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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 27

Timothy came to the door, but it had gotten late and he was already in his pajamas. 

Blair said, "Dad, I won't keep you long."

"Come in, Bridgette," he offered.

She stood close to the door and let it close behind her.  "We're leaving.  Tonight."

"My goodness, Dear, what happened?"

She said, "I have to get him out of here, now."

"Oh, this has proved too much for him, eh?"

"There have been some developments, and it's not healthy for him to be here anymore."

"Ya found him at that horrid place, didn't ya?"

She held back tears.  "Yes, I found him at that place."

"Is he all right?  Can I help?"

"I'm sure he'd love to see you, but I had to tell you first, that he's just . . . he's hurting, inside, that's all."  She said, "Dad, he . . ." and broke into tears.

He rubbed her shoulders, and said, "There now, what is it?  What can I do?"

"Nothing right now but be there.  He remembers making calls to the police, and them ignoring his calls for help.  That's why he wants revenge, and he's . . . afraid of what he might do."  She brushed a tear from her own cheek.

"Dear Jesus.  What kind of law enforcement official can do that to a child?"

"At any rate," she said, pulling herself together, "I have to get him home.  He just can't be here.  He's a mess, and he needs his children.  He needs to be away from here."

"Of course.  Don't ya worry about me, Lass.  Get him where he's feeling right, I'll worry about the rest.  I'll file proxy papers for the court."

"He still wants to see Pamela.  I'm afraid for him, but he wants to."

"This has to be this way, then.  For his sake.  But, I do want to see him, first."

"Of course, come now, if you want."  She headed back to their penthouse.

He took his key, and trudged over to the elevator, riding it to the top floor.  Getting out, he followed the light scent of Blair's perfume and the small holes from her shoes that were just disappearing from the lush carpet.  He knocked, and she opened the door.  He said, "I guess followed ya."

"He's in the bedroom, getting ready.  He's a little drunk, but he's all right."

"Are ya all packed?  Can I help in some way?"

"No, we're just about done."

His eye caught a broken heap of machinery on the floor.  "And that?"

"That was a loaner from the hotel.  He's already replaced it and then some."

"He's struggling.  He wants us to believe he's over it, that it's all behind.  He wants to believe it himself.  I was foolish to think it would be that easy."

"And me."

"What can I do?"

"I don't know.  Can you get police records?  Find the answers for him?"

"Not sure, I'm not an officer of the court here.  What about that Ribsky fellow?  I could go and explain it all to him, perhaps he can help?"

"That might work, he did say to call him if we needed him.  Maybe we can talk about this later?  But first things first.  We've got to get to Pamela and out of here."

"All right."

"Hey, Dad," Todd said as he walked out of the bathroom.  He was dressed but still slightly damp from the shower and Blair found him as beautiful as ever, with his hair slicked back with water.  He smiled, awkwardly, "we're going home, I guess." 

"I know, and it's best."  He stood up, his baggy pajamas and old-man slippers making a comical figure.  "Come here, Son."

Todd hesitated a moment, and then walked over to him.  The older man took Todd's shoulders, and gripped them.  "Are ya all right?"

"I'm as good as can be expected.  And nothing more," Todd said, looking to the floor.

"Come here then, and let me hug ya."

Todd stepped toward him gingerly, but the older man pulled him close, hugging him and patting his upper back with a loud slap.  As they separated, Timothy said, "I love ya."

Todd couldn't speak, and Blair knowingly said, "He loves you, too."

"Y'ave been through something harrowing tonight.  Ya shouldn't have to talk if ya don't want to.  Let that lovely lady there take care of ya.  She wants to fill y'ar every need, and she will.  She told me so herself," he winked.

Todd weakly smiled, but he felt sick.  He'd drank too much Scotch, and mixed with the upheaval of emotions, he felt he might become ill.  Timothy could see his coloring fading, and said, "Sit with me, a minute," and they both sat down.  He said, "So, ya got a touch of the Thor in ya, eh?"

"I don't know, do I?"

"He was the Celtic deity of, among other things, revenge."

"Then, he's my pal."

"I see.  It's normal to want to do that, Todd.  I would.  In fact, when I think of it, I want to make someone suffer the way you and your Mam did."

Todd swallowed, looking down.  "I can't stop it.  The urge to find them and hurt them, I can't help it.  It's there, all the time."

"Ya need to get home.  Be with y'ar children, and y'ar wife, and it will fade, or at least change form.  Remembering, being here, and confirming that memory has been a lot for ya, and y'ar raw."

"When haven't I been?"

He paused, and put his hand on Todd's shoulder.  "I don't know the answer to that, Son.  But give it time.  Y'ar wife is right to get ya away from here.  At least for now, if not for always."

"I know she is," he sniffed, and looked into his father's face.

"And this Thor, the amazing thing is he's the diety of revenge, but also of trust.  Isn't that a strange thing, ay?"

Todd smiled, broader this time.  "Yes.  That's a strange thing."

"Trust y'ar woman, and y'arself.  Not in that order necessarily.  Both know ya, and she knows y'ar heart."

"Okay," he said, sighing.

"Goodbye, for now, Son," Timothy said, hugging Todd again.  He'd never been one for touchy-feely people, but with his father, he seemed to be able to make an exception.  For a split moment, hardly noticeable to anyone else, he clung to Timothy and rested there, quietly.  

Then he pulled back and said, "I love you, too, Old Man."

Timothy got up and kissed Blair's cheek, and whispered, "He's all right, Lass, he has ya," and walked out.

Blair looked at her husband, and said, "Are you ready to go?"

He was looking at the broken computer, and then he said, "Sure, yeah."

She got her bag, and he got up, taking it from her, and took his own in the other hand.  They closed the hotel door behind them.


"I tried to reach you, the other day," John said, "and I left a message."

"I'm sorry," Ray said, "It's been a very busy week.  What can I do for you, John?"

"Due to a police matter, I have to ask something.  I'm not really sold on asking, but I have to.  Job calls for it."

"All right, I'll just warn you that I cannot break client-doctor confidentiality."

"No, nothing like that.  I wondered if you had given any thought to Todd's mother visiting Mitch Laurence in jail."

Ray didn't respond at first, and then said, "I suppose there's a logical reason for this request, because I can't think of any."

"I . . . made a deal, to find the baby, your namesake.  Promised Laurence.  The Department is not happy with me for that.  If I don't follow through, on the deal, it could cause problems."

"You promised him he could see her?"

"I, well, yeah."

"I can't really think of an answer to that right now, except no, she shouldn't.  She's rounding a corner, and possibly will be out soon.  In that case, you could ask her yourself.  But as part of her treatment, I'd say, no.  I can't sanction that."

"He seems to think they were in love."

"I'm sure he does.  I can't even comment on her end of that, John, you know that."

"I do.  I just thought I'd try.  I guess I wait, then.  Is her release pending soon?"

"We're not quite sure.  A few details to iron out, a few last things in therapy, and she'll start by going to Todd's on weekends.  If that works, she'll continue with therapy until she doesn't need it, if that day comes.  I'm only telling you this because she's told me that this part of her recovery is okay to share with others.  She's very excited."

"Well, all right, Ray, thank you for taking the time to discuss what you could with me."

"Don't mention it.  If things change, I'll call you.  At this point, we're looking at outpatient care as she integrates into normal life outside Mountainview."

"I see.  Thanks."

"You're welcome.  Hope that situation there works out.  You could always stall Laurence."  Ray hung up.

John fingered a pencil on his desk, and then said, aloud, "Yeah, I could, couldn't I?"


Todd and Blair drove up in front of the Ribsky's house and parked at the curb.  She said, "You don't have to do this."

"It's my family's poison that changed this woman's life.  It's the least I could do.  Peter cost her a sister."

"All right, whatever you want," Blair said, nervous about what he might encounter and what it could bring up.

They walked, hand in hand, to the front door and knocked.  Ribsky opened the door.  "Todd, Blair, come in," he said.

Pamela looked grayer than Todd remembered her, and he couldn't take his eyes off her from the moment they entered the house.  Blair introduced herself, and Pamela said, "I'm sorry for the role my sister played in your child's kidnapping Mrs. Manning," and lowered her head.

"That apology is appreciated but really not needed.  It was Peter's doing; we know that,"  Blair said.

"No, not fully.  That's why I insisted on seeing Todd.  I have something to tell him, well, you both."

Todd looked gray himself, and Blair noticed as he sat on the loveseat across from the sofa, and she went and sat next to him, close enough that he could feel her body touching his.  He said, "I understand the need for closure.  I deal with it every day."

She weakly smiled, and it made him feel strange because of how thin and drawn she was.  She said, "Good, then you'll understand."  She pushed a journal toward them, on the coffee table.  "This is only one volume of my sister's journals.  I've been reading it because it was the most recent.  It . . . clears up some things about what happened with your son."

Blair was afraid to touch the book; she didn't want to know anything horrific that happened to her baby boy.  Todd took it a step further.  "Did he . . . hurt my little boy?"

"No, it doesn't seem so.  She had made it her mission to protect the baby.  She vowed, in writing, to watch over him and not let anything happen to him, in case the things you said here in this room about Peter were true."  She was not hiding her tears.  In fact, they were streaming down her face, and she spoke in a ragged tone.  "She wanted to protect him."

Blair sighed, and Todd said, "If that's true, then she died doing that."

"Yes, that's what I thought," Pamela said.  "There's an entry toward the end where she describes seeing . . ." she cleared her throat, "the cellar for the first time.  It was then she knew what she was dealing with, but was in too deep to get out.  She just vowed to save and protect the baby and somehow get him back to you.  She also was consumed by greed; he'd promised her a great deal."

Blair was also crying now, and the woman avoided her eyes.  She studied Todd, more, and said, "It's all there, in her own handwriting.  And there are almost thirty more volumes.  She kept a journal every day.  She had once aspired to be a writer.  Writing was her passion.  No one knew that, much."  She cried into her crumpled tissue.

Todd wasn't sure what to do.  He didn't really want to read the books, but he knew there would be valuable information about Peter's life, and even his, in their pages.  He still hadn't touched the volume she had placed on the table.  Instead, he impulsively got up, to Blair's surprise as well as everyone else's, and sat beside the woman and put his arms awkwardly around her and held her.  She cried woefully, and he said, "I'm so sorry for what he did and for what you lost."

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 26

After paying for the rental, she got in, and the door closed beside her with a hollow thud.  It had been a long time since she had driven a car.  She knew it wouldn't take long to remember how, and get into the swing of driving, but it made her feel strange, nonetheless.  She started the engine and pulled off.

Adjusting the rear view mirror and the visor over her head, she felt her hands slightly trembling.  She didn't really want him to be there, but something inside her knew that's where he would be.  And she had to go to him.  That was her choice, and it was her mission.  She had to be with him, whatever he was facing.  She'd promised herself that.

She drove on, through busy city streets, until they faded, like old seams, and blended into the streets of suburbia.  "Blair Manning," she said aloud, "you can do this.  If you hadn't been so selfish about it, you might not have to."

She had been selfish.  She was sure of it.  She couldn't let him have one little thing that she didn't know about.  Even his thoughts were often hers.  Maybe Timothy was right, that he just needed to have something of his own to grapple with.  Or maybe what he had said to her was right: he didn't even realize what he wanted to do, until he said it, just then.  Either way, it was over, her pigheadedness.  She would find him, and she would tell him that she was wrong.  

Please let him be all right.  Please.  

You don't want him to be there, Blair.  He wouldn't go there, that's not it.  Not that place.  He's out, in a pub somewhere, tying one on.

She thought better of it.

He's there.  He's in that house.  God, please.  What have I done?

She stopped short as a horn beeped her aware, and after jolting against the steering wheel a little, she realized she had run a red light.  The person in the opposite car had his middle finger up as he went by her.  She flushed, and waited.  Her heart was beating rapidly, and she wanted to calm down.

She took her cell phone out of her purse and looked at it.  No calls, no texts.  

God, are you all right, Todd?  

His last text message repeated in her mind: 

...I have to handle it, and if I go it alone, I do.  I love you, always.

I love you, always.

I have to handle it, and if I go it alone, I do.

I love you, always.

It wasn't long before she pulled onto the street that made her stomach tense up.  Nausea overcame her for a moment, but she pushed it down, and swallowed.  "You're the tough guy, want to be in everything he thinks and feels.  Well, here you go.  Welcome to his world."  She had said it aloud, and it reverberated through the car in a strangely empty way.

She would apologize.  She would say she was sorry, and she would hold him and get him back to the hotel, and whatever he wanted, he would have and she would give him.

"Shit," she said, with the sound only her Southern accent could add to it.  She was in front of the Manning house, and for a moment, her heart leaped into her throat when she thought she saw Peter Manning's black Chevy in the carport, but instead, it was just a black Honda Civic.  She didn't recognize it, but the plate had the same rental name as her car did.  "He's here.  He has to be," she said to herself, and parked.


Todd was at the back of the house, sitting on the cellar doors, a bottle of Scotch hanging from his hand.  The doors were sealed closed with a padlock, with remnants of old police tape and markers.  He stared out into the yard, taking in the surroundings: a rusted swing-set that hadn't been used in decades, the tree, where he had buried Patches (though later, he found out that Peter had other ideas,) and the shed, that he was all too familiar with.  The air had a crispness to it that usually came with Fall, not late Spring.  He looked up to the woodline, and above it, at the deep blue of the early evening sky, and took in a breath.  "It's not that bad, here, Manning . . ." he paused, and then, "if you don't look anywhere below the sky."

Blair went to the side door.  The house had been boarded up, and she wasn't sure she could even get in.  She knew her husband was there, and she wouldn't leave until she found him.  She tried to move the boards on the side entrance and couldn't.  She made her way to the front door, and found it was boarded up and sealed with police tape.  She turned back toward the street, and saw her rental car, and not a neighbor was in sight.  "Dammit!" she said aloud.  

I shouldn't have left him alone.  I knew something was very wrong . . .

She realized, just then, that there was only one way Todd could have gotten into that house, and it was in the back.  Her stomach lurched when she thought of Peter, standing at the cellar doors with her baby under his arm like a discarded package.  She sucked in air.  

You put yourself here, so go and do what you gotta do, Blair Manning!

She shook it off, and started to round the house.

He knew if he returned to the house, and just sat there and thought, in quiet, with nothing else, he would remember.  

He drank from the bottle again, and, sure enough, he was right.  

It wasn't even hard.  In fact, it was simpler than he thought it would be.  The little flickers he had, here and there, in the hotel, invading his vision, of himself trying to tell someone something, solidified into a full-blown memory.  Smooth and easy.  All the research and the secret investigating he had done, couldn't reveal it: only his own mind could.  

He had called.  

He had called the police. He was only six, and he had called for help.  Not once, maybe twice or more.

If he thought about it long enough, he knew the whole thing would fly back at him, probably more clearly than he wanted it to.  He could see himself, struggling to his feet, stepping over the puddle he had made in his own fear.  With his father hurting his mother in the other room, he had picked up the phone, and he had dialed, the way the teachers told them to at school.  

9 - 1 - 1

But he was six.  He didn't know his address.  Not all the way.  He knew there was a number on the house, that was all.  The voice kept asking, and he kept repeating the numbers, but he didn't know the street name.  

And the voice said, "What's your name?  Hold on honey, don't hang up," and he was transferred to another voice, a man, who asked, "What's your name, Son?"

He told him.  The man went quiet.  Then he asked, "What's wrong, Son?"

He's calling me Son.  Why is he calling me Son?

"What's wrong," the voice repeated.

"He's hurting my momma," he said.  


"My father."

The man got quiet again.  He said, "All right.  You hide somewhere safe.  We'll be there soon."

He ran to the shed, and went inside.  And he waited.  And waited.  And no one came.  And it got cold, and dark, and no one came.  

He woke up in the shed, hours later, having pulled an old tarp over him.  The sun came through a crack in its ceiling and shone on his face.  He thought to himself, "Did they come?  Momma?" and ran to the house.

Peter was gone.  He was nowhere in the house and the car was gone.

But his mother was there.  She was bloody, torn and beaten on the floor in the kitchen where he had dragged her, and left her.

He looked up, hearing leaves and grass disturbed to the left of him.  He took another swig, and Blair was there, looking beautiful, in her tan, short pencil skirt and short leather jacket.  She stopped when he saw her, and just looked at him.  

Blair was afraid to intrude on whatever he was feeling, and her legs wouldn't carry her on, until she got a signal from him that it was all right.  For a moment, she felt like an outsider, until he put a hand out to her, and just held it there, waiting.  

His face, oh, his face.

She walked, quietly, to him, and took his hand, sitting next to him on the cellar doors.  She didn't say anything, and waited.

He said, "I should have told you, there was something. . ."

"No.  I should have given you the space you needed with it, and trusted that you'd never shut me out entirely ever again.  I was too scared, and I was being selfish.  I was just afraid so I tried to get you to tell me.  Just scared."

"I know.  I was, too."

She waited, and since he didn't say more, she said, "Of what?"

"Saying it, I don't know.  Making it real by telling someone.  Not sure.  It was only in pieces until I got here."

"I'm not going to push you.  I'll just be here, and we can just be quiet."

They sat in silence a minute.  Then he said, "I don't want to be this way anymore."

She could only smile weakly, and rub her hand across his shoulders and back.

He continued, "Something I thought . . . I just had little bits and pieces of a memory.  What I said to Ribsky was a result of something. . . I just knew.  Calls for help were made, from this house."

She looked at him, and saw the strain in his expression.  She said, "You don't have to think about it.  Or say anything."

"I wanted to, that's why I came here.  I wanted to remember.  Calls were made, Blair.  Someone there covered it up.  Someone on the Chicago Police Department covered for my father as he tormented us and . . . and hurt us."

She swallowed, and she didn't want to believe him.  She wanted him to be remembering incorrectly, or be confused.  

He said, "I'm not imagining things."

She said, "All right.  Who called?"

He looked to his feet a moment, and kicked at some dirt.  "Me."

She realized that she couldn't bear what he was feeling as it seeped into her.  She said, "Okay, we're going home, and . . ."

He spoke over her.  "I called them.  And it was more than once.  I just sat here and remembered the first time.  No avoiding, no holding back.  I just remembered it, smooth, like silk.  After two or maybe three calls, I stopped trying.  The Coach was the closest I ever got to telling anyone after that.  You never wondered why my trying to kill Peter when I was fourteen got pushed under the rug so easily?"

"I didn't think about it, much, Todd."  She lied.  She had so wondered that, so many times.  Why he was at Llanview U and not in prison.  Why he lived in Llanview, on his own . . . how he got the fancy sports car people talked about . . .

"I'm going to find out who the cops were that talked to me as a kid.  I can still hear the voice of one of them.  I'm going to find out, and I'm going to make them pay," he said, and she saw his hands make fists at his sides.

She covered one of them with her hands and brought it to her face.  At first, he didn't open his fingers and let his knuckles graze her skin, until, after a few moments, he looked at her.  He slowly opened his hand, running his thumb over her cheek and onto her lips.  He went to speak, and couldn't.

She said, "We're going home, Todd."

"I can't make it stop, Blair." His eyes filled.  "I want them all dead.  Someone has to pay for this.  Someone has to . . . someone . . ."

She spoke compassionately, but firmer:  "We're going home, Todd.  To your children, and your life.  We'll tell Bo, we'll tell John, we'll tell Jack Ribsky, we'll tell everyone.  The law will handle it, Todd.  Your father, he's a lawyer. . . "

He removed his hand from her face, and ran it through his hair.  He stared out to the shed.  "I don't want to tell them, I don't want the law involved.  I want to take care of it myself, my way, and I can't make that stop.  I can't stop thinking about it, and it means that I'm just like him.  That I'm controlled by my anger, that I'm never going to have the life I want, that I'll ruin it somehow, poison it somehow . . . that there's no happiness out there, not really.  Not for me."

She said, "Look at me."

He didn't.

She said, "Look at me, Todd Manning."

He did, but his gaze on her face was like a breaking dam for him.  When his eyes rested on hers, she saw him struggle to hold back emotion.  She softened her voice, and said, "Don't do that.  Don't open yourself to that, Todd.  You've worked too long against that."

He fell toward her, and his head went to her lap, and she felt his arm wrap around her bent knees.  Her tears fell, but silently, and she stroked his head.  "You're not Peter, Todd.  You never were Peter.  We're going home, and deal with it then.  Being here, in Chicago, it just brings up this pain and this past.  And you have to get rid of it.  Your happiness is home, sleeping in a tent right now, made in our bedroom, or little voices asking for stories into the night."  She paused, resting her fingers along his scar.  "You know that."

"No, not just that," he said, sniffing.  "I think my happiness is right here, in my arms," he said, looking up from her lap.  

His eyes, beautifully tinted blue under the sky, were all at once sadly hopeful, looking up at her like a child, and she bent toward him and kissed the tip of his nose, while massaging his ear gently.  She said, "Well, she's going to take charge, then, and get you home.  Let's go, come on.  There's nothing here for us, Todd.  You've done all you can do."

She gently pushed him to sitting up, so that she could stand, and offer her hand to him.  He was hugging his knees, like a boy, and then, took her hand and stood up.  He made sure to pick up the Scotch as well.  

He took a long breath, and looked out over the back yard.  He said, "You know, you're right.  It's like poisonous gas being here."

She smiled very lightly, and in her concern for him, her only goal was to get him to the car and out of the neighborhood for good.  She said, "Well, let's go then, before we spontaneously combust."  

He hesitated, as she tugged lightly on the crook of his arm.  His voice cracked, "I can't let go of it, Blair.  They have to pay, somehow.  It's raging.  In me."

"I know, and they will."

He finally moved his eyes off the shed and turned abruptly toward her.  "You're not afraid of me?  Of what I might do?"

"No.  Since when was I afraid of you?"  She smiled, and saw him relax a little.  She took the bottle from his hand and swigged from it.

"I don't know, maybe one night, in a bar, years ago."

"No, I'm not afraid of what you might do, Todd.  They'll get what's coming to them.  You have to trust that."

He said, "Okay," in a raspy, tired voice, and she tugged again at his arm, gently, and this time, he went with her.  

His hand were shaking, and he said, "I can't drive."

"I know.  We'll go in my car, and I'll send someone to get the other one."

"You can't drive, either."

"I'm all right.  It was one swallow."

"No, I mean you can't drive.  You never could."

"Those are fighting words, Mr. Manning.  Come on, get in," she said, opening the door and supporting him as he got in the car.  He was spent, physically and emotionally, and almost seemed groggy.

By the time she got to her side of the car, he had closed his eyes and was sleeping.  

He hasn't slept a full night in days.  He thinks I don't know that.

She started the car and resisted the urge to torch The Monster's house for good.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Mysterious Samuel Toddman: Chapter 47

Todd leaned back taking in deep breaths, he was getting so tired of his body. " Well you must think I'm a total basket case by now. Sorry I dumped so much on you without warning. I guess it was bound to come out eventually and there's something about you that just makes it easier for me to talk. I'm grateful you agreed to help.  Do you have any questions?" Todd wondered what was going through Ray's mind. He had just agreed to help a crazy man, someone he hadn't seen in years, he had to feel a little like Alice in Wonderland. He had dropped down a rabbit hole and found himself in the land of alters and impostors.

"Todd, I told you a long time ago, I want to help. If you think I can do that then I'm all yours. But from what I just heard and witnessed, this isn't going to be a walk in the park. Are you really ready to face the truth, whatever we uncover?" Ray asked. He was still worried about Todd's health. "We need to be clear about something, Todd. I'm not sure you're up to intensive therapy right now. I understand you've decided to finally tackle your problems, but I don't want to be responsible for your death. If we go through with this you'll need clearance from your doctor that you're stable enough to attempt it."

Damn body, once again it was impeding him. Now Ray was going to hold him off because of his health. "Ray I can see where you're coming from and I wouldn't hold you responsible if my health took a turn for the worse, but I can't delay this. I don't know if I can explain the urgency. You met Samuel.  He's the exact opposite of Pete. You know how I would get when the anger took over, but that was paltry compared to Pete. The night Pete came out he almost killed Peter Manning and would have if my friend Sam Rappaport hadn't pulled him off. He was uncontrollable at fourteen, now he's ten times worse. I know my body isn't ready, but I don't have a choice. I'll go slow, you set the pace." Todd had been watching Ray, he wasn't sure if he was getting through to him or not.

The desperation in Todd's voice was palpable, Todd was so close to the edge already. Ray realized that the only thing to do was agree. Todd's whole psyche anticipated rejection, he had received so much as a youth that it was a way of life for him. In his eyes, all of his failures stemmed from disappointing people and then being rejected by them for that disappointment. He had already primed himself for rejection from Ray. He was sitting there waiting for it to happen. "Todd, I want you to hear this, I'm going to help you no matter what. I just want to make sure that I understand all of the obstacles we're going to encounter. I need to know the full extent of your heart problem so I can avoid aggravating it. I'm not a Medical Doctor so I'm flying blind with regards to your condition. You just had a panic attack. I'm very familiar with those and normally they are a manageable problem but when you factor in a bad heart, they're are something we're going to have to try and avoid. Now do you understand?" he saw Todd's demeanor change as his words sunk in.

Todd felt a weight lift as he realized Ray wasn't taking back his offer to help, Ray just wanted to make sure there were restrictions in place to prevent Todd from hurting himself further. He relaxed and looked at Ray, and said. "OK, We'll do that. Starr is taking me back to the doctor for a follow-up. I'll get you what you need from him. In the meantime I guess we should figure out when we're going to meet and how soon we can get started. I know you can't stop your work just for me. Do you think it will be possible to work here or I can arrange to meet you, but I'll have to do that somewhere other than Llanview? This is the wrong time to make an appearance, my impostor was shot yesterday. My turning up now would be asking for the same fate. I was worried you might not show today, because the news was all about Todd Manning being the object of sniper fire. I feared if you had heard the news you would have thought he was me and not bothered to come here. I'm grateful that didn't happen."

Ray smiled, "Relax Todd, I don't like to listen to the news when I'm driving. It's an occupational hazard but invariably one of my patients ends up on the news, so it's depressing. Maybe we could meet somewhere neutral and in between Statesville and here. I have privileges at the Cherryvale Clinic.  Perhaps I can get permission to used one of their offices for our sessions. In fact, that might be ideal to have the sessions close to an ER in case you were to have trouble. What do you say we start the day after tomorrow if I can make the arrangements?"

Todd's ears had perked up at the mention of the Cherryvale Clinic. Ray didn't have any idea how perfect that was. Not only would Todd be away from prying eyes in Llanview, he'd be able to check out the Clinic's records of any patients that might have showed up on the night of March 14th, 2003. With any luck, he might get some more evidence against Carlo.
"Ray, I think that will be perfect. Let me give you my number here, and I'll try to keep it together the next two days until we can meet again. I don't really have a choice do I. At least now I have some hope that there might be a chance for me yet and it's because you've given it to me." They exchanged numbers and worked out a time that would work for both of them than Todd saw Ray out.

After Ray's departure, Todd felt drained.  He had been holding a lot of nervous energy in, wondering if Ray was going to assist him. Now that it was a done deal, he felt like a balloon that had just popped and suddenly went flat. Wearily he sat down and thought some more of the day he had just had. What with the news of Manning's shooting, the visit from Nora and the near disaster visit with Ray, Todd had no doubt things were back to normal. Yep, just another fun-filled day in the life of Todd Manning. What else was new?


Todd was in the kitchen when the front door open. He had thought Starr was going to stay at the Hospital, maybe Blair had come. He was just getting ready to call Blair's name when he heard another sweet voice reach him.

"Now Sam, you go put your toys down over there, and let me put Hope in the playpen.  I wonder where Mr Toddman is?  Starr said he would be here.  Let's get your coat off. I can't believe Starr is living here again. It's been a long time since I've been here, it looks different." Addie took Sam's coat and reach over to find a toy for Hope.

Suddenly Hope stood up and held her arms out. "Dragon come pway"

Addie looked around to see who was behind her. "But...you're supposed to be in the hospital... but... you look like Todd ... but you can't be Todd. Something isn't right here .. You look like Todd." Addie walked over to him and reached up with her hand to his cheek." You're the Beast who fell for Beauty aren't you. What are you doing here? You were changed and now you're back, does my daughter know?  It's not very nice to hide you know."

Her hand was still on his cheek, he reached for it and held it, then he bent over and gave her a kiss on her cheek." How are you, Addie? Yes, I know it's not nice to hide but it's not the time for me reveal myself yet. Thank you for picking up Hope and bringing her home. I take it you're watching Sam for Blair. Where's Jack.?"

Addie was still trying to believe what she was seeing. "I don't understand how can you be here and in the hospital too? I left Jack with Blair so they could find out how you were doing. but you're here, what are they sitting at the hospital for?"

Todd took her coat off and put it and Sam's on his desk chair. He knew she was better but obviously it was a shock to come face to face with him after all these years. He guided her to the couch and said. "Addie give me a moment to find something for Sam to do and I'll answer your questions. I have a lot of my own questions too." Then he turned to Sam and asked " Sam have you and your grandmother had dinner yet?" Sam shook his head, "Well then we need to decide what we're going to eat. Do you like Pizza? Great, Addie you know what Sam likes perhaps you could order the pizza and Sam can help me get some plates and drinks ready."

Todd handed Addie the phone and when she realized what Todd had asked, she made the call and got down to ordering something for all of them to eat. Todd knew that for now she wasn't dwelling on the puzzle she had just encountered, she was strictly a grandmother taking care of her grandchild. He took Sam into the kitchen and together they got plates and drinks and then Todd carried everything out to the coffee table. Then he got Hope out and sat down with Addie to wait for the delivery. She was looking at him, this time her gaze was sharp and he could hear the questions beginning to roll around in her head. While they waited for the Pizza he began telling Hope and Sam a story about Sir Dragon. He wasn't quite ready to take on Addie at that moment. He was just finishing his tale when the doorbell rang.

The children wanted another story and Addie got up and said, "Dear Beast you continue, I'll get the pizza." She grabbed her purse and paid for the pizza and brought it into the living room. Then she grabbed some of Todd's big throw pillows and set them at the coffee table and had Sam sit on one and Hope on the other. "Come on Beast, dinner is getting cold" and she gestured to the end of the table nearest Sam and she sat down next to Hope. Todd joined them and they began to eat. Sam had been waiting patiently but now that the food was in front of him he wanted another story. So Todd began his fractured fairy tale of Sam and Hope.

Now it seemed that Sam and Hope had decided to take a walk one day and wanted to go into the dark forest. They had heard stories that a great dragon lived deep in the woods and their mother had told them they shouldn't go in there because everyone said he liked to eat people. Sam was a big boy now and he thought that a dragon wouldn't hurt kids so he talked his sister Hope into going with him into the forest.

Before going into the forest, Sam got some food together for a picnic but when they got a little way into the forest they got scared because they were sure they wouldn't find their way back home. Sam decided to leave pizza bits behind them so they could find their way out after they saw the dragon. Sam and Hope were having a great time when it started getting dark in the woods and they hadn't found the dragon so Sam thought they should go home. But something awful had happened. All of their Pizza bits were gone and they didn't know which way to go. Then Sam found a path so Hope and he followed it to a big house and boy did it look good. There were gumdrops and chocolate bars all over the house.

They hadn't eaten any lunch so they started to eat when they heard a nasty witch laughing. "So two little children have found their way to my house.  They sure look tasty. I'll bet they're real sweet too.” She began chasing them. " Ahh" screamed Hope because the mean witch had grabbed her, then the witch managed to grab Sam too and was walking them toward her outdoor oven. "Come, my dragon, it's time to light my fire. I have two sweet treats to eat."

Hope and Sam couldn't believe it. There was a huge scary dragon looking at them and licking his chops. He walked over to them and gave them a sniff." at this point Todd pretended to sniff Sam's neck then he got up and walked around to Hope and knelt down and sniffed her too.

"Hmm hmm, something smells so good. Good enough to eat," said the dragon, so he lit the witch’s fire. Sam and Hope didn't know what he was going to do next but suddenly with one swipe of his tail, the dragon knocked the wicked witch into her fire and slammed the oven door closed, then he turned to Sam and Hope.

Sam stood up very brave in front of his sister Hope and said, "You leave my sister alone. If you have to eat, you can eat me."

The dragon laughed a great big belly laugh. " Ho Ho Ho, I don't want to eat you. I want to thank you, those pizza bits were the best thing I've eaten in ages. All that witch wanted to give me was candy. Do you have any more?"

Sam gave the dragon the last of his pizza bits and said. "I know where we can get more, but you'll have to help us."

The dragon looked at him "What do I need to do?"

Sam said very wisely, "If you take us home you can have all the pizza you can eat." The dragon agreed and Sam and Hope climbed on his back and he delivered them home. Their mother was so glad to see them safe that she made four great pizzas for the dragon and word got out that the dragon hadn't eaten anybody. A wicked witch had and she was now gone because two small children went to see a dragon. The end.

Hope was nodding off and decided to crawl into her dragon's lap, Todd gathered her into his arms and asked Sam to help Addie with the clean up. He carried Hope up to her room and helped her slip on her pajamas and then he put her into bed and gave her a big dragon kiss. She went right to sleep and Todd turned on her monitor and headed back down to his guests. When he got back downstairs, Sam was playing with a few of the toys he had brought.

Addie had curled up on the couch and was watching Sam play. She got up off the couch and met him at the bottom of the stairs. "Where have you been all this time Todd? Why did you let someone else be you? Do you know how sad Blair was when you left? It wasn't nice. I think you owe me an explanation. You said you loved my little girl. How come you hurt her?"

Addie had always been direct and she was right, she deserved an explanation. He just wasn't sure she would understand it.  Todd looked at Addie, "You're right. Let's sit down and I'll answer your questions, But first let me show you my other two paintings. Todd opened the gate and walked Addie over to the two portraits. "First you should know that for right now my name is Samuel Toddman. Yes, I'm the Samuel Toddman that Starr has told you about. Jack and Sam think I'm a distant relative. Addie, do you know what multiple personality disorder is?"

Addie looked at him and said. " I spent most of my life in a mental home. I know the disease. I even met someone who had it. I didn't like her secondnd person too much. Why do you ask? Why are you pretending to be this Samuel Toddman? Why are you hiding?"

" Well, I'm not exactly pretending. You see, Samuel is a part of me, just like the person you met in St. Anns. I haven't been here because I wasn't in charge. Samuel was in charge of my body and Samuel is the artist who painted these pictures of Starr and Hope and also the pictures up on my wall. Samuel had no memory of you, or Blair or anyone else from my past. So he left the country and lived in France. Samuel had us in France for the last eight years. Just recently my memories started returning. Do you remember when Blair went to France last month to find the artist of her painting? Well, that was Samuel. Do you see the picture of Blair on the wall?   Samuel had just painted that when he met Blair and seeing Blair started the memories to return. I woke up and found a way to take back my body, so I'm in charge and we're here. Do you understand what I've been saying?" asked Todd as he watched for some reaction.

Addie looked at the pictures of her granddaughter and great granddaughter and then moved to look at the pictures on the wall. "How come Samuel didn't sign these three Pictures?"

Todd found it interesting that Addie had picked up on that. "Well you see, Samuel was hiding from someone. Someone, who we think might have been responsible for us losing our memory. We're trying to catch that someone and we don't want him to know that we are here, so that is why we're still hiding. I had nothing to do with the man who is lying in the hospital. I know he is Sam's father and that all of you believed he was me. Now I have to ask. Do you still believe he is the real Todd Manning or do you think I am?"

"Well, that depends, do you think I'm sane and that I can tell the difference?" asked Addie

Todd looked at her and said the same thing he had said a long time ago.
"Addie, I think you have more on the ball than a lot of other people I know. I believe you know your own mind.  So yes, I think you can tell the difference."

"Ok, then here's what I believe, I think you are Todd and if you say you have alters I'm not going to argue with you. You might want to be careful about telling a whole lot of people about them, though, you could end up in St. Ann's yourself.   I guess Blair knows about you too but don't hurt her again Todd because now you have me to deal with. I'm going to take Sam and go home. Are you and Hope going to be alright?" asked Addie.

Todd was taken aback, he hadn't expected such a quick and honest answer. She had asked him a question so he answered. "Yes Addie, we'll be fine. Would you answer one other question for me?"

"Let me guess, you want to know what happened to me? Miracle drugs. My doctor found some medicine that keeps me rooted in reality now. It's marvelous. For the last three years, I've been catching up on life. I was a little thrown when I saw you at first. But when you started telling your stories I knew it was really you I just needed to know what happened to you. I knew something had to keep you away all those years because if you had been able to be here, you would have. I know one important thing about you. You love my daughter and you always will." she walked over and gave him a kiss on his cheek. "You really are her Prince you know." then she put Sam back in his coat and they left.

Todd sat down remembering a night long ago when he had received a music box from Addie, she had given Blair and him her blessing and told them they should try and have more babies. That night they conceived Starr.   Addie had more faith in them from the get-go. It appeared she still trusted him to do right by her daughter. He hoped he would be able to do that.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 25

"Sam, are you still awake in here?"  Cord said, from the doorway.  He could see the makeshift tent that Sam had fashioned out of blankets, and the light glow coming from within it.

"Yeah, I'm up," Sam answered, and peeked out of the blankets.

"It's probably time to rest now, and get some sleep.  Tomorrow you have school."  Cord said, stepping into the room, quietly.

"I know.  I'm sleeping in here, though."

"You are?"

"Yep.  It's kind of like the last night at home, when Dad set up the tent in his and Mommy's room, and we all slept in there.  It was fun."  Sam crawled out.  He sat on the edge of the bed, in a room that was for guests.

Cord walked in, turned on the light, and sat next to him.  "You okay, Sam?"

"I guess."

"Sam, sometimes people have bad things happen to them, and they're not sure how to talk about it."

"I know how.  You just open your mouth, and out it comes."

Cord laughed lightly.  "Hmf.  That sounds logical."

"Yeah, I guess so."

"Or maybe they can talk about it, but they can't get rid of it, no matter how they try."

"Did that ever happen to you?"  Sam asked, and his eyes were wide.

"Sure.  Happens to everyone."

"Happened to me, too."

"Okay," Cord said, nodding in agreement.

"I can't get rid of it either.  I can't make it go away.  We even tried Ray."

"Your little brother?"

"No, the doctor Ray.  He's Dad's therapist, and Jack's and Grandma Bitsy's and mine."

"Oh, the whole family."

"Yep, even Mom, I think.  Sometimes."

"You mean she goes and talks to him."


"So, how is he?  Do you like him?"


"And it's not helping you get rid of this thing in your head?"

"No, not really."

"Well, you know what I think?"


"I think it's just going to be there, for a while.  You might not be ready for it to be gone." Sam looked up directly into Cord's face, and the man continued, "And that's all right.  Everyone gets rid of things in their own time.  This might not be the time for you to move on yet."

"Why?" Sam asked, and his innocence landed in the center of Cord's chest.  

He took a breath and said, "Maybe just because."

"Just because?"


Sam thought about it for a few moments, and then he said, "Just because what?"

"Just because you haven't found the right way to let it go yet.  But it will happen.  It won't always be this way."

"Thanks, Uncle Cord."

He was slightly surprised.  Tina.  "Uncle Cord, huh?  Okay, Sam, you're welcome."

"Can I sleep in there?"  Sam pointed to the "tent."

"I don't see why not.  Just get some rest.  I'll leave the door cracked open, so light comes in, but you have to shut your flashlight, Sam, so you can rest."

"Okay, it's a deal," the little boy said, and went into the tent.  

Cord peeped his head in.  "Need anything?"

"No," Sam said, shutting the flashlight.

"Okay, I'm right down the hallway if you need anything, okay?"


"Goodnight, Pardner."

"Night, Pardner," Sam repeated.  As Cord went out the door, carefully leaving it ajar, Sam turned over and closed his eyes, and then popped them open, and turned the flashlight back on, leaving his laptop on, before drifting off to sleep.


"Jack, are you still down here?"  Clint said, returning to the lower level of Llanfair and the special area he and Viki had made up for Banner research.

"Yeah, I'm here, Uncle Clint."

"Well, you know, it's getting late.  Maybe you could call it a night soon?"

"I will."

"What are you reading, there?"

"I was looking at headlines from when I was born, and then, I got interested in going back further.  My parents, they were both, well, interesting people."

"Oh, I didn't even think about that.  You researched them?"

"No, just local headlines from the nineties.  Before I was born.  Mom was nutty, Dad was worse.  Dad was . . . no wonder he has so much guilt about everything."

Clint said, "Well, your father has come a long way.  He wasn't of stellar character his whole life."

"No, but I don't blame him anymore.  After everything I know.  He did some bad shit, though."

Clint raised an eyebrow.  "You have a way of getting to the punch."

"In some ways, I'm my father's son."

"And in other ways?"

Jack shut the machine at last.  "I'm not.  As much as I complained about him, what he did to me when I was born, he tried to do whatever he could to fix it.  And with what he had to deal with, inside him, it's not surprising."

"This is a pretty mature take on the man, Jack.  I'm impressed."

"I'm not a kid anymore.  I'm 18.  I'm going to graduate in a few months.  I've been through more than most people my age.  And I'm not stupid.  Peter Manning fucked my father up.  Bad."

"I'm only ignoring your language because we're alone, and your two aunts are not here to hear you."

"Sorry, but it's true.  It's the story of his life."

"I suppose it is."

"What about my mom?  Headlines say she made someone crippled in a car accident.  It was around the time my parents met."

"It was an accident, as you said.  Luna Moody was put into a wheelchair because of it.  You know what's amazing?  Luna and your mother were at total peace with each other before Luna passed.  According to Cord, Luna's words helped bring your parents back together during a rough patch.  Well, one of their rough patches."

"He was . . . nothing.  Really.  She was obviously not too popular either.  Why did she go to him?  Why did they go to each other?  Why did she accept him, and why did he do the same with her?  That's one thing I wonder about, all the time."

"Well, why are they together now?"  Clint asked.

"That's easy, they love each other.  Like, more than air."  Clint just looked at Jack, and the teen said, "So, I guess that's why the rest of it is what it is.  I guess answered my own question."

"I guess you did.  You're a fine young man, Jack, to deal with all you've had to deal with, and still come out with the ability to forgive and understand.  It took your father years to be able to do that, because of what was left and done to him.  And those are the wise words of your Aunt Viki speaking."

"She's been through a lot too," he said, hinting that he had read the articles on her DID revelations. 

Clint interrupted, to give Jack relief from having to explain what he read.  "Yep, she has.  But she came through it all.  Which means, you can do the same.  Adversity does not make Buchanans shy away, or Lords . . . or Mannings.  Let's go.  Getting late."

"It just makes me think that . . . that I can . . ." he got stuck with emotion in his throat.

"Yep, that's what it means.  You can look at all this as the terrible things your family has gone through and sometimes caused, and leave yourself open to doubt.  Or, you can see it as what it is:  lessons to show you the way and to give you the sense that you can make it, no matter what."  He paused a moment, and then said, "So, what do you say we head upstairs."

The two walked up the staircase leading out of the research room.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 24

"Da da," Jewel said, chewing on a rattle that jingled and made noise when she shook it.  "Da."

"She onwy says Da da.  All the time!"  Ray said, throwing up his hands, as if amazed.

"She's learning.  It takes time to learn lots of words."  Tina said, playing trucks with the boy.  They had created mountains out of Viki's pillows, and placed them on the floor, so the trucks would go up and over them.

"She's my sister.  She's special."

Tina smiled, and chuckled to herself, "That's very sweet.  You're her big brother, you should take care of her."

"Yeah.  I should."  He nodded, and continued driving the truck.  "She misses Daddy.  And Mommy."

"She probably does," Tina said, knowing that the little boy was talking about himself.

He continued, "She wants them to come home, now."

"Well, they will be home soon.  Don't you like being here at Aunt Viki's and playing with me, and Uncle Cord?"

He shrugged.  "Yeah, but she wants Mommy and Daddy.  Daddy cawwies us on his shoulders, and he fights the bears."

"Well, he's a good Dad."

"And he does other things.  He makes us choc chip panacakes," he could barely get it out, but she knew what he meant.

"He's a good Dad.  And you love him."

"Yeah.  He said, 'Put me down' but the bad man wouldn't listen."

Tina cocked her head slightly to the side.  "Really?"

"Yeah.  He said 'put me down' but the bad man said 'no' and he gave me a wowwipop.  Owange."

She couldn't help but reach out and brush the little boy's mousey-brown hair back from his face.  It was long, and the curls were falling in front of his eyes.  The ponytail had come slightly loose.  She said, "Was the lollipop good?"

He nodded, and sighed.  "Jew wants Daddy.  And me, too."

"I know, and he'll be here soon.  You won't have to miss him long."

"I don't wike him to go away," he said, and the first trace of sadness crossed his face, as his little mouth turned downward, and he stopped playing.

"I tell you what?  Let's call Daddy on the phone."

"Okay, yeah," he said, immediately perking up.  She took out her cell and dialed Todd.  

He answered, "Hello?"

"It's your sister."

"Hey," he said.

"Your son is missing you, badly.  He wants to talk to you."

"Sam?  Is he all right?"

"No, not Sam.  Ray.  He's been talking about how much 'Jew' wants you home."

"Put him on."  He waited.  Then he heard the little boy's 'hello,' and he said, "Hey Buddy."

"Daddy, come home now."

"I will.  I promise.  We will be home soon."

"Daddy, bring pwesent?"  He said, his voice lilting upward at the end of the question as always.

"Sure.  A surprise."

"Okay, so come home now, Daddy."

"Buddy, it's okay.  Mommy and I will be home really soon.  You're all right with Aunt Tina . . . and . . ." he rolled his eyes, "Uncle Cord."

"Okay, Daddy."

"We'll be home soon.  Take good care of your sister."

"Jew was cwying.  She wants you to come home."

"I know, and we will.  I will give you a big horsey ride when I get back.  I love you."

"I wuv you, Daddy."

He hung up and went back to the desk.  Instead of sitting down, he shut the computer, and went to the couch.  He'd just spent the better part of an hour researching the rosters of the police department back many years.  He was drawn to it, for some reason that he couldn't yet explain, and it tired him.

He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.  In one hand, a highball glass dangled, Scotch running over the ice with every movement he made.  He took a sip, and closed his eyes again.  And without warning, a flood of memories returned, so strong, he had to get up and walk the room to make them stop. 

The door opened.  It was Blair.  "Todd?  What are you doing?"

He found himself startled, and his heart raced.  It was as if he had gotten caught doing something wrong.  He said, "You know I can't be still for long."

She turned to face him, "Todd, what's this about the Chicago Police Department?"

"I . . . don't know," he said, and it was only half true.  He'd just been fighting off memories of exactly what she was asking.

"You don't?  Were you going to bother telling me that you had some kind of suspicions about the force?  I mean, is there something I don't know?"  Her voice was not accusatory.  In fact, it was making him feel warm inside to the point of wanting to break down, and let out everything he just had remembered moments before, but he wouldn't.  He wouldn't because he didn't want to feel it, not now.  He wasn't ready.  Not yet.  He was sweating from working so hard to keep it all at bay.

"I don't know.  No.  I . . . I can't do this right now, Blair."

"Do what?" she asked tenderly, moving toward him.  She noticed that he kept moving, and still had the glass in his hand.  

He faltered.  Then he said, "Admit what's happening.  In my head.  I didn't even really know what was in here until I saw that trunk and asked Ribksy those questions.  I didn't want you to know . . . I want those men to pay.  Somebody."

"What men, My Love?" she was almost right in front of him now.   

"These cops, or whatever you want to call them."  He seemed frantic, standing inches from her, but she still held back and let him talk.  "It's in my mind every night, when I can't sleep.  I didn't want you to see me like this again.  It's supposed to be over, behind me.  I'm over it.  Right?  Right, Blair?" 

"I don't know, Todd.  How long does it take someone to get over something like this?  It doesn't make you weak if you're not."

"You can't say it never crossed your mind that I might be thinking about it."

"I'm not a mind reader.  I don't even know what you mean, Todd."  She was puzzled, because he was talking in circles.  She suddenly feared for him.

"I wasn't going to tell anyone, and I never did.  I kept it all in.  It wasn't until, well, you know when, that it came out.  What am I supposed to do?  My mother, those things that happened to her, and to me, they overlooked it.  They're supposed to keep us fucking safe!  And I tried, I think, I tried . . ."

She waited a moment, because his last sentence resonated throughout the room, and then she went to him and held him, and he gripped her so tightly that she realized whatever was in him was dying to get out.  She whispered, "Half those men aren't even policemen anymore, Todd."  She gulped, and said, softly, "I'm your wife.  You'd think you'd have learned by now that if something hurts you, it hurts me."

He said, "I need . . . something.  I need to . . ."

"What?  What do you need?" she said, pulling back from him to see his stricken face.

"I need to stop.  I don't want this anymore, but it keeps coming.  I just want it over."

She brushed his hair back from his face, and said, "My Love, I'm sorry.  But it will be over.   It will end."

"I don't know.  Just . . . I don't want to do this with you.  You have no idea how much I hate bringing this to you.  You know everything about me, Blair, everything.  And it's not pretty."

"No, it's not, but it's part of you, which means it's part of me.  If you are planning a massacre of the Chicago Police Department, to avenge what happened to you as a child, I want to know that."

"I don't know what I'm planning.  I don't know anything," he said, pulling her to him again.  Suddenly his weight shifted, and she felt as if he were going to fall, so she turned and put her arm around his waist and walked him to the bedroom in the suite.  


Finishing the tour of Viki and Clint's microfilm room, Jack said, "Uncle Clint, that was really cool seeing the old Banner newspapers on microfilm."

"Well, that process is a little outdated, but it's still cool, I guess."

"I like it.  This stuff interests me," Jack said, looking at more papers from the year he was born.  "This is pretty ingenious stuff.  No technology like now, so they made it happen anyway."

"Exactly, and that's what technology is.  Making things happen."

He nodded.  "I want to be in this reporting world, you know?  I can just feel it.  I want to write, and be a media mogul, like my Dad."

"Well, that's a good goal."

"He's making me work my way up."

"I give Todd a lot of credit for that.  It's the right thing."

"Not you, too?"

"Yep, me, too.  You won't know until later how much having to earn this on your own will actually do for your life.  He's right not to hand it to you."

"Did he talk to you first?"

"No.  Your father doesn't need my input, or anyone else's, to do what's right for you."

Jack half-smiled.  "He helped me through so much.  But he was going through so much at the same time.  I don't know how he did all that."

"He loves you, that's how."

"He helped me get over a lot.  And he helped me mature and get to know him.  He's not all bad."

"No, I suspect he's not."

"Well, thanks for this, Uncle Clint.  Can I read some more?"

"Sure, Jack.  Enjoy your time here.  I'm going up to the library.  I'll be back in a few."

Jack continued to read The Banner newspaper headlines from his birth year, as Clint went up the stairs.


She knocked, softly.  She had left Todd, sleeping, after a difficult bout with emotion, and then made her way to his father's room.  Within a few minutes, the door opened.  "Dad?" she said, and her face was streaming with tears.

"Come in, Bridgette, and tell me what has happened."  He put his arm around her shoulders, and she sat on the sofa.  He followed her lead and sat beside her, offering her the box of tissues.  "What's the matter?" 

"It's bad, for him," she said, through tears.

"I figured as much, what else could it be?"

She laughed through her crying a minute, and then said, "He's hiding something, or he's trying to.  Whatever it is, he's pushing it back.  So much, it almost broke him tonight."

"Since I've known ya, I remember so much of that going on.  Perhaps he's just not over all of it, as he claims, or there's more he can't face."

"He's not over it," she said, drying her eyes.  "He's not.  He keeps saying he is.  I just . . . we promised each other to always be honest."

"Y'ar love means too much to the both of ya.  But, if he didn't tell ya something, that makes him a liar?"

"Lie of omission, I guess."

He laughed, "Ah, Bridgette, men sometimes don't think to tell ya everything we're feeling."

"He has, recently.  I guess.  Well, most of the time."

"What's bothering ya, really?"

"The way he acted with Ribsky, a perfect stranger.  He never told me he wanted revenge on the Chicago Police Department, and then, just now, he half admitted it, but couldn't express the rest.  It was, almost as if he just remembered."

"Maybe he did just remember.  Could it be that the trunk, and the visit, have both prompted something?  New memories?"

She stood up, paced, wrung her hands.  She said, "We . . . always had mistrust between us in the past.  I guess you could say I caused it.  I said I trusted him, and I lied, early on.  But he never trusted me, not really, especially after he came back from Ireland the first time.  That's a longer story, but it happened.  We were apart so long because of it.  He says that's over, but I just get scared when he hides things. . . I don't . . .I'm not just scared that he's not letting me in . . ."  She collapsed back to the sofa, her forehead resting in her hand.  "I'm scared of what he's facing next."

"I'll tell ya what I think," he said.

She looked at him, as if to accept his words.  Her face was still tear-stained, and a puzzled sort of hope was there, that what he had to say might be the answer.  

Timothy sat down, near her, and smoothed her hair on one side of her head and said, "Y'ar afraid to lose him.  Afraid that with everything that he's learned and dealt with, ya'll be outside of him instead of inside.  That he'll close ya out, and ya'll never be able to reach him.  I can't think of a man alive that doesn't have some feelings that are secret from even the closest person to him.  Sometimes a man has to keep some thoughts inside himself to keep from acting on them all.  Or until he's ready to see them become real.  Perhaps he was doing that."

She didn't answer, instead, she looked away for a moment, and her eyes squinted as if she were remembering something.  She said, "He was so far away from me, then.  When he first came back from Ireland.  He was . . . so closed off.  I never thought we would be like we are now.  Ever."

"LIke ya are now, and y'ar sitting here, with me, talking about it.  Like ya are now.  Remember, that's what we're dealing with here.  He's shared the most deepest parts of his pain with ya, things that make him feel less than a man, and what is this thing he hid from ya?"

"Well, I think he wants revenge on the police department here, for something that . . . for something."

"Oh, I see.  And that was shocking to ya, ya never thought of it, did ya?"

"Yes, of course I did!" she got riled again, and stood, starting to pace in front of the couch.  "Of course I thought of it.  I thought of it myself, to be honest.  Why didn't they help him.  Why didn't they save him?  Why didn't they take care of him?  I've thought about it many times."

"So, then, it's not a secret, eh?"

She stopped and looked at him sharply, "Well, no, and I know where you're going with this.  But what does he want revenge for?  Just what happened,"  she said, frustrated, "or is there more?"

"I do think there's more, Bridgette, I do," he said, through a half-smile.  "But he kept this idea of revenge from ya, and he's let ya into things far worse and things ya never could have imagined.  And yes, he should have told ya his plans, but for goodness sake, sometimes it takes time.  He would have told ya, sooner or later, and with everything he's had to go through, possibly he needed to have something that was just his, even for a while.  Y'ar just reacting because y'ar afraid he'll close up to ya again.  But he won't, Dear Heart, he won't.  He won't because he can't live without ya, and he knows what that means."

Timothy stood up just as Blair sat down again.  "Where are you going," she asked him.

"To talk to the Lad.  I'll iron this one out; he may need a father's word."

"I'm going with you, then.  Not saying you're right but . . ." she faded into softness, "you're, well, you're basically right."

The two of them headed to his suite, and she fixed herself, drying off the remnants of angry tears and smoothing her clothing.  Timothy knocked.  "Son, it's y'ar Pappy, open the door and make it snappy!" the older man said, and Blair smiled weakly.

"He's sleeping, or was.  He may not hear you.  He was so tired."

He knocked again, and again.  No one came to the door.  Blair said, "Where is he? Oh, I forgot my damn key!"

"In the shower, likely.  Let's go back to my room, and we'll call him in ten, all right?"

They returned to Timothy's room, and she plopped herself back onto the couch.   Timothy made tea, which she was grateful for, because after their sojourn to the suite, she had gotten quite chilled.  She sipped her tea, and her father-in-law got out some Irish biscuits that he had brought in his suitcase, and she took one and ate it slowly.

After a few minutes, Timothy dialed Todd's number.  He answered, and Blair could only hear Timothy's end of the conversation.  "Hello, Son, are ya out of the shower, then?  What?"  There was a long pause where Todd was talking.  Then Timothy said, "She's with me, she's all right.  Don't ya worry about her.  We came to talk to ya, we'll just come over now.  Huh?  What's that?  Todd, wait, where are ya?  Todd.  Not a good idea, just turn y'ar car around and come back.  Todd?"  He brought to phone down to his side.  "He's hung up, Bridgette."

She pulled her phone out of her pocketbook, and saw a missed message, and five missed calls.  Reading the text, she felt her stomach tighten.

I have to do this, on my own.  I'm fighting something, something in me that wants to get out.  Babe, please try and understand.  I don't understand myself, so someone has to.  I didn't mean to keep anything from you, but I just . . . couldn't say it to you, not yet.  Someone has to pay for what happened to us.  Someone has to pay for looking away.  I have to handle it, and if I go it alone, I do.  I love you, always. ~TM

"Oh my God," she said, "He's all alone with this, and God, I'm so stupid."

Timothy took the phone from her.  "But perhaps he wants to be alone with it?"  He  continued to read the text and sat beside her, eyes glued to the screen, and his hand on her back, gently patting.

"He can't.  I . . . how can he face it by himself?  He needs someone.  He even almost says so in his own way.  Oh, God, where is he?"

"Off to try and right a wrong?  Or at least get ideas for how, I'd say."

"I'm going after him."  She got up and took her purse with her.  She went to the door.

"Where, Bridgette?  Ya don't know where to start?"

"I think I do," she said.

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