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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 3

"So, how was y'ar evening, Dear Bea, and spending last night with The Mannings?"  the nun said.

"It was fine, Sister," she said, sitting down near her friend, and looking to the lunch plate in front of her.  "I don't think I can eat this.  We had quite a breakfast at Todd's."

The nun was positive that was true; Todd would have made a big production over his mother's visit and first morning meal with them.  "Ah, yes, well, it can sit or be saved for later."

"Yes, I know, Sister.  I will."

"I am a little concerned.  Ya seem upset, Dear."

"I'm worried. Sam, he's having nightmares.  And they're about Peter."

"Oh, Dear.  The little tyke is such a sweet child."

"He's been tainted, Sister.  Like Todd," her eyes filled.  "I don't want him to be hurt by Peter for the rest of his life in ways that go beyond Peter's death."

"He won't.  He has Todd, and Blair, and his family, and ya as well."

"He was so innocent.  Peter's filth has touched him.  Did you know Peter killed the dog?"

"Of course, yes.  I'd heard about it."

"He broke its neck.  Like he . . . did to Todd's cat.  It wasn't really Todd's cat, you know.  But he loved that animal.  Peter broke her neck with his hands.  In fact, that is how Todd figured out it was Peter when Starr told him that very fact."

The nun fidgeted a bit, hearing the additional news.  "That's . . . one horrific tale, My Dear Bea.  Of course, it's behind ya.  And behind Todd.  But for Sam, it seems to be a current thorn in his side."

"Yes.  And he's so innocent, Sister.  He broke my heart.  It brought me back . . . to . . . when Todd was a child."

"I can understand that."

The nun's expression must have alerted Bitsy.  "But I'm all right, I'm really fine.  It's been a tough couple of years, but I feel as if . . . I've come back to myself, somehow."

"Well, that is what counts.  And Ray Martino is a fool-proof way to do so, eh?"

"Yes, and also you, Sister.  You have been my constant friend and support."

"Thank ya, Bea.  I've enjoyed my time working with ya, and hope we can always remain friends."

"I'm sure of that," Bitsy said.


"What are you doing?"  Blair said, watching her husband get his suit on.

"Getting ready for work."

"Work?  All right, but I didn't think you were . . ."

"If Jack's going to dump college, he's going to work."

"Todd, you . . ."

"I know what you're going to say, and he can't just sit back and say he's not going to college and just think it's going to be easy."

"I don't think he thinks that, and you don't know what I was going to say."

"Well, I pretty much think I know."

"I was going to say it's a good idea."

He stopped.  "You were?"

"Yes.  I think it's good for him to have to work for things.  He can't just be handed everything.  That wouldn't be right."

"Well, that's what I plan to do."

"Okay, so what's your plot?"

"My plot is copyboy.  If he wants to move his way up, he can move his way up.  From the bottom."

"He'll balk.  When Zeus was running the paper, he let him write.  He spoiled him that way, so that . . . well, you know . . ."

Todd's eyes narrowed.  "I suppose I do.  Trying to compensate, maybe.  But it's not going to be that way now."

"I am not disagreeing.  I think you're right.  But one thing."


"If you expect to drive him or force him to college this way, I'm not going along for that ride.  If he doesn't want college, he doesn't."  He didn't respond at first.  She continued, "I mean, he might not want to do school.  You are a different person, Todd.  You wanted it, and lost it.  Who says he wants it?  And besides, today, college can happen any year any time.  He could be twenty, twenty-five or fifty-five."

"I'm not going to talk about that part of it, Blair.  We're not going to see it the same."

"My Love," she said, slipping her arms through his left one, and hugging it, "I know what you lost.  I know it was important to you, and I know that why you lost it is what this is really about."  She rested her chin on his shoulder.  "But he's not you.  And, you can't make up for your mistakes that way."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    He side-eyed her.  "I can sure try."


Bea took her napkin off her lap, since she wasn't eating, and Sister Rebecca Katherine noticed that she had a new pale blue cardigan.  "I like you in blue, Dear," she said.

"Thank you, Sister.  Todd bought it for me," she smiled.

"He has good taste, then."

"Blair picked it out.  And the dress."

"Well, they both do, don't they?"


"What else can I do, Dear Bea?  Ya seem to want answers today."

"I . . . wanted to talk more about what I can do for Sam.  I can't get it out of my head."

"Ah, Sam.  Yes.  He's quite the little urchin.  He's precious."

"He's struggling so much, I want to help him."  Bitsy stood up, restlessly, and wrung her hands as she walked toward the exit, the nun following.  When they reached the hallway, they walked, arm in arm.  "I couldn't help Todd.  I . . . wasn't strong enough.  But I can help Sam.  If I can find a way."

"I think it's admirable of ya, Dear Bea, to want to help.  He sees Ray Martino, that must be a start."

"It must not be working, Sister.  Poor Sam is still plagued, as I shared with you.  It's months since Peter died.  And I want to help.  I want you to think of a way, or at least, help me to.  I failed Todd, I can't fail this boy."

"Y'ar not responsible for taking care of Sam, at least, not on y'ar own."

"But he's my grandson."  She was distraught.  She continued, "So, Sister, what can I do to help him?" as she opened her room door.

"I don't know.  It's a good thing y'ar trying already, but I'm not sure, outside of therapy, what that might be."

"I'll have to think," Bitsy said, sitting back down.  She got a far away look in her eyes, not anything that the sister worried about, but as if she was calculating the most difficult problem.

"Possibly, it's just to love him, eh?"

"No," Bitsy said.  "He already has that.  So much.  Todd and Blair love him, very deeply. And Jack, Starr.  I never knew about the impostor, what he did to Sam."

"Ah, that.  It's also behind them.  I understand it was minimal, but the child was and is afraid of him." Sister Rebecca Katherine then smiled.  "Ya've come so far, Dear Bea.  So far.  To be sitting here, hearing ya, first off, and seeing ya plan to help someone else.  It's a sure sign of healing."

"Oh, no, Sister," Bea said, looking at her and focusing on her eyes, "it's not like that.  I'm not healed.  I will never be healed of what that monster brought into my life.  I'll dream; I'll jump at the slightest sound; I'll cry sometimes, when someone says something that hits me; I'll draw things that . . . I can't stand thinking of, to rid my mind of them.  I'm not healed.  No," she finished, and her expression showed prevailing hurt.

"Ah, but that's the whole thing.  Those things will fade, I know they will.  And, I think ya just answered y'ar own question, as well."


"Todd, I hope I didn't bother ya?"  Timothy said, standing outside the open door of Unforgettable.  

Todd still held the knob in his hand, "No, Dad, how could you even think that?  Come in.  We're getting ready for work."

Timothy walked into Unforgettable and looked around the foyer.  "I never get tired of seeing how beautiful this place is, Todd.  Ya outdid y'arself."

"Thanks.  I guess she likes it, that's what counts."

"I came to see Sam, wanted to talk to him.  Is he around?"

"He is, let me get him for you," and Todd was off, in bounds, taking two steps at a time and up to the top before Timothy could exhale. 

In a few minutes, Sam came barrelling down the staircase.  "Grandpa!  Yay!" and jumped toward the man, who, luckily, was ready to grab him.  

"Oh, Sam, y'ar getting too big!  I'm an old man, and y'ar getting heavy."

"I am?"

"Ya are.  Wow," he said, feigning distress and placing the small, light boy on the foyer floor.

"I've been doing workouts with Jack."

"Well, whatever is working out, is working out, me boy!"

"Did you really come to see me?"

"Of course, now that there's not been soccer for a while, I miss our Wednesday afternoon times."

"Me, too."

"Well, I'm here now.  What would ya like to do?"

Todd said, "I'll just let you two hang out, I gotta go," and headed back upstairs.

Sam looked confused a little.  "I don't know.  Play outside?"

"Play what?  Hide and seek?"

Sam's face contorted a little with emotion.  Timothy could read it clearly: fear.  The boy said, "No, I'm getting too old for that game.  Hiding all the time."

"Oh, are ya now?"


"Sam, what is ailing ya?"  Timothy said, following the boy into the family room.  He had plopped himself onto a side chair and was lost in thought.


Timothy sat on the ottoman across from him.  "Yes, something is wrong.  I can tell.  Now tell y'ar old Grandad about it."

Sam sighed.  "I can't play Hide and Seek anymore, because I keep on remembering when I had to hide in the snow pile.  It wasn't fun, and now, I don't like it anymore."

"That was a long time back, eh?"

He nodded.

"And y'ar still thinking of it, sometimes?"

"All the time."

"All the time?"

"Well, not every minute, but a lot of the time."

"Do ya want to tell me about it," Timothy said, moving next to Sam and putting his arm around him.

Sam gingerly rested his head on Timothy's shoulder.  "How come he had to kill Mixie?"

"He was a sick fellow."


"Sick, like here," Timothy said, touching his temple.

"Zeus, my other dad, was," he said, "my birth father.  He was sick."

"He was sick because someone made him that way.  Do ya know he was brainwashed?  Do ya know what that is?"

"Yeah, I know.  So, was Peter brainwashed?  To do this stuff to his kid?"

Timothy found himself swallowing.  "No.  He was just sick.  On his own."

Sam thought for a minute.  "How come Dad's not sick like him?"

Timothy looked heavenward, and then back to Sam.  "Y'ar father's different.  He fought off the sickness, Laddy.  He was strong enough to be better than that."

"Well, Mixie's dead.  And that guy Peter hurt Starr, and Gramma Bitsy, and Dad."

"Yes, that's true."

"Someone at school said that he killed some lady."  Sam looked at Timothy.  The innocence in his eyes was difficult to not turn away from.

Timothy said, "Yes, he did.  He killed a lady, who was trying to help Ray, I believe."

"Did he hurt my brother?"

"Now come on, ya've seen ya brotha!  He's doing fine, eh?"

Sam half-smiled.  "He's running everyone ragged, still," he said.  "He makes us chase him a lot."

"See?  I'd say he's fine, I would."  He paused.  "But y'ar not, Sam.  This is bothering ya, isn't it?"

Sam nodded.  "Yeah.  I don't tell Mom or Dad, because they feel bad.  Dad thinks it's his fault for having that guy as a father.  He can't help that, Mom said.  He couldn't help that Peter was his dad."

"No, a person can't help who their parents are.  Like ya, Sam," he said, turning the boy's face to his.  Sam's eyes were larger and wet around the edges, as he looked into Timothy's face.  Timothy continued, "Ya can't help who y'ar birth father was, just like Todd can't help who his parents were, and Blair, and everyone."

"Mom has Addie."

"Yes, she does."

"Addie's real nice."

"She is."

"Peter was not Dad's real father."

"No, he wasn't."

"But Dad said he was the only father he had.  Until you."

"Yes, all that's true, Sam."

"Do you think it means I'll be like Dad, or will I be like Zeus?"

Timothy sighed.  "Ya'll be like Sam."


"Ya'll be like y'arself.  Ya won't be like anyone else but y'arself.  Y'ar father is nothing like either of his Dads."

"Kids at school said Dad did bad stuff, too."

Timothy paused.  "When he was younger, he did make mistakes.  But he paid for them.  And not with money."

The boy thought, looking at his hands.  "I wonder what I'll be like, then?"

"Ya'll be a combination of things.  A little of y'ar Mom, a little of Todd, and of all the people who love ya, you'll have the good things in them in ya.  It's the way it is.  But ya'll still be y'arself, and make y'ar own choices.  Y'ar own spirit in here," he touched the boy's chest, "will guide ya.  Who ya really are will lead.  But ya won't be like Peter Manning."

"Will I be like Zeus?"

"Not if ya don't want to."

Sam seemed slightly relieved.  "I want to be brave, like Dad."

"I'm sure ya will be.  Ya just have to stop y'ar worrying.  It's not good for ya."

"I can't help it sometimes.  I keep dreaming about Peter.  I dream about Mixie dying, about Peter coming after us, about me, in the snow pile, about Starr getting beaten up.  That and other stuff."

"Those are very hard things.  But, ya must look at how things are now.  Y'ar sister is fine, y'ar parents are here, Ray's fine.  Y'ar alive.  And ya lost Mixie, I know that, but loss is part of living, eh?"  His own voice faltered at that.

"Yeah.  Like you lost your son.  Uncle Eric.  Right?"

Timothy gulped, and said, "Yes, like Uncle Eric.  We can't control what happens with life and death, only what we do in living."

"Okay, Grandpa.  I think I get it.  I hope I stop having these dreams, though."

"Ya will, Sam.  Just try and think happy thoughts a'fore ya head to sleep."

"I'll try it," he said.  "Gramma Bitsy said I can bring Dad in my dreams to chase off Peter.  Is that true?"

"I don't know, Lad, I suppose ya could try."

"Maybe," he said.  "Can we go play now?"

"Sure.  What do ya want to play?"

"Catch.  I'll get the football," he said, running off.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Todd's Saga 37: The Trap Is Set

      Natalie looked at her results.  She had been able to match three of the existing sets of prints.  As she had figured, Nigel and John had obviously handled the basket, but there had been three more sets on the basket.  None of the three was in the police system, but one did match something else.  She reached for her phone then stopped.  On a hunch, she headed back up to her Uncle’s office.   Through the window, she could see her Uncle Bo talking, but she couldn’t see anyone other than her mother. Did you really think he would stay around and talk to you? Face it, he doesn’t want anything to do with you anymore.  Why would he, after your father put a restraining order against him?   Disappointed, she squared her shoulders and knocked.

     “Come in.” Bo got up when he saw Natalie enter. “Well, what did you find out?”

     Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement and looked to find John moving away from the file cabinet.  He hadn’t left.  She met his eyes and then he smiled.

      Viki and Bo watched the silent exchange and Viki smiled. Bo cleared his throat.  “Natalie, what do you have for us?”

      Natalie broke eye contact with John and turned her attention back to her uncle. “There’s a match.  I found five sets of prints on the basket.  Two belonged to Nigel and John.  The other three weren’t in our system.”  She looked down at her mother.  “Mom, you were right.  Jeffrey King handled that basket, or rather the prints on your newspaper article matched one set of prints on the basket.”

       Viki stood up.  “That’s what I was afraid of.”

       Bo was disappointed too.  He had really liked the young man.  Matthew had trusted him and Destiny had been getting close to him. “Wait a minute, Viki.  You said the basket was delivered to The Banner.  He could have been the one who accepted it from the delivery man.  We need to find out who delivered the basket to the delivery service.   If it turns out to be King then I’ll have him brought in for questioning.”

     “Thank you, Bo.  You’ll let me know what you find out?”

     “I promise Viki.” Bo headed for his door and opened it for her. “I’ll have an officer take you home.” He looked at John who had moved to stand next to Natalie.   “John, do you want in on this.  You’re welcomed to go with Fish to check this out.”

      John nodded, “If this King guy is our opening to the person behind all this, then I’m in.”  As Bo followed Viki out, he turned to Natalie. “Viki told me everything was Clint’s idea.  Could I come to see you and Liam when this is finished?”

      Natalie nodded, “Liam would love to see his dad.”

      “Just Liam?”

       Natalie’s lips felt so dry, just like her mouth. She licked them nervously, “I’d love for you to come over too, John.”

       “Good.  I guess I’ll see you later.” He nodded again and smiled, then he joined Bo, who was giving instructions to Fish.


         Victor was walking by Todd’s room and saw him throwing clothes in an overnight bag.  “Where are you going?”

         “I’ve got some OTB business out of town.  You and Clint should be fine here.  Sam’s men are keeping an eye on things here and at the compound.  By now the FBI should be moving on the warehouse.  That’s sure to stir things up at the compound.  Sam will tell us if anything goes down there.”

         Victor shook his head and moved to confront his brother face to face.  “What do you take me for?  Your business has nothing to do with your new company.  There’s no way you would do regular business when our plans are about to come to fruition.  You’re going to try and sneak back into Llanview to see Blair, aren’t you?”

         Todd glared at his brother.  “Mind your own business, Victor.  That bastard had one of those basket’s sent to Dorian.  Blair was frantic when she found out the wine was drugged.  She’s too close to term.  You know as well as I do that this pregnancy was a risk from the start.  If she gets stressed about Carl now, she could go into premature labor.  I’m going to be there if that happens.  Look, Alison is going to be too occupied with the Feds.  Now is a perfect time for Tony Butler to fly into Llanview.  Remember they won’t be watching for me.  They think Todd Manning is dead.”

          “Hell, if you’re just going to fly in there big as life, as Tony Butler, I’m coming too.  I can hide on the plane and wait for my chance to leave, sight unseen.  You think you’re the only one worried about family.  Todd, I need to see Tea!”

         “Neither of you is leaving without me,”  Clint said from the doorway.

         “No Way!” said both brothers simultaneously.

           Todd moved around Victor and walked towards Clint. “Listen, Clint, there’s nothing you can do right now to help the situation.  Viki is perfectly safe and you need to stay hidden until she gives us the all clear to bring you home.  Victor, you’re still wanted for killing Alison’s assassin.  If you get caught, Bo will have to arrest you.  We still have no idea how many people are working for Peterson in Llanview.  For all we know, he could have some cops in his pocket.  He had the doctor at the hospital on his payroll.  You both know I’m right.”

         Victor moved to stand beside Clint, blocking the doorway.  “Do you really think you can take us both on and get out of this house without us?  We’re both healed now and thanks to Perkins, I’ve got skills you haven’t seen yet.  Whether you like it or not, we’re coming with you.  I’m not worried about Bo and his rinky-dink cops.  I snuck into town all on my own the last time and I can stay out of their way this time.”  Victor set his feet, in case Todd decided to rush him.

        Todd looked at Victor and then at Clint.  He was tired of arguing.  “Fine.  Got any bright ideas how you two are going to get on my plane.  Neither one of you has any id right now.  Even if we get you on the plane.  How are you going to get out of the airport once we’ve landed?”

       Clint looked at Todd.  “You’re pretty good with disguises.  Even though I know you’re Todd when you put on Tony’s makeup, you look different.  You can work some make-up magic on us.  Besides, I know you have the means of getting fake IDs.  Put your contacts to work.  I’m betting with enough money, we could have those IDs later this afternoon.”

        Todd shook his head.  Clint was sharp.  He shrugged. “Whatever,” it looked like he was going to have company on the trip home.  He pulled his cell out and made a call. “Phil, call my pilot. Tell him there is a change in plans.  I’m not leaving until later this afternoon and he’ll need to make the proper arrangements.  Yes, after I reach Llanview, he’s to continue onto South Dakota and pick up Mr. Reilly.  You’ll have to alert Rogers.  He’s working with Reilly and will handle things at that end.”

        “Who’s Reilly?” asked Victor, who, having gotten his way, now leaned casually against the door.

        “The final nail in Peterson’s coffin,” Todd answered grimly. Then he made another call.  After a few minutes, he hung up and headed back to his packing.  Over his shoulder he said. “ I guess you should get ready.  My man will be here in a couple of hours.  I’m going to need a little time to make you up for the photos.  Once the IDs are finished, we’re leaving.  If you run into the housekeeper or cook after I get you made up, just tell them it’s for the movie company.”

        Clint nodded and headed to his room

         Todd looked at Victor still leaning against his door. “What?  Get going.”

         Victor stood up straight. “Yes, Sir!”  He gave a half salute and walked away laughing.


        Dorian checked out her outfit in the mirror.  She wanted to look her best when Carl showed up for their evening together.  The plan was simple.   She had to get Carl to drink the tainted wine and then see what they could get him to do while under its influence.  Judging by David’s reaction to the drug earlier, she really wasn’t anticipating any problems.  She couldn’t get over how quickly the drug worked.  She thought back to the earlier events.

        After watching Blair disappear upstairs to retrieve the second bottle of wine. Dorian turned to go back to David.  She walked into the kitchen to see David still sitting exactly where she had left him. His hand held the wine glass out as if he was getting ready to drink. but he hadn’t taken a drink.  He didn’t seem to see her and yet was looking right at her.  “David, what are you doing?”

        “What you told me.  I’m not moving.” 

         Dorian moved to the chair next to David.  “You can put the glass down, David, and I want you to look me in the eyes.”

         David did as Dorian suggested and then looked at her.  Dorian noted the glazed look in  David’s eyes and the dilation of his pupils.  He was clearly under the influence of some type of drug.  “David, I want you to do something for me.”

         “Anything my love.“

         Dorian had to know just how compliant the drug made the subject.  From what Clint and Victor had told her about the drugs used on them, it was obvious Carl had created a drug to work on the general population quickly and efficiently for the greatest effect.   “David, bark like a dog?”

         David immediately began barking.  

         “Stop, David.”  He stopped and continued to look at her. Dorian felt a chill run down her back.  There had been no hesitation at all on David’s part.  She realized she could make David do anything she wanted and he would remember nothing.  Dorian licked her lips.  She felt a little sorry for David.  She intended to make passionate love to him and have him do all sorts of marvelous things and he would probably remember very little of it.  She took his hand. “Come along David.  Let’s go up to my room and you can show me how happy you are to see me.”

        A couple of hours later, Dorian had ordered David to leave the house and return to his room at the palace.  She had instructed him to act like they were separated again and he was told not to call or make any move to contact her.  She would call him when she was ready.  David had gathered his belongings and left the house.  As he left, Dorian called out one last command.  “David, stay away from Rama Patel.”

        Dorian shook her head, clearing all thoughts of David from her mind.  She needed to be fully focused on Carl when he arrived.   Blair made a show of leaving to go to work so that Carl would think they were alone.  She would return as soon as Dorian sent her the signal.

        Dorian smooth down her satin top and straightened her skirt and descended the stairs.  The doorbell rang. She advanced to the door and set a smile on her lips.  “Okay Dorian, Show Time.”

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 2

"It was a beautiful party," Blair said.

"Yep," Todd said, handing payment to the waiters he had hired to help out.  They'd done the cleaning, and he and Blair had been tending to the kids' bedtime routines before making their way back down to survey everything.  In the foyer, he said, "Thanks, good work," and the head waiter nodded.  

The waiters and waitresses, in black and white, headed outside to their van, with their equipment in tow.  Todd turned to Blair and said, "It's over.  Another event for the Mannings behind us.  Think everyone liked it?"

"Yes, and another one down," she said.

Bitsy was just coming down the stairs, with Sister Rebecca Katherine.  The nun said, "My goodness, Sam is a bundle of energy, that he is."

Todd said, "Yep.  Sure is."

"Ray didn't want me to leave his room," Bitsy said.  "He asked me to sleep on the floor."

Blair said, "He loves his 'Gamma.'"

"I love him, too.  It's okay, if I stay here, isn't it?" Bitsy asked.

"Of course, Momma," Blair said, looking to the nun.

"Bea's able to stay the night.  She has permission from her doctor, and she's fine and able to do so."

"That's good, Momma.  You can have breakfast with us in the morning before going back."

"That would be nice, and I'd love it," Bitsy said.

"Are you staying as well, Sister?"  Todd asked.

"No, I have to go. Lad.  Clients in the morning."

"Sister, thank you for everything, and the lovely gift,"  Blair said.

The nun made her way to the car and said her goodbyes.  As the limo pulled off, Bitsy walked into the family room where Todd and Blair were sitting, and she said, "It's been a while since I've been here."

"We're glad you're here, Momma,"  Blair said.

"How are you feeling, Momma?  You all right?"  Todd asked. 

"Yes, I'm fine.  I'm better.  Well, getting better.  Dr. Martino says."

"You want the pink room?  You had it before, remember?"  Todd asked her.

"Yes, that's perfect," she said.

Blair got up, and went to the stairs, "If you guys don't mind, I'm a little tired, and Jewel will be up for a feeding in a couple of hours."

"We'll be up in a minute, Babe," he said, and looked back to his mother as Blair went up.  "Momma, you saved my life, Ray's life and Blair's last year.  I just wanted to tell you again what it meant to us, in case you forgot."

"I had to, Todd.  He wanted to . . . to do bad things to Blair and hurt Little Ray.  He shot you."  Bitsy wrung her hands, and looked at them.

"I know, but I never got a chance to really say thank you, not the right way."

"You didn't have to, because. . .I . . ."

"I know what you're going to say, Momma, but I don't want you to say it.  Not now, or ever."

"Well, I had to, then.  That's all."

He stood up, and put out the last of the fire.  "We want you to come and live with us, soon.  When you're better."

"I want to, I really do.  I want to be with the children, and you, and Blair."

"I know.  I just wanted to make sure that you knew that Unforgettable is always open to you."

"I do," she said, standing.  She went to the stairs.  "Good night, Todd.  I love you, My Angel."

"I love you, Momma.  Night."  He watched her go, and turned back to the fireplace.  He dampened the embers with some water, and closed the little doors in front of the opening.  For a moment, he thought back to the second Peter shot him, and how all he could think of was dying and leaving Blair and Ray at Peter's mercy.  He shook it from his mind, and ascended the stairs.

Blair was just getting under the covers when Todd came into the room.  He went to the bed and sat by her.  She turned and said, "What's the matter?"


"What about him?"


"I knew you were really upset, Todd.  I could see it.  But, the truth is, you did all you did without it.  Why can't he?  I mean, that's at least what he's thinking."

"You're on his side about this?"

"I don't know.  I just, he wants to be like you.  He wants to do what you do.  That's okay, in my book, as long as he works hard at it."

"I screwed college up, Blair.  You know that.  I ruined my chances of everything I'd hoped for.  Jack can take those opportunities.  He can't get so far without a college degree.  I mean, of course, with my owning the paper, it's different, but I want more for him.  I don't want him to ride on Victor Lord's money.  He's better than that.  I had to, and you know why.  He doesn't.  He can do this on his own merit."

She touched his arm.  "You're such a good father.  You're so proud of him, and you want him to be better than you.  That's a good Dad."

"Whatever it is, I'm pissed."

She smiled.  "I know.  But, what can we do?  It's his life, his decision."

"Baloney.  He's a kid.  We're the parents."

She laughed lightly, "Not sure he'll see it that way."

"I need you to back me on this, he's going to college."

"Todd, now, you know how teenagers are.  They won't do what they're told.  They want to have a say in their destinies."

"He needs to go to school."

"He needs to do what he wants to do, Todd.  He wants to be like you, and he's basically made up his mind."  She could see he was frustrated.  

"It shouldn't be that way.  He can do more, be more.  I can't believe you're not on my side with this."

"It's not about sides.  I just think it's okay if he does what he wants to do and becomes like you.  What's so wrong with that?  I think this is about the chances you lost, Todd, not what he's lost," she said.

He climbed into bed next to her, and faced the ceiling, his arms over his chest. 

She crept close to him.  "It's okay that you want certain things for him.  But you have to support what he wants, too."  She ran her fingers lightly over his chest, and then placed her head in her favorite spot, below his shoulder.  He didn't answer.  "You're angry with me," she said.

He stayed quiet.  Then he said, "Yeah, I guess I am, but not really with you, with the whole thing.  I've got the money for it, he always talked about it, at least most of the time.  Now suddenly he's not going.  He got in everywhere he applied."

"He'll be all right.  You know that."

"Maybe," he said, and kept his arms folded.  

She yawned.  "I'm going to catch a little sleep before I have to get up again with Jewel.  Today was a nice day, Todd.  Let's be happy."

She closed her eyes, and he stared at the ceiling while she slept.


In the middle of the night, Bitsy was awakened by noise.  At first, she thought it was Ray crying in his crib.  She sat up to listen to it, and then got out of bed, padding quietly into his room.  He was sleeping soundly, his curls cast over his face on one side.  She pulled his little blanket up over his chest higher and walked out. 

On her way back to her room, she heard it again.  A small, quiet whimpering.  She continued until she was in front of Sam's door, and realized it was coming from inside.  She knocked lightly on the door, and the noise stopped.  Opening the door a crack, she said, "Sam?"

He was sitting up, in the dark, clutching a stuffed Spiderman doll to his chest.  His breathing was coming and going rapidly.  He said, "Grandma."

"Yes, Sam.  Are you crying?"

He sniffed, and looked down.  He was not wearing his glasses, and she walked closer to the bed, reaching down to turn on the light.  His eyes adjusted to the brightness, and she could see he was shaking, and tears were on his cheeks.  She sat beside him, and put her arms around him.  "Sam, what is it?"

"I had . . . a bad dream . . . " he said, having trouble catching his breath.

"Oh, I've had those."

"I'm . . . scared."

"Oh, I know.  I get scared, too.  What was your dream about?"   She stroked his hair and held him.

"That guy, the mean one.  Dad's father, Peter."

Her heart leaped in her chest a little, but she did not let on.  "Why?  Why are you afraid of him?  He was a coward, and he's gone."

"He . . . killed my dog," he said, crying, "and I still think about it, and I dream about it a lot."

"Did you tell your Mommy and Daddy?"

"Yeah.  I told them.  They brought me to see Dr. Martino.  He's nice."

"He is.  I've met him, he's my doctor, too.  He helped me a lot."

He looked up at his grandmother, and his curiosity interrupted his tears.  "Grandma Bitsy, how come you can talk now?"

"I don't know, Sam.  Maybe the bump on the head, maybe something else.  But you mustn't let Peter come into your dreams.  You can tell him to leave, did you know that?"

Sam shook his head no, but his face was innocently hopeful.  "I can?"

"Yes, you can.  You just go into your dream, and you tell him to go away.  You're the one dreaming it."

Sam thought about it.  "I don't get why he was so mean to Dad.  Do you get it?  Did he ever tell you?"

"No. I don't get it either.  But I think he was a cowardly, lonely, very bad and mean man."

Sam thought for a few minutes.  "It's not fair."

"What's not fair?"

"That he hurt my Dad.  Dad was just a kid, like me.  My real Dad hurt me, too.  Not like Peter, but he did."

She hadn't heard this, and her heart broke.  "Was that a long time ago?"


"Then it's over.  Todd is your father, and he loves you.  He would never hurt you."

"No.  He wouldn't.  He would die for us.  He fought a bear for us."

"He did?"

"Sort of.  He kind of ran from the bear, and she followed him away, but he would have fought her for us!"

She half-smiled.  "He's a hero, then.  To you.  Let him into the dream to get rid of Peter next time."

"Or, you.  You could come in.  I heard about what happened.  You shot Peter.  You shot him to save Mommy, Daddy and Ray."

She nodded, unable to speak at that moment.

He let out a ragged sigh, and said, "Thank you, Grandma Bitsy, for making sure I had my parents."

She smiled, and tears sprung to her eyes.  She said, "It's all right," and hugged him close.  "Just remember what I said."

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 31

Samuel woke up and looked at Vicki resting on the side of the bed. He couldn't believe he was this close to her. For that matter, he was amazed he was still around. Samuel tried to take a deep breath but soon started coughing. Not the thing to do, now his chest hurt.

 At the sound of his coughing, Vicki woke up looking with concern at Todd."You're awake. Take it easy, breathe shallow the coughing will subside. Now, don't try and talk too much. I didn't mean to get you all excited earlier. You obviously have found a way to work with your alters the I would never have imagined possible. I don't fault you, Todd, we both cope the only way we know how."

 "Vicki, wait." Samuel reached up and touched her mouth."Shush." he smiled. "I always knew you were understanding. His memories of you have kept me going for a very long time. Even when I didn't know they were memories. I'm Samuel, and I'm so glad to truly be here with you. When Todd and I headed into the cemetery, I didn't know if we were going to come out." Samuel could see the concern in her eyes when she realized she wasn't with Todd. " Todd's not gone, he's just having a case of withdrawal. Because his body is weak, he's struggling to come to terms with the memories of that night. Ms. Perkins thought it best if I resume my role until he's stronger. I hope you'll accept me for the time being. I assure you he will return, he can come and go the way he used to."

 Vicki searched his face, there was something very comforting about Samuel.  She smiled back at him and said. "I'm very glad to meet you too, Samuel. Thank you for coming by yesterday. Because of you and what you said in the garden, I was able to figure out that you went to the cemetery.  I'm very happy you all survived.  If Blair and Starr hadn't followed you, the attacks would have been fatal. I think I know what occurred back in 2003.  At least what occurred the night Todd disappeared. I don't think you or any of the others have any memory of it because Todd's trauma happened when he almost died. But Samuel, you have one memory he doesn't have, correct?"

 Samuel reached up and touched his scars. He traced the newer one of the two and realized for the first time that it was shaped a little like the letter L, he had never even recognized the shape. He said aloud " The man who carved it said I would always remember him. He said 'L for Laurence' and then I passed out." Samuel met Vicki's eyes. "It was Mitch Laurence who did this. Wasn't it. He was responsible for bringing me out and sending Todd into eight long years in limbo."

 Suddenly, Pete surfaced, turning his cold eyes on Vicki he said. "If Mitch Laurence is still alive I will find him and kill him for all of us, I swear!" Rage was emanating from every pore, the only thing containing Pete was the condition his body was in.

 Vicki spoke quickly "Pete, please I understand your anger, but you're going to hurt Todd and yourself. Let Samuel have control, please." Behind her, Vicki heard the door open again. It was Blair back with the morning papers. "Blair, help me. Pete's in control right now. We've got to get Samuel back."

 Blair came up to the bed and looked Pete straight in his eyes. She had faced those angry eyes many times. There was only one thing that Pete feared and that was death, so she told him the hard truth. "Pete if you don't leave now you're going to die, and you'll kill the others with you, especially Todd. What's it going to be? Are you going to stay and die, or go and live?"

 Pete's eyes closed and his body slumped on the bed. His heartbeat that had started to race when he was in charge return to normal, but he was once more unconscious. Blair looked across the bed at Vicki. "Vicki, you said you spoke to Todd in the crypt. Why isn't he here? We haven't lost him for good have we?"

 Deep in Todd's subconscious mind two men struggled for control and this time reason won out. "You idiot, you're not going to take control at will anymore. Not if I have anything to say about it. Rodd and Tom restrain him again. Right now we need reason and common sense if we're to continue to survive and I'm going to provide that the same way I have all this time. Now everybody rest, I'll be here when it's time to wake up." Samuel closed his eyes and willed himself back into Todd's consciousness ready to take charge when it was time.

 Vicki looked at Blair. She realized that Blair still didn't know that Todd had survived his attempt to face the event that marked his disappearance. "Blair I'm sorry, it must have been a shock to come back to Pete when you were hoping for Todd. I can tell you Todd is back. At least he was earlier. We were discussing his alters and he got agitated. I had to calm him down and managed to get him to drift off to sleep. I dozed off and awoke when I heard him coughing. At first I thought I was talking to Todd again but I found out I was talking to Samuel. Samuel reassured me that Todd is back or at least capable of coming and going at will again but that because of his weakened state, he's withdrawn to get a handle on last night's revelations. Samuel told me he was sent back out to hold down the fort for the time being. Blair, what can you tell me about Samuel?" Vicki looked at Todd, he appeared to have fallen back asleep. She sat back down and took a deep breath. It was unthinkable what it could have meant for Todd if Pete had stayed in charge.

 Blair sat down next to Vicki and said. "It's a long story, but I'll tell you everything I know. My story begins after Eli's death. Eli left me a lockbox and key and it took me a while to even open it. When I did I found a portrait of me inside. I couldn't figure out who would have commission a painting of me, especially when I saw the date on the painting. Vicki, the painting was completed in 2003. The painting was unsigned and so I set about trying to figure out who painted it. Christian and I found a link that sent us to Paris and a small gallery. We met the owner of the gallery and I encountered another picture of myself in his gallery. To say I was stunned was an understatement.”  Blair stood up and walked to Todd’s side. Her hand carefully moved his hair off his face and she looked back at Vicki.

 “The gallery owner informed me that he had sold a number of paintings all of me over the course of seven years. He was surprised that I didn't know the artist because the artist certainly knew me. As luck would have it, Samuel delivered a new painting that same night and Tomas, the gallery owner was able to get his name finally. And so the search began. Christian drew a sketch of Samuel from Tomas' description of him. Vicki, I almost fainted when I saw that sketch.  It was a picture of Todd.” She paused and again looked at the man sleeping so peacefully.

 “Through some investigations, Tomas and I found out where Samuel lived and I went to confront him," Blair remembered when he opened the door that night, it had been like time had shifted back to another night during the year they met. The night when their whole relationship had changed. For one brief moment, she'd been that same Blair looking for someone to share her misery and Todd had been perfect.

 Blair smiled and looked back at Vicki. "Vicki , when Samuel opened the door it was unreal. I fainted and Samuel brought me around. I was so mad when I woke up, I started blasting him for staying away for eight years and I wanted to know who he was getting to paint all the pictures. Samuel was so confused. I had called him Todd and he didn't know who that was. Then he told me he could prove he was the artist and proceeded to do a pastel of me that very night. That's when I realized that I was talking to one of Todd's alters and that they were real after all. Samuel informed me he didn't know why he painted me, just that he would get images and put them down on canvas. Vicki, he apologized for upsetting me. Todd hated apologizing for anything. Any questions so far?"

 Vicki had been listening intently to all that Blair was telling her. When Blair mentioned Samuel just picking up the canvas and doing an on the spot picture of her, Vicki was very intrigued. She remembered Samuel saying she had been with him for some time.  How was that possible?  She asked. " Blair, you say he painted pictures of moments with you. Did he paint anything else?"

 Blair nodded , " Samuel's apartment was full of paintings, some of me but also many of you and Tea. He called us his muses. He had two beautiful paintings on his mantle, one of you and one of Tea, in fact those are at the penthouse here. Yes Vicki, he's back in the penthouse. Starr and Hope moved in with him a couple of days ago. The night we met, Samuel told me the only memories he had were of the last eight years, everything before that was a blank. Samuel's memories have been returning since he spotted me accidentally in Paris. The only memory that was eluding him was the memory of the night Samuel appeared. That memory, according to Samuel, was the link that was keeping Todd trapped. You should know that we believe someone had Todd for several months after he was injured and tampered with his mind. Samuel's been tracking down some leads and we believe that the experiments done on Todd might also have been done on Walker but that's another story. Right now I'm concerned with getting him well enough to go home but we've got another problem on our hands now. Look at these." Blair handed Vicki the newspapers she had left at the foot of the bed.

 Vicki looked at the headlines, it was as she feared, the media had jumped on the sensational side of the event last night.

 The Banner's headline read "PUBLISHER'S DOPPELGANGER SPOTTED" the story went on to speculate why a lookalike for the Sun's publisher Todd Manning was being taken from the tomb of Todd Manning's Father, Victor Lord. The reporter had a picture of Todd on the gurney.

 The Sun's headline was just as inflaming "RESURRECTION: HAS VICTOR LORD RETURNED FROM THE DEAD!" Questions as to whom was taken out from the tomb, alive but in need of medical attention. Somehow they were going to have to tread carefully. Neither Samuel nor Todd was in any shape to face the questions that were going to start coming.

 Vicki looked at Blair. "I'm not sure whether this can be stopped but we can make sure that it's held at bay until Todd is ready to step forth. We both know it's only a matter of time before he's going to want to regain his life and there are a lot of people it's going to affect when he takes that step."

 Samuel woke and listened as Vicki and Blair sat talking, it was a little unreal to actually hear their voices. The whole time he had been alone with their portraits he had imagined how they would talk to him. Now they were real, two women he loved, talking about protecting him from the events about to unfold. He smiled and looked over at them "My lovely Muses, as always you continue to support me. But you're really here now, not just in my imagination. It's remarkable."

 Vicki and Blair moved to his bedside. Vicki looked at him and said. "Samuel, I'm glad you're back. Are you feeling any better?"

 "Well that's relative, Vicki. Compared to being dead, I feel marvelous, but truthfully I feel like someone stomped all over me. Still I'm here." Samuel looked at Blair  "When I left yesterday, I thought I was saying goodbye for good. I thought once Todd faced his demon, he'd no longer need me and I would cease to be. He wouldn't let me face the tomb. He shut me out and went in alone. We were all trapped unable to help because we didn't know what he was facing. I don't understand. I thought we were here to protect him, but he protected us instead." Samuel's eyes went from one face to the other than rested on Vicki's. "Do you know why he did it?"

 Vicki nodded, she had started to tear up when Samuel was talking. Her thoughts went back to the last thing Todd had told her. "Samuel, you might only be a fragment of Todd but to him, you're one of his brothers and he wouldn't let anyone hurt you or destroy you. He's protected his connection to you all these years because he didn't want to lose any of you. Years ago when Tom and the others came out, Todd almost lost you.  Pete inadvertently made the alters look unreal and we all thought Todd had manufactured his alters to escape prison. Todd decided to let us believe the worst of him because he knew his secret was once again safe. When he went into that tomb, he knew you thought you were going to have to go with him and you were willing to sacrifice yourself for his sanity. He shut you out, even though he knew he was taking a big chance of losing himself once more, because he cares for you as much as the others. Todd has always had an unusual way of protecting the ones he loves. He thinks differently than the rest of us do. It's both infuriating and endearing."

 Vicki paused letting Samuel absorb what she had just told him. She had a feeling life around Todd was forever going to be different now that some of his loved ones knew his alters were so real.

 Samuel smiled, "I'm grateful to him, he gives us life. As do you Blair. Did you have something to do with keeping us alive?"

 "Forgive us Samuel, but Starr and I couldn't let you go alone. I had an inkling you were headed to the cemetery so we followed. We were outside the tomb for just a short while, waiting for you to come out. Vicki showed up so we followed her in and found her beside you. You were having another heart attack. We got you laid down and did CPR until the EMT's arrived. Starr rode in the ambulance with you. You had two more attacks on the way here. I expect Starr here shortly she'll be so relieved you're still around. We've come to love you Samuel and we don't want you permanently gone. From what Vicki says we can have both you and Todd and the others and that's okay with us. You are all Todd, no matter who is out at a given moment." Blair gave Samuel's hand a squeeze and took a moment to move his hair out of his eyes again. Then she grinned and said, " Well except for maybe Pete. You guys really need to limit his time out."

 Ruefully Samuel grinned back, "Ah, yes. He is a bit of a handful, but he and I came to an understanding earlier. For now he's under house arrest till he gets his temper under control. Now I heard you both talking when I woke up, what do you have to keep a lid on right now?"

 "You're no longer invisible, Samuel. When the ambulance headed into the cemetery last night. It brought the reporters out. Further excitement was generated because of where you were found. Victor Lord’s Tomb is an unusual place for emergency help to be called in for. Well here, look for yourself." Vicki showed Samuel the papers and then sat down.

 Samuel took the papers and glanced at his sister. She was looking a little pale. "Vicki is something the matter." At Samuel's words, Blair looked over at Vicki.

 "Vicki are you alright?" asked Blair "Can I get you something? You didn't eat did you? You need to take care of yourself."

 Looking at her watch, Vicki realized she was late taking her anti-rejection medication. She got her purse and pulled out her medicine. "Blair, I lost track of time. Could you get me some water? I'll be alright, I just need to take these." Blair went and got her some water and she took her pills. Then she just sat back and rested.

            "Hey! What's going on? Vicki, why are you taking medicine, the cancer isn't back is it? Come on tell me the truth." Samuel was worried.  He didn't like the way Vicki looked. "Vicki do you need a doctor?"

             Blair quickly turned back to Samuel. He was getting agitated and he needed to know about Vicki. "She's alright Samuel, but she forgot to take her medicine on time. Vicki had to have a heart transplant some years back, but she has to continue to take anti-rejection medication or she could start to have a problem. It isn't a recurrence of cancer. Are you doing better Vicki?" asked Blair "If you want I'll get the doctor."

 "I'm doing better, please Samuel, your heart is a much larger concern than mine right now. When you're better I'll tell you all about me, for now you need to calm down once again. Blair, you were right I do need to eat something. What did you bring me earlier?" Vicki asked "I could do with a little something right now."

 Blair handed the bag with the muffin and apple and said. "You eat and then you're going to go home and get some sleep. Your daughters need you too. I'll stay and keep Samuel company and Starr should be here any moment now. I won't say anything to the press other than what you told the Doctor. Samuel is your cousin. No one needs to know different."

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 1

"Is everything ready?"  Blair asked, walking around the kitchen, moving snack trays and unwrapping treats.

"Seems like it, Mom," Starr said, helping to set up a small buffet around the kitchen counters and the tables Todd had brought in.

"I can't believe she's one," Blair said.  "My little baby girl is one year old today."

"Yep," Starr said, peering into the carrier that Jewel was strapped into.  She was still small for her age, but she had outgrown the basket that Bitsy had woven for her months back.  "Right, Sis?"

Jewel smiled and cooed at Starr.  She put her hand into Starr's long blonde hair, and pulled at it.  Starr winced, playfully, and said, "Let go, Sweetie," and gently moved her tiny fingers.  "She's got a good grip for a very little girl."

"That's your sister," Blair said.  "Definitely a Manning.  She's strong."

"I know she is.  Like you, and Dad, and all of us."

Blair placed a tray of cut vegetables down and smiled at her elder daughter.  "I suppose that's true.  What's your father doing, do you know?"

"Um," Starr said, going to the door, "I think he's outside bossing the guys setting up the castle out there.  He's going all out."

"He always did, remember?"

"Yeah.  I do.  For the time he was with us," she said, a bit wistfully.  "I miss that Dad wasn't always around when I was little."

"I know, I do, too.  He regrets it, every day."

"Well, there's no sense in him doing that anymore.  It's in the past."

"You know how he is.  He holds on to things.  The only thing I can say different about is the incident last year with Pete
r.  He got over that faster than I ever imagined.  I think I know why."


"Because he spent his whole life suffering through it, different ways.  When Peter died, really, maybe it was just time for him to let go."

"I guess that's true.  Too bad Sam's not doing as well with that."

"No," Blair said, very pensively.  "He's still struggling.  He's seen Ray, it hasn't stopped his nightmares or him being scared.  Little Ray's all right, it just seems like nothing happened, where he is concerned, but Sam . . ."

"It will be okay, Mom, it's just taking time." 

Blair finally stopped puttering and looked directly at Starr.  "What about you, Beautiful?  Are you all right about it?  You went through a lot."

"Yeah, I'm fine.  I guess I'm more like Dad than we thought."

"Yes, you're your father's daughter.  You always were," she said, touching her daughter's cheek.  "I'm glad you're all right.  We were so scared.  Your father, he . . . he was terrified," Blair went off into a whisper, as she often did.

"I know he was.  I remember.  He . . . was crying, Mom.  That's what woke me that day.  But I turned out all right," Starr said.  "It took some time, but I'm like new."

"Lucky for us," Blair said.  She turned to her younger daughter.  "Are you ready for your party, Little Girl?"

The baby smiled and then laughed, softly.  Blair kissed her forehead.

Todd came through the glass doors.  "Hey, three beautiful girls in one place.  How did you all get in here at the same time?"  He looked into the carrier, "Hi, Little Girl, hi," he coaxed, and put his hand out to her.  

Jewel took his finger in her hand and held it.  "Da, da," she said.

"Yep, that's me.  It's your birthday!  Everyone's coming to see you get old."

"Oh, Todd," Blair said, "she's only one!"

"Well," he said, giving Starr a hug, "Shorty was just one, it seems like the other day, and she's all grown up and beautiful now," he touched under her chin.  Starr smiled.

"Don't start talking like this, I'll get emotional," Blair said.

The door slid open loudly and closed the same way.  "Dad!  I hid all those treasure things you wanted me to hide!"  Sam said.  "That was fun."

"Good, Sam.  That way the kids can look for the treasures when they're done playing in the castle bounce house."

"Do I have to go into the bounce house?  I'm too old for that."

"Who told you that?"  Todd asked.

"Jack.  And me.  I think so, too."

"Then you don't have to go in.  But, if you change your mind, you know you can.  There's no age limits in bounce houses,"  Todd said.

"I'm growing up," Sam said, and then took a cookie from the tray.  "I'm going to be ten soon."

"You are, that's right."

"Yep.  And that's why those old nightmares aren't going to scare me anymore.  Watch, Dad.  I'm over that."

"Oh, you are, huh?"  Todd said, lifting Sam onto his shoulder and flinging him around.  "You're over the ground, too."

"Put me down," he said, laughing.  He clearly didn't want to be put down, and pretended to fight it.  

Todd tossed him about for a few minutes, before putting his son back onto the floor.  Sam said, "Can we do that again?"

"Later on, sure.  Gotta get everything set.  Guests are coming soon.  Your sister is turning one.  Pretty big day."

"Yeah, she's still little, though.  Mom, will she grow?"

"Yes, she will, you know that.  You did."

"Yeah, I guess."  He finished his cookie.  "I'll go help Jack," and he ran outside.

Todd looked at his wife, who was a little flustered with flushed cheeks from working around the kitchen.  To him, she looked more beautiful when she was slightly mussed than any other time.  He went to her, and scooped her into his arms, and for a moment, Starr felt like he forgot she was even there.  He said, "Can you believe it's already a year since she was born?"

"It's hard to believe, I know."  She rested her hands on both his shoulders, on either side of his neck.  "Things are . . . so good."

"I'll go with that one," he said, leaning in to kiss her.

Starr cleared her throat. "Uh, hello?"

"Oh, yeah, Starr, sorry," he said, and then patted Blair's behind as he went back to the glass doors.  "Gotta finish out here."

Blair looked after him.  Starr said, "What's it like?"

Blair took a moment to turn to her daughter, "Huh?"

"I know I've asked before, but what's it like always feeling like that about the same man?"

Blair touched the end of Starr's nose.  "He's not perfect, but I love him, so much.  And I wish this kind of thing, whatever it is we have, for you, every day."


An hour later, Sam was at the front door, greeting guests, and yelled out, "It's Grandma Bitsy!  Grandma!  Grandma!  Sister Becca Thrin!"

"Yeah, Gramma, Gramma!  Gramma Bitty!  Sister Beh Thrin!"  Ray mocked.  Both boys ran to her as she got out of the limo with Sister Rebecca Katherine.  Both were carrying packages with pink and yellow bows.  

"Ah, Sam, ya met us at the door.  What could be better?" the nun said.  Sam hugged her around the waist, and Ray hugged his grandmother, and then they switched.  The women both smiled and patted the boys on the heads.  Ray reached up for the gifts, but Sam said, "Those aren't yours, you Goofy Kid."

Ray laughed and ran to the house.

Bitsy said, "Sam and Ray, my two favorite little boys."

Sam was still surprised to hear his grandmother talking, so much so, it made him feel strange and second guess himself when she did.  He smiled at her, "I love you, Grandma!"

"I love you, too, now let's go see the baby and your parents," she said.

"I can take the gifts," Jack said, coming out of the house.

He was striking, and seemed much taller and older than she had seen him last.  Bitsy said, "That would be nice, Jack, thanks.  You . . . look so grown up."

"Thanks, Grandma Bitsy," he said, and took the packages from both his grandmother and aunt.   Everyone went inside, and Jack placed the gifts where his mother had set aside a place for them.

Blair looked up and said, "Momma," and hugged her, and then, "Sister Rebecca Katherine," and hugged her as well.  Bitsy went directly to the baby's carrier.

"Hello, Little One.  You're so beautiful," she said, now holding Ray's hand.  Ray, instead of running around and being customarily wild, was content to be by her side.  They had a sort of understanding and connection to each other that was evident to everyone.  He held her hand and stood close to her.  

Blair watched as he gently pulled at her hand, "Gamma, Gamma Bitty?"

She looked down.  "Yes, Ray?  What is it?"

"Pway with me?"

"Sure, what do you want to play?"

"Huckle Buckle Beanstalk."  She smiled and was amazed he could get it out.

"All right, just give me a minute here to say hello to everyone, okay?"

"Okay!"  He continued to hold her hand, and often stared up at her.  He was completely taken with her, and she with him.

Blair could feel a lump forming in her throat whenever she watched them together, and all she could think of was Bitsy's art and the little boy in the drawings, who was now her own husband.  She said, "Momma, Todd's outside, if you want to say hello."

"I will," she said, and led Ray outside by the hand.  It was her first time out of Mountainview, except for a doctor appointment follow-up or two, since the incident in Chicago the Spring before.  She walked into the yard, her flowered dress blowing a bit in the wind, her white cardigan hanging open, and, as always, she wore white socks in her loafers.  

Todd looked up from what he was doing and jogged toward her.  "Momma," he said, hugging her.

"Todd," she said, and lightly ran her hand over his cheek when the hug ended.

"No, not Momma, Daddy,  Gamma.  Gamma Bitty!"  Ray added.

"But she's my Momma, Ray."

"She is?" his voice went up high at the end of the question.

"Yes, Grandma Bitsy is my Momma.  Like Blair is your Momma.  I told you that before."

"Oh!" Ray's voice was sing-song and sweet and echoed in the yard.

Todd said, "Momma, it's good to see you."

"I'm happy to be here, Todd.  And, Jewel's so beautiful."  He nodded to her, and turned to respond to a call from a worker.  When he looked back to his mother, she said, "Go ahead, there's plenty of time."

He smiled, and jogged back to the castle area.  Bitsy said, "So, Raymond Thomas Manning, who else is here?"

"I don't know," the little boy said.  

"Let's go find out," she said, leading him around.


"Blair, it's Momma?" Addie said, coming in the partially-pen front door.

"Momma!" Blair said, hugging her, "Dorian's not with you?"

"I couldn't get her to come.  Her pride, you know how that is."

"I wish she'd get over it."

"I'm not sure about that, Blair, you know how Dorie is.  She's stubborn."

"I suppose," she said, turning back to her puttering.

Addie said, "She's miserable without him."

"Who, Timothy?  I suppose he is also.  They just need to move on, back to each other."

"She's stubborn, won't make the first move.  And she's the one who is wrong."

"Dorian's always had this thing against Todd.  Even he told Timothy not to pay attention to her, but he was determined.  She was pretty much out of line."

"Nothing we haven't heard before."

"No, Todd, either, but Timothy, he just . . . he didn't like it.  I guess he just had enough of her mean streak.  When he ever found out that she had attacked Todd, verbally, at the ER after the kidnapping . . ."

"He loves Todd.  A lot.  That's obvious."

"He does.  Todd's his only son, even though he's not been his father long.  He just didn't like her talking that way.  He just had enough."

"Maybe they'll get back together, someday?"

"Maybe," Blair said.  She turned back to her mother, and said, "Momma, how are you, really?"

"I'm fine, Blair.  I'm happy, and I'm glad to be well."

"I'm glad you're well, too, Momma."


Later, when the guests had all arrived, and the buffet was out, the Mannings had occupied a large section of a very long table, including Bitsy and Addie.  It was then that Addie attempted to make conversation with Jack, and asked, "So, Jack, which college and for what area of study?"

Jack, who was chewing at the time, swallowed, and said, "I've decided not to go to college."

The table became suddenly silent, and Todd, who was also eating, froze, mid-chew.  "You're what?" he said.

"I decided not to go to college, Dad.  I want to work with you, at The Sun."

Blair saw a look in Todd's eyes that she knew was going to be the fuel of quite a few conversations over the following weeks.  She broke the silence and said, "Really, when did you decide that?"


Todd repeated.  "Yesterday," and the family all looked in his direction.  "You decided yesterday?"

"Yeah.  You did it without college.  I want to get right into it.  Like you did, Dad."

Todd finally swallowed what he was eating.  

Blair said, "Can I get anyone anything else?"

Todd mumbled, "Tums."

Blair shot him a look, "Todd," she said, in a cautionary tone.

Jack ignored his father's response, and went on eating.  Timothy watched his son's actions carefully, and the rest of the table began small talk again.  Sam blurted out, "Jack's going to blow off college?  Wow, Dad.  You can save all that money for me, because I'm going to Yale to be a pedatrickan."

Blair said, "A pediatrician, Sam."

"I just said that," he answered.  "So, since Jack's not going, I get to go wherever I want."

Todd didn't answer, he just sent a glance toward Blair and went back to his eating.  Then he said, "You can go anywhere you want anyway.  Money's no problem.  And so will Jack."

"Ut oh!" Ray called out.

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Your comments are 'payment' for the work of the authors. Our writers like to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment when you read.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Look for the next book in the series by Cloud, coming VERY SOON!

The title is:  Chasing the Monsters.  It's the 9th book in the series by Cloud, featuring, Todd, Blair and all of the family.

It will be posted soon.  Keep checking back for more details.


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Your comments are 'payment' for the work of the authors. Our writers like to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment when you read.