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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Todd's Saga 39: Gotcha

Bo watched as Jeffrey King entered the squad room with Oliver Fish. “Thank you for coming, Jeffrey.  Would you mind waiting in my office?  Fish, perhaps you could show him there.  Excuse me, but I need to have a quick word with Mr. McBain.  I’ll be there shortly.”


Jeffrey looked around at the man who had come with Fish.  He was curious.  He had thought the guy was another of the commissioner’s men, but he must have been wrong.  He looked at the Commissioner, “Whatever you want, Sir.  I’m here to help you any way I can.” He turned and followed Fish.


Bo turned back to John. “Well, I take it you didn’t tell him the real reason for bringing him here.  What’s your take on the guy, John?”


“He’s smooth.  I can see why Matthew likes him.  He comes across very sincere, but he sent that basket to Viki and I saw something at his apartment I think you would find very interesting.” John paused and watched as King entered the Commissioner’s office..


Bo watched too and waited until Fish exited the room and turned back to John. “Hey, don’t leave me in suspense, what did you see?”


“I only caught a glimpse.  It appears, our young friend has a tattoo on the bottom of his foot.“


Bo looked sharply at John.  “That’s a hell of a place for a tattoo.  Let me guess.  It looked something like the one we’re investigating.” He looked toward  his office.  Was it possible King belonged to the organization that had put the tattoo on Victor Lord?


“I think so.  I’d like a chance to get a good look at that tattoo to make sure, but if is the same, we’ve finally got someone who might answer a lot of questions.  Listen, I’ve got a plan.  You go talk to him about the basket.  I’m betting, he’ll act totally surprised that the basket contents were tainted.  See if he’d be willing to fill in a line-up.  When he’s finished there, I think I know of a way to get him to remove his shoes.”


“Okay, I’ll go talk to him.  I’m sure he’ll say he touched the basket after the delivery service dropped it at the Banner.  I think I know a way to talk him into a lineup.  The witness showed up a few minutes before you got back here.”  Bo left John and headed back to his office where Jeffrey waited. He entered, taking his seat behind the desk opposite the young man.  “Jeffrey, I’m sorry for the delay. I asked for you to come in because I need your help.  You were there the night Dani overdosed.  As a reporter, I’m sure you’re aware, the girl she got the drugs from overdosed and died shortly thereafter.”


“Yes, sir.  It was tragic and we’re lucky Dani made it.  I know that Dani never meant to take so much.  I guess with the drinking and all she didn’t realize what she was doing.” He had been trained well and his voice dripped with sympathy for his friend.  Jeffrey sat in his chair waiting to hear what else the commissioner had to say. There was no evidence the organization had been involved in the girl’s death and Jeffrey had been instructed to keep it that way.  If the police had uncovered something, it was his job to make it disappear.  


Bo looked at Jeffrey.  The young man seemed genuinely concerned for Dani, but he had just sent a drugged gift basket to Viki.  “Yes.  We’ve been keeping this under wraps and it is strictly off the record.  Can I trust you to respect that and not reveal what I’m about to tell you?  This is still an active investigation.”


“Certainly sir, I do know what off the record means.”


“Good.  Dani was given a pill that was four times stronger than she thought.  Someone wanted her to overdose.  The reason I brought you in is because someone made an attempt on someone else in her family today and I’m hoping you’ll be able to help us catch him.  This morning a gift basket was delivered to Victoria Banks.” He was surprised as Jeffrey interrupted him.


“Is Viki alright?” Jeffrey moved forward in his chair and put his hands on the desk in front of him. He liked Viki and had been assured that her basket was just a token of Carl’s respect, but now he was worried. Had he made a mistake?  Did he send the wrong basket to her?


“Viki is fine.”  Bo watched  as Jeffrey visibly relaxed upon hearing Viki was okay, but it was obvious now he had knowledge about the baskets.


“Oh, thank God.  When you said someone else in Dani’s family was targeted and then said something about Viki’s basket, I assumed she was the one targeted.”


“So you know about her basket.  Would you mind telling me if you saw it being delivered?  We’re trying to locate the delivery man.” Bo waited to hear Jeffrey’s reply.


“I saw it being delivered when I posted my story this morning.  Wait are you saying Viki was targeted and the gift had something to do with it?”


“Viki received an anonymous call warning her about the basket, so she brought it in here to be tested.  We found out the bottles of Sparkling Cider had been tampered with.  So you didn’t actually have any contact with the basket, but you did see it delivered.”


Jeffrey nodded, “That’s right. The man delivered it to Viki’s secretary and then left.  Do you suspect him of having something to do with the tampering?”


“At first we did but now a new suspect has come to light.”  Bo leaned forward in his chair. “Tell me Jeffrey.  If you didn’t handle the basket.  How do you explain your fingerprints found on the wrapper?”


Jeffrey was stunned.  He knew he had handled the basket, but they shouldn’t have been able to prove his prints were on it.  “You must be mistaken.  I assure you I didn’t touch it this morning.  Forgive me for asking but what makes you think they are my prints?”


“I know they are your prints because Viki gave us something this morning that had your prints on it.” Bo shuffled through some papers on his desk and pulled the bag containing the article.  He lifted it to show Jeffrey.


Jeffrey felt a chill run down his back as he stared at the first copy of his article that morning.  He had taken it to Viki to get a final approval for printing. His brain scrambled to find a logical reason for his prints on the basket. “Wait a minute, I remember, I happened to touch the basket as it sat on Viki’s desk this morning when I gave her that article.  I don’t understand. Why did Viki suspect me?”


Bo ignored the question. “So you say you touched the basket after all.  Where did you touch?” Bo continued to press.


Jeffrey pictured the basket and knew his fingerprints would have been near the card so he went with that.  “I’m not sure but I think I might have touched up near the handle, maybe close to the card.  You’ve got to believe me, I’d never do anything to hurt Viki.”


Bo nodded. “Okay, I believe you wouldn’t hurt Viki.  But I had to find out why your prints were on the basket when you originally told me you didn’t handle it.  Viki is close to me and I don’t take kindly to those wanting to hurt her.  Listen I want to thank you for coming in and answering my questions.  I was wondering if you could do me a favor.  We’re a little short-handed here this morning.  Some of my officers are out sick and we’ve got a lineup I need to fill. Would you be interested in seeing how we do things and help us out by standing in the lineup.  It will only take a few minutes of your time.”


Jeffrey breathed a sigh of relief.  The commissioner seemed satisfied with his explanation.  It would probably help his standing with Matthew’s father to help out.  “I’d be happy to help.  I’ve always wanted to see how a lineup works.”


“Great.  Thanks again  for coming in.”  Bo opened the door and called to Fish.  “Fish take Mr. King down to the lineup room and instruct him on what he needs to do.”  Bo watched them head for the room and a few minutes later he joined Fish, and John and the witness behind the two way mirror.


John stepped out of the room the minute Jeffrey was identified.  It was now time for the second part of their plan.  As Jeffrey exited the lineup room he heard a curse and a crash behind him and suddenly found his shoes and pants covered in water.  The police officer behind the bucket looked up and apologized profusely.  John and Bo came up behind the custodian to see what the crash was about.


Bo quickly spoke up. “Damn it Clark, what are you doing?”


“Sorry Boss,  We had a drunk throw up in holding and all the rest of the men are complaining about the smell.  Since we’re short-handed I was trying to help.”


Bo went to Jeffrey.  “Come in here,” he led Jeffrey into an interrogation room.  “The least we can do is give you some dry shoes to wear home,  Clark, get the man a towel.”


Jeffrey laughed as he sat down in a chair.  “It’s all right Bo.  I don’t need another pair of shoes, A towel would be nice though.  It will sop up the excess water in my slacks.”  Clark showed up with a towel and Jeffrey proceed to take off his shoes and began to try and dry his slacks somewhat.  John and Bo watched as he lifted his foot and rested it on his knee so he could work on the pant leg


Bo nodded at John.  The tattoo was as big as life on the sole of Jeffrey’s foot.  An exact match to the one on Victor’s arm and the dead man that had surfaced in the river months before. “Wow, that’s a pretty sensitive place for a Tattoo.  It’s rather distinctive.  What is it?”


Engrossed in what he was doing Jeffrey answered. “It’s a Triskele, an ancient celtic symbol.”  He reached for his shoes and after a few wipes of the towel put them back on his feet.  “Well if you’ll excuse me I probably should get back home, I was right in the middle of something when your officer came to get me.”  He started to walk to the door.


“Jeffrey, I’m afraid that’s not going to be possible.  Jeffrey King, you’re under arrest for attempting to harm Viki Banks and now that we’ve seen your tattoo, we have even more questions for you pertaining to an ongoing murder case.  Clark read him his rights and take him to booking.”  He waited as Clark handcuffed a shocked and silent King out of the room.  “It's obvious he answers to someone else.  I want to know who. I think we can get a warrant for his computer.  I want to know what he’s been up to all these months.”


****


Carl relaxed back in his chair in Dorian’s living room.  Dorian had been a very gracious and excellent hostess at dinner.  She had explained her absence, apologizing for leaving without a word.  He had let her ramble on about Blair’s new conquest Tony Butler and how she had gone to New Orleans to check on him when he was ill because Blair was too far along in her pregnancy to travel.  At the mention of Butler, he remembered reading the info his organization had come up with on the man.  Although he was an up and coming entrepreneur, the man lacked the background needed to join Carl’s organization.  Victor Lord’s sons, on the other hand, had been just what the organization had looked for.  In fact, Victor Jr. had been an ideal asset at one time, but like his brother Todd, he had begun to test the organization.  Before his disappearance in 2003, Todd Manning also rebelled against them.   In order to bring Manning to his knees when he escaped his mother, they had faked Victor’s Death.  Irene Manning had been very helpful making Todd believe he had killed his own brother. It was a shame Alison failed to capture Manning and he died.  Still, Ms. Cramer was a lovely woman and maybe down the line her child would be offered the chance to join what his or her father had so foolishly turned away from.  Carl was so deep in his thoughts that he never saw Dorian approach him until she nudged him and handed him a glass of wine.


“I should be annoyed with you.  Just before my trip, I overheard you talking to another woman on the phone.  Should I be worried Carl?”


“My dear Dorian, I would never put another woman ahead of you.  The woman you heard me talking to was merely my assistant.  We encountered a problem at one of my philanthropy projects and I was trying to get it under control.  I’m sorry if you heard the conversation and it bothered you.” Carl looked around the room.  “Is that why my gift to you isn’t on display?  Were you so angry with me you threw it away?”


“Gift? Oh, Carl, I never received it. Pray, tell me.  What did you send me?”


“It was a gift basket.  I know how you like the finer things in life so I sent you some gourmet chocolates and some very fine wine.  I deeply sorry you didn’t receive it.”


Dorian waved her in a grand gesture. “C’est la vie.  Delivery services are so incompetent these days. Now don’t be upset.  Drink, I found this lovely wine in a small shop in Paris.  I think you’ll agree it’s quite good.” She took a sip and waited as Carl drank some of his.


Carl tried to control his anger at the foul up.  He had hoped to begin training Dorian for the role he wished her to play with that wine. Now he would have to wait until another evening. He took another sip of the wine and looked at Dorian.  “This is indeed delightful.”  He paused to sniff the aroma and swirled the wine in the cup before taking another taste. “The bouquet is familiar.  Can you tell me the name of the wine?”


“Of course,”  Dorian rose and went to the bar and picked up the untainted bottle Blair had purchased earlier.  “It’s called Domaine du Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee da Capo Imperial.  It was a wee bit pricey, but it’s only money.  Or as they say in Paris. 'il est seulement de l’argent.'”  She  laughed and poured herself another glass.


Carl chuckled to himself. Of course, she would choose that one. That’s why it was familiar, it was the same wine he had sent to her.  She truly was a remarkable woman with refined taste and someone who would grace his arm as he made his play for the Presidency.  He finished his glass and looked back at her.


Dorian had slipped the untainted bottle under the bar while Carl wasn’t looking and now brought the doctored bottle back to the settee.  “Here, have some more.  I wish to celebrate this evening and it is my hope that we will finally take the next step in our relationship.”


She poured more into Carl’s glass and slowly drank some of hers.  She had seen how quickly David had fallen under the drug.  Would Carl be just as susceptible to it?  “I believe we would make a good pair Carl.  We both have a number of good contacts and I know I would be an asset to you.  Don’t you agree?”  As she talked she saw his eyes glazing over. “Finish your drink Carl, so we can get down to business.”


Carl drank his wine as he listen to her talking.  He nodded when she suggested they would be a good pair. That was what he wanted too. He drank down the wine unaware she had just ordered him to.  Carl leaned forward to give her a kiss but suddenly felt off-balance. He stopped what he was doing, and tried to focus on Dorian.  This isn’t right.  Something’s wrong.


Dorian looked at him, he had been about to kiss her.  Why did he stop?  The drug was in his system. “Carl, don’t stop. Kiss me,” she commanded.


Carl again leaned forward and took her lips under his but then jerked back. “No!” What was he doing? He tried to gather his thoughts. Then he looked at the bottle on the table next to the settee and there in the bottom right-hand corner of the label was the triskele symbol. Now he realized what was happening to him. He was drugged.  Dorian had lied. The bottle on the table was from the gift basket. The drug in his system was a minor inconvenience, he knew by now his body would soon dispel the effects.  He had built up a good tolerance to it. But now Dorian needed to be taught a lesson.  He turned his wrath on her. “You Witch!  Did you think you could use my own drug against me?”


Dorian moved off the couch to put some space between her and Carl.  The moment he had said “No!",  she had realized there was a problem, but she had thought two full glasses of the wine would have been sufficient to keep him in line. “Carl, what do you mean?   Why have you gotten so angry?” She backed away and tried to make her way around him towards the front door.


Carl moved swiftly to intercept her.  “We’re not finished, Dorian.” He grabbed her wrist so she couldn’t leave him and again shook his head.


Dorian attempted to get him back under control. “Carl, listen to me.  You don’t want to hurt me. You need to let my wrist go.”


He looked at her for a moment.  “I don’t want to hurt you,” he glanced at her wrist and let it go but the minute she tried to move away he snatched it back. “It’s not going to work.  I’ve mastered this drug.  I know how to combat its effects.  What were you going to do Dorian?  Were you going to turn me into your plaything?  Is that why you drugged me?  Did you want me to be your puppy dog following you everywhere?” He pulled her back to the settee and threw her down on the couch.


“Carl, stop!.”  Once again Carl hesitated.  Dorian tried to get off the couch, but Carl stopped her and pushed her back. Before she realized what he was doing he held her down straddling her with his lower body and leg.


Carl paused to stroke Dorian’s cheek,  “I was going to make you my First Lady.  But you ruined it.  How did you know the wine was drugged?”  His hand moved to her neck and went around it.  He put a small amount of pressure on it to let her know he was serious  “Answer me.  Who told you about the wine?”


Dorian was scared but she had survived Victor Lord and Carl Peterson was going to know just who he had messed with.  “You want to know how I found out about the drug?  Your messenger neglected to make sure the basket got to me.  David found it and he helped himself to one of your bottles.  Blair found out the wine was drugged because of him.  You were so confident I’d fall at your feet because of such a generous gift.  You even went so far as to leave a card letting us know who sent the basket.  Tsk tsk. Carl, big mistake. In fact, it wasn’t even that, it was a rookie mistake.  I would have thought a man like you would have known better than to leave evidence around.”  


Carl closed his fingers just a little bit. “Don’t gloat Dorian.  You’re not in the position to do that right now.  So Blair knows, too?  That’s a problem.  I really didn’t want to hurt her since she’s carrying Victor Lord’s grandchild, but you’ve left me no choice.  You told me the boys were gone for the night.  I’ll just dispose of you and wait until Blair returns from the club to take her out.”


Dorian reacted instantly to the threat on Blair. The change in Carl was alarming.  Gone was the charming philanthropist.  Instead she faced a man full of rage and by the pressure he was beginning to put on her neck, he was a dangerous one. She reached up and scratched at Carl’s face raking his cheek with her nails determined to not show any fear. “You keep your filthy paws off Blair.  You’re not a gentleman, you’re nothing but a thug pretending to be above reproach.”


Carl laughed and loosened his tie and used it to wipe his cheek, batting away Dorian’s hand as she tried to score another hit. Then he snagged her wrist and used it to bring her under control as he tightened his grip on her neck.  “I knew you were a wildcat just like me.  It’s too bad.  I think we would have been good together, but now you know about the drug and so does Blair.  That makes you both obstacles I can’t afford.  I’m sorry Dorian.  This won’t hurt for long.  Call it Karma for trying to kill Victor all those years ago.”  He began to squeeze as Dorian tried desperately to free herself.


Todd jumped out of Blair’s car and ran to the back of the house.  He arrived at the  terrace doors just in time to  Carl on top of Dorian. She was clawing and hitting him with her one free arm and Todd suddenly had visions of a young Viki struggling under her father.  Months of frustration and white hot anger filled him.


“Peterson!” he roared and crashed through the doors determined to get the man off Dorian.  


The sound of the breaking glass startled Carl and he loosened his grip on Dorian and turned to face what had made the sound.  The next second he was bulldozed to the ground.  Thinking it was David Vickers, Carl started trying to get his arms around the man with a bear hug. From the way the man evaded his hold, it soon became apparent the man was an experienced fighter.


Todd realized quickly that Peterson wasn’t just a man of leisure. He was built like a tank and he obviously was well versed in fighting. Todd had barely eluded Carl’s bear hug and he knew he needed to stay away from getting trapped in his arms.  Thanks to the job on the road crew, he was in the best shape he had been in since his football days.


Carl attempted to trap his opponent under him but once again the younger man used his legs and arms to push him off and then Carl found himself face down as the younger man straddled him and slipped an arm around his neck.


Todd tightened his hold around Peterson’s neck and began squeezing.  Unfortunately, he chose that moment to look towards Dorian and realized she was unconscious. “Peterson, you made a big mistake when you targeted my family.”


Carl continued struggling, slamming his elbow into Todd’s ribs. He felt them give and the hold around his neck loosened.  He relaxed and collapsed to the ground, throwing Todd off balance. As Todd fell forward, Carl was freed again. Carl turned under his opponent and swiped his injured ribs with another heavy blow.


Todd grimaced and felt his breath rush out from the force of Peterson’s second blow to his injured ribs, falling to his side as Peterson rolled on top of him. The man sent another blow to his head. Todd barely managed to deflect the blow but felt the fist scrape his cheek exposing his scar. .


Peterson finally got a good look at his opposition as his hands closed around Todd’s neck. “You’re not Vickers. Who the hell?....My God, Manning. You’re supposed to be dead.  Your brother was right, you do have more lives than a cat.  Too bad this is the last one.”


Todd was beginning to see stars and he reached for anything he could find. His hand grasped a lamp that had fallen to the floor in their struggles and he swung it at Peterson’s head with a final surge of strength.  Peterson dropped like a stone on top of him and Todd took some shallow breaths to clear his vision.  For the third time in less than a year he had almost been strangled to death.  


He pushed Peterson’s body off of his and tore the cord from the now completely broken lamp.  Rolling over, Todd gingerly got up on his knees and tied the unconscious man’s hands behind his back. Feeling for a pulse, he found it and patted the top of Peterson’s head.  “Looks like I didn’t kill you.  Too bad, I would have been within my rights.  Still I’m not going to go back to prison this time for anything.  I’ll let Bo and the Feds take care of you.”  Peterson started to stir and Todd hit him with his fist knocking him back out.  Putting a hand against his ribs, Todd stood up and made his way to the couch.


Dorian was still alive.  “Hey, Auntie Dorian, come on now.  Wake up.  It’s all over.” He gently patted her cheek. She was going to be sporting the bruises on her neck for a while, but her breathing seemed unimpeded.  He patted her cheek a second time.  Dorian’s eyes flew open, but still under the impression she was being attacked, she cried out and reached to claw the man above her. “Carl, stop!” she said gruffly.


Todd caught her hand. “Easy, Dorian. It’s me. Carl can’t hurt you.”


Dorian’s eyes focused on Todd. “How?  I don’t understand?” Her voice was barely a whisper.

Before Todd could say anything, Blair burst through the front door followed by Bo and John McBain.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 9

"Todd," Jack Ribsky put his hand out.  

"Ribsky," he said in response, gripping the man's hand in reciprocation.  They were on the same steps where he had stood over a year ago, when he had come to talk to Connie about his father's death.


"Mr. Ribsky," Timothy said, offering his hand, and Todd moved inside, examining the living room, again.  


The urn they all had mistook for Peter's ashes was gone from the mantle.  Pamela came in, quietly, from a side room, and her face seemed drawn and gray.  
Todd caught her eye, and weakly smiled, offering his hand, "Ms. Ribsky," he said, softly.  To himself, he sounded like a child.

She said, "Todd, call me Pamela, please."  She took his hand and shook it.  It was cool, and she smelled lightly of pancake syrup, or something similar.


He said, "I'm . . . sorry, about your sister, Connie.  What my father did . . ."


"No, Todd, you can't apologize for that man, not after . . ." she stopped, her throat catching. 


Jack Ribsky stepped forward, "Todd, I think you ought to know why we called you here."


"Some money junk, I thought," he said, sitting on the floral couch that not a year ago he had sat on, opposite Connie, as she coldly refuted his claims about Peter.


Not her fault.  He had her fooled.  Somehow.


Timothy said, "We appreciate y'ar including us."


"You adopted Todd," Ribsky said, "as an adult."


"Yes.  He's my son, the lad is.  Of course, what to do with him!"  he smiled.


"Hmf," Ribksy said, smiling back.  "It's a good thing.  Very positive.  Considering what he went through.  Todd, I'm sorry that . . . well, at first, we didn't exactly buy into your stories of Peter."


"That's okay.  I didn't even remember half of them until recently,"  Todd said.  Pamela offered him tea, and he refused.


She took a cup and drank, quietly.


Todd felt uncomfortable when he looked at her.  For some reason, she seemed so frail and weak.  He wondered if it were true, or just what he imagined.  She looked as if she were dying.


Ribsky said, "I'll get to the point.  Your father left Connie a sum of money, in eight figures.  It's your money, most likely.  I know he had scammed your accounts your whole life."


"How do you know that?"  Todd asked, his palms sweating a little.


"I know from her journals, which we also found.  There are several volumes.  Some are as far back as the late 80s and early 90s, Todd."


"She was with him," Pamela started, and everyone turned to her, abruptly.  Hearing her was unexpected, "Almost thirty years."


"I was a kid," Todd said.  "A teen, maybe."


"Yes, you were," Pamela said, her lips pursed tightly.  


Todd noticed her hands shaking.  He said, "There's no blame to be put on your sister."


She looked down, as if into her tea, and then placed it down on the table.  "Oh, no, Todd.  There certainly is.  There's blame.  She'd be alive today, if she had done things differently.  She had to know.  Look at . . . look at that house, that place . . ."  She locked her own hands together to stop them from shaking.


"You've seen the house?"  Todd asked.


"Yes," she said, and sat back, silent.


Ribsky chimed in, "Pamela insisted."  He paused, looking at his wife.  "She's not been able to get past it."


Todd swallowed, and looked to his hands.  Timothy broke the silence.  Good old Dad.  "Ya must have had a tough time, seeing where she died, eh?"  his father said.


Pamela didn't answer.  She had a very far away look, one that Todd almost recognized from his days strapped to a chair. . .


"There's more," Ribsky said.  "The house was also left to her, it's been in probate, since we've not claimed it . . . well, it . . ."


"Reverts back to Todd, the only living relative, aside from Bitsy?"  Timothy offered.


"Shit, I don't want the place," Todd said.  "Bomb it, for all I care."  For a moment, he flashed on his mother, seeing Peter in that kitchen and fainting.


"If ya don't claim it, it will revert to the state," Timothy said.


"I'm not claiming,"  Todd said.


"That's fine.  No one says ya have to."  Timothy assured.


Todd said nothing.  Ribsky handed him a check.

"I don't want it," Todd finally spoke again.  "You take it.  Pay off this house, take a trip, whatever.  I don't want anything that comes from him."


"The problem is, neither do we," Ribsky said.  "You understand."


Timothy spoke, "Is there a charity?"


Pamela finally sat forward, and said, "I know a charity.  My sister . . . she would have wanted it to go to the local hospice.  Our mother died of cancer, right there, on the outskirts of Chicago."  Then, she looked at Todd.  "It's eighteen million dollars.  He invested it and it grew.  Are you certain?"


Todd said, "I have no use for that.  Not from him."


"It was yours, Todd.  He siphoned it off you for years,"  Ribsky clarified.


"Doesn't matter.  Hospice is good, I'm good with that.  Blair would be, too, and Momma," Todd said.


"Done, then," Timothy said, taking the check and handing it back to Jack.  He stood, "We appreciate everything," Timothy said, extending a hand.


Ribsky stood and took it, and Todd found himself standing as well, though his eyes rested on Pamela's gray complexion and her strained eyes.  The two men shook hands, and Todd, watching the woman, said, "I'm so sorry . . . for what he was," and couldn't pull his eyes away from hers, that were filled with water.  


For a reason he later could not explain, he reached for her hand.  She took it, and a tear spilled over onto her cheek.  He said, "I'm very sorry for your loss."


He let go of her hand, and as he did, she said, "Todd?"


"Yeah?"


"My sister . . . she wrote that she was going to protect that child.  She planned on keeping him from any harm.  She wrote that," she said, breaking down.


In a moment's passing, Ribsky was taking her in his arms, sitting beside her on the couch, and Timothy was pulling gently at Todd's arm, as he heard, behind him, the woman break into sobs.  He gulped, and followed his father out the door and onto the stairs, where he took the railing, and gripped it tightly, leaning forward as the ground seemed to buckle and move toward him.


The next thing he knew, Timothy was saying, "Breathe deeper, Lad.  That's it.  Sit down here, if ya can."


Todd sat, on the same stoop he had sat on close to a year before, and closed his eyes a minute.  Things had stopped swirling in his vision, and he felt less warm and more still.  He looked at his father.  "What happened there?"


"Ya almost went down."


"I'm over all this, Dad."


Timothy paused.  "Ya might be, Son."


"I am."


"All right.  Do ya want to try and get up now?"


"No."


They sat in silence.


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 8

"Mom, can I go to work tomorrow?"  Jack said, in her doorway.

"You have school," Blair said absently.  She was reading airport texts from Todd, and had Jewel nursing at the same time.


"How do you do that, at the same time as other stuff?"


"It's just natural, Jack, just the way it is.  Now, you're not skipping school tomorrow."


"There's a field trip.  To the lake.  I've been there enough.  Can I go to work, Mom?"


She looked at her son, quickly, and for a moment, she saw more of Todd in him that she ever had.  She said, "You're all grown up."


"Kinda.  Can I?"


"I'll tell Perzno to bring you, if that's what you want."


"Yeah.  Better than hanging at the lake for nothing."


"Jack, you don't want to do this as some kind of blind allegiance to your father?"


"Huh?  That doesn't even make sense," he said, and her attention went to Jewel.


"She's done.  Hang on," she said, and he turned his back while she put the baby down and covered up again.  "Okay."


"I said, it makes no sense, Mom.  A blind allegiance to Dad, would make me go to college because he wants me to."


She stopped.  "Yeah, I guess that's true."


"Can you tell Perzno?  He's going to check with you first anyway.
"

"Sure."  Jewel was already sleeping, and she said, "Go ahead and get your clothes ready for tomorrow, then."


"Who do I report to?"


"Briggs."


"The girl?"


"The woman, Jack.  Yes, her."


"She's Dad's old helper's daughter, right?"


"He was Senior Editor, and yes."


"Okay.  Got it.  See you later, Mom,"  he walked to his room, as she phoned Perzno to let him know.  


***


"Good afternoon, Bea!"  Sister Rebecca Katherine called to her, across the courtyard.  It was very cool but sunny.  Bea was still outside, with her easel in the sun.  "Ya must be painting another one!"


"I am," she said, gingerly pulling a cover over the art, and getting up to hug the nun.  "I'm so glad to see you, Sister.  I always am.  Will you help me pray for Sam today?"


"Of course I will.  No problem there.  Prayer works wonders."


"I also thought of something, to help him."


"Ya did.  I knew ya would.  Do ya want to share?"


"Yes.  I thought I could give him art lessons, and he could sort of, do what I do, maybe put down his feelings in art, and then maybe they will not bother him as much in his mind."


The nun was verklempt.  "I think that's a perfect idea, Bea."


"I thought so, too.  And Dr. Martino did as well.  He really liked it."


"Well, art can be great therapy for people.  I think y'ar onto something."


"I want to start as soon as Todd and Blair say it's okay."


"I'm sure they will.  Can I see the new one?"


Bea's face clouded.  "Not yet, Sister, it's not quite done."


"All right then, dinner?"


"Yes, I'd love to."


The two women went inside.  Bea left, as customary, her painting on the easel in the courtyard until she returned.  She'd started to spend hours outside painting as the weather had become nicer, and had created several that were already hanging in the halls of Mountainview, as well as The Diamond Gallery. 


Inside, the two women got their trays and sat.  The sun was coming in the tall cafeteria windows, and Bea said, "I remember that window there.  I was trying to write in the fake snow.  Remember?"


"Yes.  I felt badly for ya, Dear, that day."


"I wasn't well.  But I am getting better and better.  I can't wait to be able to live with Todd and Blair and the children."


"I think it's a fantastic goal, and it seems it won't be long."


She took a bite of her dinner, and said, "No, it won't.  Dr. Martino said I am making excellent progress."


"That's good news."


"And what about you, Sister.  We talk about me too much.  How is your brother?"


"He's fine.  Into doing some legal work, here and there.  Worried about the family, as I am, and about Sam.  He broke up with his girlfriend. . . "


"That's Dorian, right?  Blair's Aunt?"


"Yes, and so far, I can tell he misses her, but hasn't really said much."


"What happened?"


"Jack happened, from what I can tell."


"Jack?"


"He said some things cluing in Timothy as to how Dorian was acting when Ray was kidnapped.  Timothy didn't like it.  The rest is well, as they say, history."


"She doesn't like Todd."  Her face took on a curious look.


"I don't know if it's that she doesn't like him, or doesn't want to.  Either way, it is what it is, Dear Heart."


"Todd must feel badly if he caused their break up."


"Todd takes everything on himself, but I think he's okay with this one.  His conflicts with Dorian go way back."


"You'll have to fill me in sometime, Sister."


"That will be a discussion for another day, or Todd can tell ya himself."


"I'll call him, today, maybe.  I'd like to see him.  He . . . he's still my baby in my heart."


"I know that.  But he's not going to be able to visit today.  He's helping my brotha with a project.  When he gets back, I'm sure he'll call ya."


"All right."  Bea ate her supper quietly, while listening to some stories from Sister Rebecca Katherine's journeys around the area helping others throughout the past year.


***


"So, you comfortable, Old Man?"  Todd said, looking at his father in the seat next to him on  his private jet.


"Yes, I'm fine, Son."


"Good."


"Are ya all right?"


"No big deal.  I"ll be home soon."


"Ya will get back to them in no time."


"Yeah."


"So, Connie's will, and her belongings."


"You mentioned."


"Y'ar sure ya want to do this?"


"I can't really say.  I guess so."


"I know.  Death is a hard thing.  I . . ."  he stopped.


Todd looked at his father, and saw the raggedness of his face.  Just then, he appeared to be older, somehow, and the lines more accentuated.  "Dad?  Hey."


"Yeah," the older man said, turning his head from Todd.


"Hey, you, uh, trying to stop looking at my ugly face, or something?"


"No, Todd, I . . .excuse me, Lad," he said, getting up and heading to the rear of the plane.


Todd looked after him, and then sighed.  He's a mess.  He doesn't want me to see how much he misses Aiden.  Why didn't I notice that before?


When Timothy finally made his way back over, Todd said, "Everything come out okay?"


The older man smiled, "I believe so, yes."


"Good."  Todd took out his tablet, and then said, "Old Man?"


"Hm?"


"You realize how important you are to me, and my kids, right?  And Bridgette?"  he mocked his accent when he said the last word.


"Yes, Laddy, I do."


"And you also realize it's all right to miss your real son."


The older man turned to him.  "Yes, I do.  But y'ar my real son, as well."


Todd waited.  "Can I do anything?"


"No.  Just be y'arself, that's all I need."


"You need more than that."


"Like?"


"Dorie."


"I'm done with that, Todd, and ya know the story."


"Look if people got upset with everyone who talks bad about me, the world would have no friends in it, no marriages, heck, no people."


"Let's not go that far, Lad."


"Come on, Dad.  Dorian and I go way back.  She's practically my mother-in-law, or at least has acted like one our whole lives, Blair and mine.  I don't hold anything she says against me."


"I commend ya.  But, ya needed support, and she was just there to blame and bring ya down, when ya were at y'ar worst.  Y'ar baby son was missing, and she was heartless.  It was the last straw for me."


"You think that was bad?  That was mild, and for most of it, she was right."


Silence sat between them for a moment.  The older man scanned Todd's face.


Todd went on.  "All she did was say what she felt.  That it was my fault.  That I brought 'Malcolm' into their lives.  And the truth of it is, I did bring Peter into their lives.  He was the only father I had, and that makes him part of their world.  And it's not a beautiful part.  It's hateful and ugly.  He was poison."  Timothy didn't flinch, he just kept looking and listening at and to his newly adopted son.  Todd said, "Today, I found my middle son on the balcony, standing near the edge."


Timothy's expression morphed.  "God," Timothy gasped.

"He said he wasn't planning on jumping, but you know what?  I thought he was.  Because when I was his age, and I saw Peter kill an animal with his bare hands, I wanted to die.  Of course, it had to do with what he was doing to me, and my mother, but I wanted to leave the planet.  And I was scared."


"What happened?"


"He was just remembering Peter.  He wasn't going to jump.  He wanted to see Mixie's grave, where I buried him."


"Good Lord in Heaven."


"He could have been burying his brother, if things didn't go how they did."


"Don't say that, Lad."


He swallowed.  "So, you see, Dorian isn't wrong.  I put this into my sons' heads, all of them, and Starr's.  I've caused them to have these themes in their lives.  Dorian's not wrong.  You have to forgive her for speaking the truth."


Timothy turned his face away, and faced forward.  


Todd said, "You love her.  She loves you.  She's not wrong for wanting to protect Blair and the kids from the likes of me.  She probably never was, except maybe once.  But believe me, I'm not an angel, and I wasn't.  She's always seen the . . . darkness."  His voice changed, "Blair sees, she just lets the light cast over it, like it's not there."


"Perhaps it's just not anymore," Timothy said.  "Give Bridgette more credit.  She sees the real Todd, the child before all that torment.  The man she loves.  She's not wrong, either.  She's more than right, she's y'ar salvation.  That from y'ar own words."


Todd choked up, and looked out the window.  "She is.  But she still never deserved all she's had to face simply because of loving me."


Timothy leaned over and put a hand on Todd's shoulder.  "Maybe.  But think of what she'd face without that.  She's found her other half, and she won't be letting go."


Todd exhaled and closed his eyes.


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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 33

Todd awoke and realized his small granddaughter was nestled against his shoulder. She was sound asleep, blowing soft breaths at his face as she inhaled and exhaled. Her little arm was draped on his chest and she had hold of his hospital gown in her grasp. The nightmare was fading in his mind but a little memory near the end of the dream lingered as he remembered the kiss and a little voice telling him it was OK, it would be all better. Hope reminded him so much of Starr at her age, but as he looked at her he saw a little of Marty in her.


Once again fate had stepped in and bound him with Marty. Closing his eyes, he thought back to that fateful night. He remembered Marty screaming her hatred because Patrick laid dead in her arms and it had been his fault. Patrick had taken the bullet meant for him and had saved Tea and Starr too. His plan of revenge against Patrick had gone horribly wrong. Todd had stood helpless against the Irish terrorist, all the while knowing he had brought that violence down on his family. Todd thought back to what Starr had said earlier. He had tried to explain what drove him to take the chances that he had, but even to him the excuses were weak. He should be grateful to be here with Blair and Starr and Hope.


He could easily continue Samuel's life and let Manning keep his cursed one, but it wasn't going to work. Too much had been ripped away against his will. He hadn't chosen to be away from his family for eight years, it had been taken from him. There were too many times in his earlier life when he'd had his choices taken from him and he had promised himself that no one was ever going to do that again. His thoughts went back to Marty. This town was filled with bad memories, but she had come back with her son. For all the memories, something had compelled her to return. And now they shared a granddaughter. It was scary, how fate wouldn't let them get away from each other. God, how many more cruel jokes are in store for us.


Todd noticed Starr was reading what looked like a class book of some type and Blair was perusing the papers she had brought in earlier. What had Vicki and Blair said, something about slowing down the impending Firestorm? Well, the cat was out of the bag, now they needed to find a way to make it work to their advantage. There was a lot of speculation but nothing concrete so far, he was counting on that. Samuel had started the ball rolling when he had let himself be seen around town, and now there were pictures that would also get people talking. Todd wanted a slow burn for now. For one he had to get out of the hospital before he could go public. He was in no shape for a face to face confrontation with Manning yet.


Todd shifted just a little to resettle Hope a little more comfortably in his arms. It was so quiet, the only sound was the annoying beep from the monitor. That was odd, it was quiet, too quiet. Where was everybody? Todd closed his eyes and opened his mind. "Samuel, Tom, Rodd where are you guys?” Then he heard some quiet laughter and walked toward the sound. He breathed a sigh of relief, he thought he had lost them. Usually, one or the other of them would be begging to come out. But this time they were all engrossed in watching Hope sleep and Samuel was telling them about the games he played with her. Todd turned and left. Opening his eyes once more, he realized that Hope was a lot like her Grandmother Blair. Blair had always had the same calming effect on the guys. He had known a long time ago that when he was with Blair the voices would go quiet. He loved the guys, but it was nice to sometimes be able to think without a running commentary coming from the peanut gallery in his head.  His stomach twinged. God, I’m hungry.  He looked over at Blair and said, "Can a guy get some food here, you think"


At Todd's words, Hope woke up and rubbed her eyes. She looked at her grandfather and said. "Dragon better? Wat wong Dragon?"


Todd couldn't help himself, he said, " Oh Princess Shorty, Sir Dragon is so hungry.. Hmm, You look good enough to eat.   If someone doesn't feed me soon, I'm going to gobble you up." and then he pulled Hope close and started to pretend to eat her.


Hope started laughing because he was tickling her "No, no Dragon don eat me. Mommy, Sir Dragon hungry."


Starr came to her dad's side. "Sir Dragon please don't eat Princess Shorty. We'll get you something you'll like much more. Come on Princess Shorty," she grabbed her Daughter, winked at her dad and headed to see if she could find some food for him.


Todd let out a laugh as his daughter left. It had been so long since he had felt this happy. Still laughing, he looked at Blair. " It's just us Blair. Are you with me?"


"I've been with you since the first moment we met. It just took me a while to know my own heart. So do you have a plan?" Blair said as she crossed to him.


"Not a clue." At her look of surprise, he smiled ruefully. "Hey, I just got out and then I had a heart attack, I'm only human."


At that, Blair started laughing.  "I'm beginning to wonder, I never saw anyone else survive so many near death experiences as you. You've already maxed out your nine lives," she said.  “Promise me you won't tempt fate anymore. I’m not sure how many more lives you have."


"Well I do seem to defy death, I'm just stubborn that way." He did his little shrug then said. "Let's see those papers again." Todd finally took a look at the articles about his exit from the Tomb. He actually liked the headline from the Sun. It left a lot  to the imagination. That might be something he could work with. Victor's legacy back from the grave. Vicki had already opened the door a little bit by claiming he was a distant cousin. With some clever work on the web, he might be able to set Samuel Toddman up as a possible heir.  In order to stay ahead of Carlo, he needed to stay under the radar a little longer. It would appear he and Samuel could work together on this. If anyone came questioning Samuel, he'd be able to take over, putting up a smoke screen as an artist who is completely baffled by his resemblance to Todd Manning's old face. While Samuel put up the front, he could finish seeing Tea and Jack and go to work accessing Carlo's holdings. It was a sure bet that Carlo had a piece of Manning's holdings that Manning wasn't even aware of. Todd was going to get that piece first.


The Banner's article was going to need major damage control. It was too soon to alert Manning to the possibility that he wasn't the Real Todd Manning. Todd figured he'd have to rely on Vicki to stop anymore speculation on that subject for the time being. Hopefully because it was her paper, she'd be able to stop any rumors before they got started. They couldn't do anything about the picture except get it off the front page and bury it for now. It had been a long time since he had felt actual pain, he was feeling sore all over and it wasn't helped by his stomach being so empty. He was hoping Starr would hurry with that food. To take his mind off his hunger. Todd started talking to Blair about the two articles. She agreed that they could embellish on the Sun's story and use the 'cousin' link to establish Samuel in town. Todd was pretty sure Vicki would help as much as possible given the state of her family. " I'm hungry. I need something to distract me." said Todd.


Blair said, "I think I know something that will take your mind off food for a short time."


Todd looked at her "Yeah, What?"


Blair smiled mischieviously. "Why don't you move over a little bit, and I'll show you." Todd carefully moved over and Blair climbed on the bed next to him. " Now I don't want you to worry about anything, I'm going to do all the work, I believe I'll start with this." Then she leaned forward and started kissing first one scar and then the other finally making her way to his beautiful mouth. It felt like heaven and earth collided as Todd responded back in kind wrapping her in his arms, loving the feel of her body against his. Remembering all the passion as the longing that had been so long suppressed finally was being released.  She raised her lips from his and gazed at the man who had always taken her to such heights. Her fingers caressed his face moving over his eyes and down his nose then brushing across those lips once more.


As she gazed at him, he was busy drinking in all of her features, especially her beautiful expressive eyes. "Blair, I.." she shushed him and once again took his lips with hers. They drank each other in, unable to stop as he brought his hand up and and tangled it in her hair. Then he let his hand flow down her body feeling all her curves so that he could once again put it in his memory. God, she feels so good. Suddenly an alarm began going off. They both stopped and looked at each other.


"Todd are you Ok?" Blair scrambled away afraid she had hurt him.


Nothing could have been further from the truth. Todd closed his eyes in frustration. He didn't know what had caused the alarm to go off he felt fine.


Then the nurse arrived. Luckily Blair had already left the bed. "Mr. Toddman, relax I think one of your leads got loose, I'll get it back on line in no time. Are you feeling alright? No more twinges or pains?" said the nurse while she hooked him back up.


Totally exasperated, Todd replied "I'm fine, I guessed I must have accidentally moved and knocked it loose."  Todd looked over at Blair, she was barely containing her laughter. He mouthed to Blair behind the Nurses back. "you've got to get me out of here." the nurse left and Todd said out loud. "I can't take much more of this. When can I go home?"


Blair had tears in her eyes from trying to hold the laughter in. " Oh Todd, I'm so sorry," she reached up and cupped his face in her hand once again rubbing her thumb across his lips "We'll try again when we get you home. That's a promise."


Todd grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips "That's a Promise I'm going to keep you too." and then he kissed it.  Todd and Blair’s intimate moment ended as the door opened and Starr and Hope came in with food.  “Well what did you get me?  I’m starving.”


Starr brought the food over to her dad’s table and set it out.  Todd wasted no time digging in.  He was putting it into his mouth so fast that Starr became alarmed. “Dad slow down.  You’re going to choke.”


Todd looked up as he realized they were staring at him. “What??? I’m hungry!” He ate as if he hadn’t eaten for days.


Even Blair became worried as he seemed to put the food in nonstop.  Finally she reached over and grabbed his hand. “Todd, Stop.  That food isn’t going anywhere and neither are you.”  Blair looked him in the eyes.  “I know it must seem like you have to get everything out of every minute because you’ve been gone so long, but you can relax, you’re not going back unless you want to.  Remember, you’re back in charge.


It took him a moment for him to register what Blair was saying.  He looked at the food in front of him, or rather what was left and realized that she was right.  He’d attacked the food like there was no tomorrow.  She had hit the nail on the head.  He was afraid all this would cease and he’d end up trapped again.  Todd put the food down and pushed the table away, his hands shaking a little as he did.  Clasping them together, he tried to bring his fear under control.  Things had been going so well since he woke with Hope next to him.  Now he knew it had just been the adrenaline keeping the fear at bay.  Todd looked toward Blair and Starr and saw the worry on their faces.  He  hugged himself feeling the tremors running through him, he couldn’t let them know just how terrified he really was. “I’m sorry, I  didn’t mean to upset you.  I was just hungry.”


Blair watched him and saw all the signs, she knew he was barely holding it together for their sake.  He needed a moment so she turned to Starr and said. “He’s right Starr.  Don’t you remember, your dad has always been an unusual eater, downright unconventional in fact.  You and Hope should probably call it a day.  Take her home and let her play.  She’s probably getting pretty bored.  It’ll be bedtime for her soon and you’ve put off your studies long enough.  Go Home, I’ll be following shortly.”


As soon as Starr and Hope departed, Blair immediately went to Todd and sat on the bed next to him.  She pulled him into her arms.  He broke down on her shoulder as the events from the previous night and the revelations of the day finally took their toll.  Blair held him, her own tears flowing for the man she loved and everything he had been through.  As the moments went on Todd’s arms reached out and embraced her.  There was nothing sexual in the embrace, rather it was simply the need of one human being needing the physical contact of another.  The simple act of holding on for dear life.  Blair remembered the time she had needed him to hold her.  He’d had never opened himself up to her like this in all the years they had been together.  Now she felt like she had finally broken through a wall that had been up from the moment they met.  Blair vowed to herself that this time she wouldn’t let him scare her away.  


Todd’s hold let up and she let him go.  She helped him get more comfortable on the bed.  When she finally had her own composure under control she met his gaze.  What was going on behind those eyes?  She had asked herself that question a million times over the years.  Todd had always seemed so mysterious at times, that she had never been able to  get a read on where his thoughts were at a given moment.  She suddenly realized why.  She had been trying to read one man, but Todd wasn’t one man, he was many.


Todd stared back at Blair.  He was thankful she had stayed after Starr left.  It was as if she knew what was going on.  When she held him, he’d felt safe for the first time in years.  Tea had been the last person that had comforted him so.  He couldn’t remember ever letting Blair that close.  He’d put up a barrier after Rebecca and when Blair had hurt him with the lies so many years before, he had just retreated farther behind it.  The day he proposed to Blair a second time he had attempted to let go of that wall but Ireland had ruined things once again.  Even when he had tried to make it work with Blair in 2000, he had continued to protect his heart.  Today was different.  He realized for the first time how much Blair had changed over the last eight years.  She still retained her fighting spirit, he had seen that when she confronted Samuel, but she’d mellowed out.  She didn’t appear to get as carried away in the moment as she used to.  More importantly, he felt like he could trust her again.


Blair waited.  She didn’t know what to say to him.  The next move was his.  She would give him whatever time he needed.  She wanted him to trust her more than anything, she owed him that.


The silence was deafening, Each was trying to figure out where they stood.  In the back of his mind Todd heard Samuel.  


“Alright, enough of this.  Say it already and get on with your life.”


Samuel was right. If he truly trusted her, he had to show her.  He looked at her and said it.  “Blair, I love you.”



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