in the middle of a bed. In front of her on the bed was a tea set. She was laughing at something Todd had done. He remembered her saying. "You can't fool me. You're My Daddy." Samuel was worried Blair wouldn't be able to get Starr to the penthouse. He'd suggested that maybe Blair could try and talk Starr into setting up a home for Hope in the Penthouse. He had been surprised when Blair had thought that was an excellent idea. She had taken his suggestion one step further and told Samuel that he should have Starr and Hope come live with him. He had never even thought of that possibility but the longer he thought about it, the more he was taken with the idea. He had given Blair a key so that it would look like the realtor was letting them look at the place. They had made plans for Blair to have a little trouble with the key so he would have time to retreat upstairs. God, he was so nervous.

Blair had also been busy, finding ways to get Starr in the mood to move. She had had Jack bust in on his sister bright and early yelling something about Sam letting his pet mouse loose upstairs and he had just seen it run into Starr's room. Then she and Langston had monopolized the bathrooms for ages so Starr almost missed her morning class at LU. When Starr arrived home, Blair then suggested she might want a place of her own. "You know Starr, your father's old Penthouse is available. Maybe we could go take a look at it this afternoon. You're already familiar with the layout and they have that great Daycare on the ground floor for working residents. Hope would have excellent care and you would be able to concentrate on your studies better during the day. What do you say? Let's take Hope and go have a look." Starr had actually perked up at the thought. They had bundled up Hope and headed out.

All the way there Blair was thinking about the reaction Starr was going to have. She decided that the best way to reveal Samuel was simply to let Samuel and Starr come face to face and work it out from there. Ok, we're here. I hope Starr can take this. I know what I experienced the first time I saw him. They parked in the garage and took the elevator up.

“Gosh Mom, it seems like forever since we've been in the penthouse. Dad sold it right before we were to move to Hawaii. Then everything happened with Cole. We were so happy right before all of that. I'm a little scared. I wonder what it looks like now?" Starr said and then hugged Hope and said, " This is where Mommy grew up. Wait till you see Hope." The elevator stopped and they walked to the front door. Blair got out the key and made a big show of having trouble with the lock. "Here Mom, you take Hope. I can get the door." Starr got the door unlocked and opened it. Blair let her enter first and followed with Hope.

Starr walked in.   In some ways, it looked exactly like it had when they had left but the furniture was set up totally different. "Mom, are you sure this penthouse is still available. It looks like there might be someone already living here." Then she saw the portraits on the wall. She had never seen them before. There was her Aunt Vicki and Tea and My God was that her Mother! She looked at her Mother "Mom! when did you pose for that!"

Blair had the grace to blush, but spoke up quickly, "Starr Manning, I never posed like that with anybody."

"But Mom, where did they come from. I've never seen them before, I would have remembered." She went up to the portraits but saw no signature. She was able to make out three dates. The ones of Aunt Vicki and Tea had been painted in 2004 but then she saw the date 2011 on the one of her Mother. She turned around smiling. "Now I know you're not telling me everything. These paintings all just have dates and no signatures just like the one you took to Paris. Are you going to stand there and tell me you didn't meet the artist? Mom, how could you allow a perfect stranger to paint you like that?"

"Starr, I did not go over to Paris and have a fling with an artist and these are not my paintings.  I brought you here to look at the Penthouse I wasn't aware it was occupied. Why don't you look around a little more I'm going to get some water for Hope. " Blair said and headed for the kitchen.

Starr noticed the Easel sitting over by the window and the paint supplies sitting around it. Her curiosity got the better of her and she went to see the canvas on the easel. Starr could only stare. It was of her as a child.  Who was the artist who had painted all of these? How did he know her? She had only been four when her father had gone through a weird time in his life. But she remembered the tea party she and her daddy had that day. Aunt Vicki had called her dad Tom that day. She didn't understand till later about DID, but she had been told her dad had pretended to have it. She loved her dad, so she had never judged him. How had this artist known about that moment? Aunt Vicki and Dad had been the only other ones in the room with her. Suddenly Starr heard a noise on the stairs behind her, She turned and looked up.

He stood there looking at his beautiful daughter. She was so grown up. Samuel felt such love for her. She had seen him. He wondered just what kind of reaction he was going to get from her. "Hello Starr. I didn't mean to startle you."

"Who the hell are you! What are you doing in my Dad's penthouse. And who do you think you're going to fool with that makeup job. I don't know what game you're playing at, but someone should have told you about my dad's new face. You don't look anything like Todd Manning now. Wait till my dad finds out about you. Man you're in trouble." Starr spoke angrily.

"Now just hold on Shorty, I'm not trying to fool anyone. This is my penthouse, it was before you were born and after. This makeup job isn't makeup, it's my face. And although you don't believe it at this moment. I'm your dad." Samuel couldn't believe how frustrated he felt. What was he going to do now? How could he prove to her he was her father?

"Whoa," Starr had never seen him angry before. Wait a minute,had she just thought that? For one brief moment she had felt like she was hearing her dad. Just who was this man. He had rattled off his comments the same way her dad used to. Why had he said he was her father? He called her Shorty. What was going on? He had made it to the bottom of the stairs. He looked at her, then walked over to the painting of her by the window.

"This is a memory I loved, it kept me going back then. You were so little but you had such a big heart. You had apologized to me because you didn't have real cookies so I grabbed some from my stash under the bed and was eating them and talking to you at the same time. You told me to stop eating with my mouth full. Then your Aunt Vicki came in the room, she had brought me some clothes. She called me Tom and you wanted to know who Tom was. So I explained that my whole name was Thomas Todd Manning and some people called me Todd and some called me Tom. But what you said was the best thing of all,"  he turned and looked right at her. "“You said, you can't fool me, you're my daddy. That meant the world to me. You mean the world to me. If you don't believe in me then I might as well be dead." Samuel waited watched her. He had nothing else to offer but his love.

Blair had returned from the kitchen, she'd had never heard what happened the day when they had met Tom. She remembered how she, Max, Kevin and Tea were all skeptical of the DID. She also remembered the day after when she had insisted Todd stop what he was doing or she would take Starr and leave. Now she understood why Pete had come out. He was protecting Todd and his relationship with his daughter. One of Starr's tape players was running that day and the tape ended up being played at the worse possible time. Todd had stoically accepted the censure of his loved ones and let them think that he had been faking. Now she understood what he had meant the last time they had wed. He had tried to tell her how his head was full of voices and how she kept them at bay. In his own way he was telling her his secret, it just hadn't registered.

Starr didn't know what to do. She looked at his face. He was the older version of a dad she hadn't seen since 2003. Where had he gotten the second scar? She didn't understand what to believe. If this was her dad standing here, where had he been for so long? If he loved her as he said, why had he left? She was so bewildered.

Samuel could see the thoughts run through her mind. She didn't know whether to believe him or to continue to chastise him for being a fraud. He had hoped that just seeing him would be enough but now he knew different. "I am not an impostor Starr. I've been gone all this time because I had no memory of who I was until recently. To make matters worse, I have one more confession. This body standing in front of you is your father's body but I am in charge of it right now. My name is Samuel and I am one of your father's alters."

"Now I know you’re lying. My dad doesn't have alters. He just pretended to be like his sister to get out of prison. Mom, you tell him. He's lying right?" Starr looked over at her mom. "What kind of lies did he tell you in Paris. This is the artist of your painting right? I don't know what you told my mom but I'm telling you, whatever your planning, it isn't going to work. My dad knows all sorts of people. They'll figure out your scam."

It was time she spoke up. Blair walked across the room and joined the two of them. There was only one thing she could think of at the moment that might work. She walked up to Samuel and said, "Samuel, I'd like you to meet your Granddaughter Hope." then she handed him Hope.


Samuel looked at his granddaughter. She was adorable and so much like his Starr when she had been little. " Hello Princess Shorty, are you a good girl for your mother, the queen of this domain. Well let me introduce myself.  I'm Sir Dragon and I've known your mother for most of her life. I even came to the rescue of your grandmother once when an ugly King was threatening her. Now I'm here to protect you. Would you allow this Dragon to serve you." Hope giggled and hugged her new found friend. Samuel hugged her back as tears formed "Thank you Princess Shorty, I'll take that as a yes." He looked at Starr and said. "She's beautiful, Starr."

Starr gazed at Hope and her dad. In one moment she saw the truth. There, standing holding her daughter, was the man who had filled her life with wonder. Here was the dad who, long ago, had named her Princess Shorty and had stood between her and anyone who would hurt her. She remembered all the stories he used to tell and act out for her. He was here again, looking at her with tears in his eyes begging her to believe in him one more time. Not understanding any of it, she threw logic out the window and did what her heart told her to do. Starr flung her arms around both her dad and Hope and held onto both of them for dear life. With tear filled eyes, she looked at her dad and said, "I've missed you Dad."

Samuel couldn't catch his breath, as he held still and just enjoyed the feeling of his daughter's arms around him again. His heart felt ready to burst, suddenly Samuel felt a sharp pain rip through his chest. He gasped for breath. "No! Not now!"

Starr saw the look on Samuel face change from joy to pain. He suddenly turned so white, "Dad! What is it? What's the matter? Mom take Hope." Blair had rushed over at Samuel's gasp and quickly took Hope from his arms. Starr helped Samuel to the bottom stair and sat him down. He was clutching his chest and looked about ready to pass out "Mom I think it's his heart. Call 911. Dad, you're going to be alright we'll get help."

Samuel reach out and grabbed Starr's arm. " Aspirin .. in . kitchen.. get .." he was starting to lose consciousness. He felt for the rail but couldn't move his arm any longer then there was nothing.

Starr had rushed to the kitchen to find the aspirin when she heard her Mom cry out. She grabbed the bottle and ran back out to the living room. "Oh no, Dad!"

Blair had just finished the 911 call when she saw Samuel collapse on the stair. She ran over and laid him flat on the floor.  God, his heart had stopped. She began CPR and felt for a pulse.  He had one. She knelt there looking down at Todd barely breathing. "Don't you die on me. We just got you back. You can't come back and then leave again. It's not right. Thomas Todd Rodd Pete Samuel Ms Perkins Manning don't you leave!" His breathing became easier and then he slowly opened his eyes. "Todd, we're getting help, stay with me."

He smiled weakly and said  “I'm not going anywhere."

Starr joined her mother at her dad's side. " Mom, is he going to be alright?" She looked down into his eyes and smiled at him. "You've got to stick around, I don't have Freddie the frog any longer. So you can't leave. Besides, Hope needs the best storyteller around to tell her the 'real' fairy tales. Come here Hope, keep your grandpa awake. Sing a little song for him." The doorbell rang, Starr handed the aspirin to her mother and went to let in the EMTs.

"I'm not going and that's final! Look I'm much better now, I'll take full responsibility but I'm not going to the hospital." said Samuel.  He looked over to Blair for some assistance. "Please, I promise to see a doctor for a full workup, but I can't go to that hospital. I hate hospitals."

Blair looked into Samuel's eyes. She knew why he was avoiding the hospital but she was worried he was putting his life on the line. "You heard him, gentlemen. I promise to take him to my doctor first thing tomorrow." She led the EMTs to the door and saw them out. Then she returned to have it out with Samuel. "Are you crazy! You just had a heart attack. You should have let them take you."

“Blair, Starr, I can't go to the hospital. Not here anyway. Besides I know what they're going to tell me. I've known for eight years. The injuries I sustained eight years ago did some damage to my heart. It's weaker than it used to be. But all my doctors assured me that I could still live a long life, I just have to watch my stress." Samuel looked at both of them, silently begging them to help. "Before you blow a gasket Blair, I'm aware that I'm preparing to try and take my life back and that is going to be very stressful, that's why I need your help. Starr, I have a request, would you consider moving in with your old man. You could keep an eye on me and make sure I'm not getting too carried away. I think having you and Hope around could be the best medicine for me." He grinned and picked up his granddaughter setting her on his lap. "What do you say Hope, do you want to live with Sir Dragon?"

Starr glanced over at her Mom, she shook her head, and looked back at her Dad and said, "Well someone needs to keep an eye on you, that's for sure. Yes Dad, we'll move in with you."

"You hear that Hope. Welcome to Sir Dragon's Cave." Samuel said happily.



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