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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Memories Unlocked #24

# 24

Blair finally had Starr, Heddy, and Jack settled in the car.  All of them were a bit cranky after two long flights and she couldn’t blame them.  She felt a little out of sorts too.  Todd had gotten quieter as the flight had stretched out.  Even Starr had been unable to get him talking.  Blair now wondered if she had rushed wanting to get him home.

Starr spoke up suddenly.  “Mom what’s taking so long?  I want to go home,” she said grumpily.

“I know, Starr, but we need to wait for Daddy.  He should be coming off the plane soon and then we can go.  I’m sure he’s as anxious as you are to see the end of this trip.”  A car pulled up next to the Limo and Blair saw Vicki sitting next to Sam. “Starr, I need you to be patient just a little longer.  Aunt Vicki and your father’s friend Sam just got here. I asked them to come hoping maybe your father would remember them.”  Starr sat back with a huff and began pulling Ichabod’s head off. Blair smiled at her daughter and moved to open the door for Vicki.

“Hi, Vicki, I’m so glad you’re here.”  She gave Vicki a quick hug and acknowledged Sam as he exited the car.  “Thank you, Sam, for bringing Vicki and coming here.  There are a couple of things you both should know before Todd comes off the plane.”  Before she could say anything else, an airport ramp drove by headed for the plane.  Blair looked toward the door as Todd move up to the exit.  When she saw his face she knew something was wrong.  Vicki gasped next to her when she saw Todd in the wheelchair.

“What the hell?  Blair, what angle is Todd up to now?” Sam said angrily.  He had been having qualms about asking Bo to arrest Todd but now he realized just how far Todd was going to go to gain sympathy and it made him sick.  It was the DID fiasco all over again.

Blair looked over at Sam bewildered. “There isn’t any angle. That’s what I was trying to tell you. Todd’s partially paralyzed and has been since he woke up in Guam several months ago.”

“He’s playing you, Blair.  I tried to tell you over the phone, but you wouldn’t listen to me.”

Blair was stunned by Sam’s anger.  She knew he had mistrusted Todd after their first conversation but he hadn’t said anything in their later conversations to make Blair believe he still thought that way.

Vicki turned to Sam. “Sam, you’re his friend.  Why on earth do you think Todd’s faking it?  I would think you’d give him the benefit of the doubt until you know all the facts.  Blair, you said he’s been paralyzed since he woke up in Guam.  I understand why he wouldn’t get in touch with you but why didn’t he call me?”

“That’s the second thing you need to know.  Todd has amnesia.  When he woke up he had no idea who he was.” Blair glanced back at the plane and watched as Todd began rolling down the ramp. She was so busy worrying about him, she didn’t pay any attention to anything else.  All she could see was Todd, and his body language and face told her he was furious about something. She started to move towards him when she heard Vicki’s comment behind her.

“Sam, what’s Bo doing here?”

Blair stopped in her tracks and looked back at Vicki.  Had she heard her right? Seeing where Vicki was looking, Blair glanced back toward the plane and saw Antonio Vega and Bo Buchanan following Todd.  Oh God, what did Sam do?  She ran to Todd.  “What happened? Why are you upset?’

Todd jerked his head toward his escort. “I guess I’m under arrest. Nice homecoming, Blair.  It seems you forgot about a restraining order you put in place. All that talk about getting me home was just a way to get back at me after all.  Go home, Blair.  You did your job.  You got me back here.  I won’t be a bother anymore.”

“Todd, you can’t believe I had anything to do with this.”

“It’s your restraining order.  What else am I supposed to believe?”

Vicki spoke up.  “Todd, Blair didn’t do this.  Sam did.  He’s the one that asked Bo to serve the warrant.”

Todd looked up. There was something familiar about the other woman.  It took a moment and then he realized she was the person in his dream.  Seeing her face and remembering everything that happened in that dream drained all the anger he had been feeling and instead brought back all the sympathy and horror he had felt for the woman in front of him.  “I’m sorry... Vicki... um...you didn’t deserve what he did to you. It was wrong,  I was wrong too.  Why are you here?  Why would you even want to be near me?”

Vicki frowned, maybe Sam was right. “It’s true, you were wrong but I forgive you.  Blair said you have amnesia.  How come you remember me?”

“I don’t … I don’t know how to explain..I had a dream and you were in it.” Todd paused, he didn’t know if he should say any more.  What he had seen was very personal and he didn’t want to hurt the woman in front of him.  “You were standing at the bottom of some stairs and he was there.   You told me something terrible.  I’m sorry… I’m sor...”  Todd’s voice broke. And he stared down at his feet unable to meet her gaze anymore.

Vicki gasped as she realized what he had remembered.  “It..”.her voice trembled as she looked down at her brother.  She remembered his reaction when he heard what their father had done to her.  She had found him the next morning in the tomb determined to leave and get as far away from Blair as he could because he believed he was as tainted as his father. She stooped down in front of his chair and clasped his hands in hers.  “It wasn’t your fault.  You had no idea what kind of family you had just found out about.”

“Family?” Todd looked into her gentle eyes. Was it true?  Was that why she was important to him.

“You’re my brother. And I don’t want you to worry about Bo, I’m sure we’ll get this ridiculous charge dropped.  You shouldn’t be arrested for something you can’t even remember.” She patted his hands and stood up looking up at Bo and Sam.  “Right?  I’m sure Nora would agree with me.”

Bo felt uncomfortable under Vicki’s stare.  He still wasn’t sure whether Manning was faking or not, but the brace on his leg was very real. Glancing at Sam, it looked like he didn’t trust Manning either.  All the same, Vicki was right.  If Manning really had no memory of his past, and it was obvious Blair believed him, the warrant would be invalidated by Blair before Manning could even be processed.

Todd felt a hand on his shoulder.and saw Blair still standing there.  He felt all kinds of a fool for jumping all over her.  It was clear she was just as surprised as he had been by the arrest. He reached up and covered her hand.  “I’m sorry, I took out all my frustration on you.  It was a knee-jerk reaction to what just happened aboard the plane.”

Blair breathed a sigh of relief.  She had a moment of uncertainty when Todd called Vicki by name. Then he mentioned a dream and she realized it was just another fragment of memory like his Ireland memory.  Somehow he had recalled her name but didn’t know she was his sister.  “Wait a minute...what happened on the plane?”

“It was nothing. Let it go, Blair.”  He squeezed her hand hoping against hope that was it

Blair pulled her hand free and stared at Bo and Antonio.  “What did you do?  I thought you just told him he was under arrest.”

Bo couldn’t answer.  From the moment he found out about Todd’s paralysis, he felt ashamed.  He should have done a little more follow-up on Todd before making the arrest. Damn it, Sam had assured him Manning was able to fly home, he had just assumed that meant Manning was in good shape.  Nothing had ever kept Manning down long, why would a stint in the hospital be any different?

When neither Bo nor Antonio said anything, Blair put her hands on her hips.  “Someone better start talking.  You know I’ll find out.”

Just then Vince walked up. “The plane is locked down, Mr. Manning.  Do you need a hand getting into the car?”

Todd grimaced.  God, he hated feeling helpless.  The guy whose name was Bo and Detective Vega, as well as his new sister Vicki were all looking at him. There was also another man looking at him intensely and Todd felt like he was under the guy’s microscope. It was mortifying.  They all knew him and he had no idea how to react.  It was obvious that the three men still doubted him.  He glanced up at the man he now knew was Bo.  “Mr. Chief Detective, which car should I head for.  I’ve got to tell you, you’ll need to bring along my chair, unless you want a recurrence of what happened on the plane.”

“That does it,  Something did happen and I want to know what it was.  Vince, since none of these gentlemen will tell me, I’m asking you.  What took place on the plane?  I’m the one paying your salary, talk.”

“Well, technically it’s my mon...” Blair covered Todd’s mouth and glared at Vince.

“All I know is that when I exited the cockpit, Mr. Manning was lying on the floor with Detective Vega standing over him, holding his right arm.  Mr. Manning asked me to help him get back into the passenger seat and then I went to retrieve his wheelchair.  When I returned with it, Mr. Manning was mad and just wanted off the plane.”

“My God, Todd, how did you end up on the floor? Are you alright?  You didn’t hurt yourself, did you?  I think we should get you checked out at the hospital.  I would never forgive myself if this set you back any. “

“Blair, I’m fine.”

“Todd, you know as well as I, you wouldn’t necessarily feel it if you hurt yourself.  Please, at least let a doctor make sure no more damage was done.”  As soon as she said it, Blair wanted to take back the words.  She had tried very hard not to bring up the paralysis since Todd was still very touchy with regards to his condition.  Now she had just thrown it straight back into his face.

Vicki watched and saw the brother who had faced her the morning he had returned from Ireland.  It was like he shut down, wanting to forget everything that had happened.  Just like that day, she wanted to hug him and make things better but she knew it was the last thing he would want.  They all watched as Todd pulled away from Blair and wheeled himself to the police car sitting by the hangar.  

Starr, who had been listening avidly to everything going on, jumped out of the car and ran toward her father.  “Daddy stop.  You said you were coming home.  You can’t go to jail.  Mommy promised that wouldn’t happen.” She turned and placed herself between Antonio and her father.  “You leave my daddy alone.  He’s been gone for a real long time and we want him home.  He was hurt bad and that’s why he didn’t call me.  I’ve just gotten him back, you can’t have him.”

Todd stopped rolling, his daughter’s voice ripping through him.  She loved him and he realized he loved her too.  He didn’t want her crying.  He turned his chair and rolled back to her. “Starr, ...Shorty” he said softly.  She looked at him with tears in her eyes.  “It’s alright. I did something wrong and I need to go with these men.  You go with your mom and your brother.  Go home, I promise I’ll see you again.  Just not tonight.” Starr hugged him and wouldn’t let go so Todd lifted her on his lap and rolled back to the limo.  When she still refused to let go, he looked at Blair with tears in his eyes.  “Please, take her.” his voice broke.

As Blair pulled Starr off his lap, she saw Todd bring an angry fist down hard on his left leg, then he rubbed the right one and started rolling his chair back towards the police car.

“Manning, stop!” Bo walked between Todd and the car.  “Go home, Todd.  We’ll straighten all this out tomorrow.”

Todd looked up in surprise but nodded his head to the man and turned around looking at Blair where she remained standing watching him. She was waiting to see if he would go with them.  Vicki also stood there waiting.  Okay, Todd, what’s it going to be?  You left the comfort of the hospital for this unknown.  Do you walk away now because it’s hard or do you see this through.  He began rolling back.

Sam spoke up. He had quietly been watching and listening to everything. He was still reluctant to believe Todd after everything he had done in the past. “Bo, wait a minute.” He passed Todd and was surprised that Todd didn’t even acknowledge him.  Shaking his head, he met Bo and started arguing with him. “Bo, I thought we agreed you were going to keep him 24 hours so I could talk some sense into Blair.”

“Sam, listen.  I tried it your way but everything I’ve seen and heard so far tells me Manning isn’t faking it.  You weren’t on that plane.  He definitely isn’t faking being paralyzed and I’ll reserve judgment on the amnesia.  For now, I’m letting the man go home.  You know Blair will have that court order rescinded first thing tomorrow.  You’ll just have to find another way to make Blair see sense.”

Bo and Antonio got into the car and drove away.

Sam turned around and walked to catch up to Todd before he got to the car.  He needed to see for himself if Todd was faking the memory loss. “Boomer, hold up a minute,  Aren’t you even going to say 'Hi?'”  Todd continued to roll towards the car. “Hey Pal, I know you’re not happy with me but at least tell me to my face.” Sam pulled Todd to a stop and he looked up at Sam in surprise.

“Hey, I get that you know me but Mister, I haven’t the foggiest idea who you are and I certainly don’t know anyone by the name of Boomer. Now if you don’t mind, let go of the chair.”

Sam was stunned and he searched Todd’s face for some sign of recognition but there wasn’t any.  He let go of the chair and watched Todd roll up to Vicki.

For some unknown reason, Todd looked at Vicki and asked. “You’ll be with me?”

Vicki choked up and then nodded.  “I’ll be with you.”

With Vince’s help, Todd got into the Limo and Vicki joined Blair in the back with the children and Heddy. Todd looked back to make sure Vicki had gotten in with the rest of his family. As the car took off, Todd took a deep breath and leaned his head against the headrest.  He found himself wishing he had stayed in Guam.  He was exhausted trying to be someone he didn’t even know.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Who's the Real Todd? Chapter 44

The morning after the Sun hit the stands with Samuel Toddman's story, it had become national news. It seemed Samuel had been more well known in the art world than he had realized. Todd was stunned when letters of sympathy began arriving from patrons of the arts. He had always figured Samuel's fame had really been just a fluke because his two main purchasers had been Manning and Hesser. But it seemed more people knew of his paintings than he had realized. The next day a crate had arrived at the house with his portraits from Tomas's Gallery. He had opened it with some help from Blair and separated them. He was looking for 'Sunset' when Blair took a quick gasp of breath next to him. Although he couldn't see it properly, he knew it was 'Sunset'. He recognized the colors in the painting, and Samuel had also given him a heads up too.

He reached for the portrait and set it aside, rubbing his fingers gently over the face in the portrait. In his mind's eye, he saw that day once again.

Blair reached for his hand. "It's lovely Todd, Samuel put so many of our memories on canvas. I hate that you have to give it to Hesser."

"It's a means to an end, Blair. If I'm going to find Hesser I have to do it with this portrait. I know he won't have it delivered directly to his hiding place, but it'll get us close. I believe after he thinks no one is watching the portrait, he's going to go to it. That's when we'll get him." I need to put it in a new frame, though." he stopped, planning on calling one of his hi-tech friends to help him install a tracker wire in the frame. "Blair, how's the design for the ring coming along," he brought her hand up and kissed it." I know you're not too happy to be making this ring, but it means I can regain my sight. After all this, the awful mechanism can actually be useful for something good."

Blair gave him a small hug and said. "I know how much this means to you, Todd, and I've just about got the mold ready for the pour. Should get the ring poured by tomorrow and we'll be able to mount the implant tomorrow night. I'm really quite proud of the design, it's a very masculine ring. No one would suspect that it's more than a ring. Keeping the implants separated while I worked with the smaller one has made it easier for me to just view them as electronic devices. The jeweler who will be putting the device into my ring will be here tomorrow when I call him."

"Good. I also received a call from Kelly, our guy is in, and getting pictures of Kipling's house as we speak. As soon as we get his uploads, I'll have a good idea where the lab is. I know that with everything going on with Bo and his son, that John is our best connection to the force right now. We need to call and find out if his forensic team has been able to make any headway with Jake's implants. If they can find a way to read the information stored on them we'll have more proof for the judge." Todd looked back over to the Painting he couldn't make out. "Samuel deserves to get his sight back. Of all of us, he's got to be feeling the loss the most. He should be able to come out and paint. Vicki's portrait is in limbo right now. This has to come to an end."

Just then the phone rang, Todd answered, "Hello."

"My dear Mr. Toddman, I can't tell you how sorry I was to hear about your accident. I must commend you on the way you're getting around. I had no idea you had lost your sight when I visited the other day, but now I understand why you are unable to complete the portrait I wanted. Really Mr. Toddman, you are quite extraordinary." said Carlo. He was in fact very impressed that Samuel had kept his blindness from him.

Todd frowned. He should have known that Carlo would get in touch as soon as the papers had come out. " Mr. Hesser, how nice of you to call, I do apologize for the deception, but surely you can understand I'm still adjusting to it. I'm glad you called, the portrait I promised you, in place of the one you commissioned, arrived this morning. I'm sure we can work out a good time and place for you to receive her." Why was it he felt Carlo had a specific reason for calling that had nothing to do with the paintings? Was it possible Carlo didn't believe the account in the paper? "Is there anything else I can do for you, Mr. Hesser?"

"Nothing at all Mr. Toddman, I just wanted to call and offer my sympathy for your current situation. The article says you had the accident on your honeymoon, that had to be most distressful for Mrs. Toddman, I trust the charming Blair is holding up alright?" inquired Carlo

Todd's hand tightened around the phone. He had to take a breath to keep himself from saying something angry into the phone. Carlo's obsession with Blair was beginning to get on his last nerve. Speaking through gritted teeth he said." My wife is just fine, Mr. Hesser." he almost choked on the words, if he didn't end the conversation soon the phone would end up a tangled mess. "Mr. Hesser, I'm afraid I have to cut this conversation short. Perhaps you would like to tell me where to have the portrait delivered." Todd prayed he'd get an answer.

"That won't be necessary, I'll have a colleague of mine pick it up shortly, Mr. Toddman." Carlo hung up.

Todd put the phone down wondering when Carlo would send his colleague and had a sudden premonition that there might be trouble headed his way. He had been wondering if Carlo had figured things out and now something was telling him it was a very real possibility. If Carlo knew he was Todd then he needed to get Blair out of the house for a while. " Blair, where is the small implant?"

Blair looked at Todd and asked. "It's in your desk in your office. Why?" She had seen how angry he had been getting while talking to Carlo and wondered what he was thinking of doing. "Todd, you're not going to put it on and go looking for Carlo, are you? What if you were to lose it? Please be patient. By tomorrow, you'll have the ring."

Todd glanced in the direction of her voice and said. "You're right, but I wasn't going to do anything foolish. I was just curious where you had put it."

Blair walked to him and took his arm. "If you promise to behave yourself and not mess with those things, I believe you. Now I need to go finish that mold so the ring will be ready. I should only be gone a couple of hours. Are you going to be alright?"

"I'll be fine, you go. I'm anxious to see what you designed for me?" Todd took her hand and kissed it and she kissed his cheek in return and then left to go take care of the ring. Todd waited till he heard the front door close, then headed for his bedroom where his gun and the second implant were stored. He prayed he had enough time. No telling when Carlo's colleague would show up

Todd went straight to his safe and opened it, he felt for the gun, drawing it out and tucking it into his belt. Then he found the container, he opened it and took the jar holding the second implant and pocketed it. Just then he heard the door downstairs open. "Blair is that you? Did you forget something?" No answer, and then he heard the footsteps on the stairs. Whoever was coming up would be on the landing soon. He had to get downstairs to the second implant, and the stairs to the Kitchen were at the end of the second story wing, just past the Key West suite. He had to draw the intruder downstairs somehow. If only for a few minutes. He walked to the bed and found the stereo console beside the bed that turned music on throughout the house. He quickly turned on the music in the living room and prayed it would distract the intruder long enough for him to exit the suite.

Christian stopped on the stairs wondering who had turned on the music in the living room. He turned around and began descending the stairs to check it out. He stood just under the stairway looking around. No one was in the living room. Then he heard movement coming from above him. Damn, Samuel had somehow realized he was here. Chris turned and made for the stairs again.

Todd had stood at the edge of the hallway watching the blob descend and turned to his right to go find the stairs to the kitchen. The hallway was dark but Todd made his way down it easily. He stopped briefly in the Key West suite to flick a switch that turned on the ocean and bird sounds in the room. As he stepped out into the hall he heard the intruder coming back up the stairs. He knew he wouldn't make it to the stairs before the intruder reached the landing so he slipped into the Movieland suite. Keeping the door cracked and he watched down the hall as the Blob moved toward the Key West Suite.

As soon as the blob entered the suite, Todd figured he probably had only minutes to get down through the kitchen and across the living room to the downstairs wing where his office was. Todd's heart was racing and he prayed it would be strong enough to get him through this. He thought back to the time he had chased Nora all around the beach house. Now he understood the terror she must have felt. He was as helpless as she had been if he couldn't get to that second implant. He edged back out into the hall and made it the rest of the way to the stairs. It was a good bet the intruder would search both suites before coming back downstairs but as the intruder could see, it wouldn't take him long.

Christian found himself in the suite and knew he would have to search. Obviously, Samuel, although blind, knew the way around his own home. It didn't take him long to search that suite, so he moved to the next one. After doing a cursory search of the second suite upon exiting, he noticed the stairs at the end of the hallway. Christian smiled, Samuel wanted to play hide and seek. He kind of liked the idea.  When Poseidon had called with his latest assignment, a perverse thrill had run through him, he was finally going to get back at the man. Poseidon thought Samuel was really Todd, how interesting. Chris didn't question why there were two Todds, he did what he was told and Poseidon had decided Samuel or Todd needed to be removed. A part of him felt sorry for Blair. She was his friend and partner but right now he had to put that aside.  After he completed his job, he'd be there for her. Like always, they found ways to comfort one another. Descending the stairs he said. "Samuel, you're just delaying the inevitable."

Todd paused as he heard Christian's voice. Damn, he had hoped he had been wrong about Chris for Blair's sake. He turned briefly to look in the direction of Chris's voice and accidentally knocked over a vase. At the crash, he knew Chris would be in the living room in seconds. Suddenly a bullet ripped past his ear and hit the wall in the hallway. Todd dodged out of sight and found the door to his office. He entered and shut the door behind him and locked it. He stumbled past his chair, almost falling down, sitting and reaching for his desk. He turned on the phone and keyed his connection to John. Leaving the line open he began searching the desk, he had to find that implant. He heard John's "hello" and said. "John, intruder at Dragonheart. I'm running out of time. If you don't make it. Tell Blair I loved her." He reached into his top drawer and found the jar. His hands shook as he opened it and dropped the implant into his hand. The electrical shock was brief and instantly his vision cleared just in time to see the door to his office crash open.

Christian stood in the doorway, staring at Samuel behind his desk. Chris was impressed, he showed no fear. Chris moved quietly into the room and noticed that Samuel didn't follow his movement. So it was true, he was blind. Chris had him good and trapped. "Tsk, Tsk, that wasn't very nice leading me all over the house, although I must say, what I've seen so far is stunning. You should have stayed in Paris.  My employer thinks you're not Samuel but Todd Manning.  I can't believe Blair married you.  I thought she had gotten you out of her system. I guess I was wrong. Now we can do this one of two ways. I can kill you quick or you can sit there and I'll make it look like you committed suicide because of the blindness. Taking the suicide route will let you dictate a note for Blair. What's it going to be, Samuel or should I be calling you Todd?" Chris found his target's lack of focus a little unnerving, but he waited for a reply.

Todd focused just to the left of Chris to give him a false sense of security. Then he said. "Chris, I'm disappointed. I thought you were stronger than this. How can you let Hesser manipulate you this way? Didn't you already go to prison once for him? I thought you cared about Blair, how can you just kill me?" The longer he could stall Chris the better his chances.

"I do care for Blair, and if you're Todd, I think you're all wrong for her. But don't worry about her, I'll be able to help her over her hurt after you are gone. I've done it before. So do you want this quick or like a  suicide."

Todd carefully pulled himself closer to the desk. "I think I'll take the suicide. But I can't see to write. How am I going to leave a note." while he sat behind his desk he wrapped the implant around his finger securely and surreptitiously pulled the gun out from his belt and held it, pointing it at Christian praying he wouldn't have to use it. Chris had been looking around for a means to write the note, not paying attention because he felt Todd wasn't a threat.

"Here's an idea. Todd, just dictate to your computer. Don't worry I'll give you time. It should sound sincere to Blair." Christian leaned against the wall with his gun in hand and watched as Todd groped for the computer key that would allow him to dictate his thoughts.

Todd began, knowing the police had to be getting close. "Blair, forgive me, I can't continue in this darkness any longer. I thought I could for your sake but it takes too much out of me and I'm tired Blair. I know I promised to never leave you again. But I can't see you and it's killing me. I'll always love you. Tell the kids my love for them never faltered. Good-bye." Even as he was finishing, he saw Christian's gun raise and knew he had to take his chance now. He flung himself out of the chair as Christian fired, his shot just missing. Todd quickly crawled to the desk "Chris, you don't have to do this, do you really believe they won't know it wasn't murder? Think."

"It doesn't matter Samuel. Murder, suicide, you'll be dead either way. I'm not worried.   They won't know who did it and that's all that Poseidon requires of me." He raised his arm to fire once again.

Todd took his shot at the same time, rolling as he did so, hoping Christian's shot would miss. He felt something hit and knew he hadn't escape fully but then there was silence and no more shots. Todd collapsed, breathing deeply, and feeling the blood run down his side. He heard movement and brought the gun around looking into the face of John in his doorway. He dropped the gun and struggled to keep conscious.

John took in the scene in front of him and went to Todd. Checking him over he called for an EMT. "Lie still, it doesn't look too serious." He then went over to the other man on the floor and turned him over. Christian had been grazed enough to knock him out, but he was beginning to come around. John handcuffed him, snagged his gun, and went back to Todd. "Relax Todd, he's not dead, only grazed. Your wound is going to require stitches, though. Hang in there, the EMTs are on the way. For a guy who can't see that was a heck of a shot." Todd just looked at him and passed out.

He came to while someone was bandaging his ribs. "Damn that smarts".

"Easy Mr. Toddman, you're going to be fine but the bullet took a pretty good gash out of your side. I expect you'll be sore for awhile." The EMT flashed a light in his eyes and he had to close them it was so bright.

 The implant on his finger twitched and Todd knew it was responding to the light, his other hand reached into his pocket hoping the jar hadn't broken. Thankfully, the jar was still intact. Todd was sure he couldn't have taken a bad memory at that moment. 

"I would suggest you let us take you to the hospital but Detective McBain was pretty adamant that we fix you up here." said the EMT.

"No, that's quite alright, the detective is correct and since the police have already been notified, could you write up your report to indicate you were called out here because I injured myself on the stone wall on my terrace when I stumbled. I don't want to alarm my wife. Gentlemen, please, it could have happened that way since my sight is bad. There is no reason she needs to know the true reason for your visit." Todd waited, staring at a space in between the two EMTs.

They looked at each other and nodded. "Sure Mr.Toddman, the detective explained the need for secrecy. We'll write the report the way you asked, just be sure you keep the gash covered and change the bandage in two days. You should be good as new in a few more days." they gathered their equipment and left his home.

Todd looked around and realized he was in his suite. He gingerly sat upon the edge of the bed as John walked in. "How's Christian?"

"He's got a massive headache but isn't very talkative. I'm amazed you kept him from shooting you right away," said John.

"That was all Christian's doing, I think he felt he had me dead to rights, why not play with me a little bit. He figured I couldn't see, so I was no threat to him. He wasn't very observant because of it, or he would have realized I had called you."

John looked at Todd, studying him. The man had somehow gotten Christian to talk instead of shooting him. He had heard much of the conversation and had been amazed at how calm Todd had sounded. He and his men had just been turning into the driveway when a shot had rung out and John had thought they were too late, only to be surprised to hear voices continuing. They had just entered the house when two more shots rang out, then silence. John had been certain Todd was dead but instead, he walked into the office and found a gun leveled at him in Todd's hand and the intruder lying face down not far from him. Somehow Todd had managed to get off a shot of his own toward Christian that actually connected.

Christian was exceedingly lucky. The EMTs said he would have been dead if the bullet had hit his head direct, instead of just creasing his skull. While the EMTs had been working on Todd, Natalie had shown up and was getting whatever evidence she could get from Todd's office. She had been shaken to find out Christian had tried to kill Todd.

Todd stood up carefully feeling a little woozy. "Blair's going to kill me. It won't take her long to realize I knew something was going down."

"Just how did you know, Todd?" John inquired.

"It was just a feeling I got while I was talking to Hesser. Something told me, Hesser had figured out I was no longer in the dark about myself. The cat's out of the bag now. Hesser suspects I might be Todd, but at least you've got Christian. He needs protection John, he'll be a target now too." Todd ran his fingers through his hair deep in thought. " Damn, I got this close to finding Hesser and now he might go back into hiding. I need to get an article out in the paper. Something about an unknown intruder who only managed to wound me before disappearing. If Carlo believes his killer failed but didn't get caught, he might consider himself safe and make another try to get me and the painting."

"Todd, I can't let you continue to make yourself a target. What is this painting you're talking about?" asked John

"Hesser wants one of Samuel's portraits of Blair. It arrived this morning. Carlo's obsessed with Blair. I think he'll still want the portrait. Let's go downstairs, I was going to call one of my contacts to see about wiring the frame of the portrait with some sort of tracer. Perhaps you know someone instead." He headed to the door and turned back when John didn't move. John was standing there still looking at him. "What's the matter, John?"

"You move around this house exceedingly well for a blind man," John remarked. "Not to mention, that shot you took at Christian was spot on. Explain Todd."

Todd knew he had gotten careless but at least he had done it in front of John. "Yes, well you see there's a reason for that." Todd reached into his pocket and drew out the jar. "You recognize this don't you, and you are aware that it is part of a set."

John nodded. "I've seen something similar. It looks like one of the implants that Manning delivered to me. Where's its other half?"

Todd raised his hand. "This is the other implant."

John's eyebrow went up when he realized Todd had the implant wrapped around his finger but what really bothered him was that it seemed to be moving just a little bit. "What the ..that thing is moving."

Todd looked down at it. "Um yes, it does that when it's close to the other implant. It does something else too. As long as I'm touching it and both implants are close together, I'm able to see again. I'm not sure why but it's like I'm still connected to them somehow. If they get separated by more than 25 feet, they no longer work and I'm blind again. When I put out that call to you I was still searching for this one" he looked at his hand. "If I hadn't found it when I did, I know the outcome would have been different. Christian had no idea I could see him, that's why I was able to elude the first bullet in the office. Unfortunately in eluding the first bullet I put myself in an equally vulnerable position. When I took my shot at Christian, I was rolling hoping to avoid his shot. You saw how that turned out."

"Wait a minute, the implants that Manning gave me didn't move, why are yours still working."

"Michael said the power source that operated them is still functioning and they are still sending and receiving data. I don't know John. I only know they help me see. I can tell from the look on your face you don't believe me. Here, take this one and hold it in the palm of your hand and exit this room you'll see what I'm talking about. I'll stand by the bed, you'll be able to see me from the hall." Todd had taken off the implant and it was wiggling from his fingertips.

John's curiosity got the better of him and he held out his palm and Todd dropped the implant into it. Then Todd turned and walked back toward the bed but this time he took his time almost falling when his leg came in contact with the edge before he was ready for it. John realized Todd's vision had been affected by just taking off the implant. John took the implant and walked out of the suite and suddenly it became inert. He held it close and examined it, pushing it around on his palm, but it was just a small piece of machinery lying in his hand. Todd had sat down on the bed, his eyes unfocused, looking toward the door. John walked back into the room and the little implant again began wriggling. It seemed to want to crawl off his palm so he closed his hand around it and walked over to Todd. "Amazing!" He held it out to Todd and watched as Todd held his hand out in John's general direction. Todd was telling the truth, he couldn't see. John dropped the implant into his hand and watched Todd's face as he refocused and looked directly at John once more.

"You're right John, it's amazing. but it has its drawbacks. The implants have to stay close together for me to see and if anything happens to either one of them I'm out of luck and blind again." Todd pocketed the jar again and wrapped the smaller implant around his finger. "I need to put the smaller implant away before Blair gets back home. Is Christian still downstairs?"

"No, they took him to the hospital, Natalie's downstairs finishing up. She was upset about Christian. You're right Todd, Christian's a marked man unless we can figure out where Carlo is first." John headed out followed by Todd and they made their way down to Todd's office.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Who's the Real Todd? Chapter 43

Todd knew Kelly was shaken by what she had read. He couldn't see her face, but there was something about the jerk of her head that told him she was shocked by what she was reading. He felt Blair take his hand and knew that she was upset about everything that had happened too. She was still mad at Carlo for almost killing him and she was fearful that because of his loss of sight he was, even more, a target than before. He had to convince her to begin working on those pieces of jewelry for the implants. Once he could see again he could really go after Carlo and Kipling with both barrels. He heard the door behind them open and waited to find out who had entered. He turned his head trying to figure out who it was. He realized it must be Tea and Manning when Kelly stood up.

"Toddman didn't expect you in my office, to what to we owe this honor?" Manning remarked sarcastically, he suddenly smiled at Kelly and Blair and shushed them as he began going around the room searching for hearing devices. He continued talking as he worked so whoever was listening in wouldn't know what he was up to. "My lawyer tells me we can't fight your buyout so I guess I have to share the Sun with you, but it doesn't give you the right to barge in on my Executive Editor. Perhaps you'd like to explain why you're here," he held up three electronic bugs and went to the door to drop them outside and then continued looking.

Kelly spoke up. "Todd, Samuel came in so I could have the exclusive story about his honeymoon accident. You and Tea have been away, so you have no idea what occurred. It seems my new cousin-in-law was recently blinded while on his honeymoon."

That brought Manning up short as he turned to look at Tea and she nodded. He frowned. Tea hadn't told him. He felt fortunate that he could still see Tea and sorry for the man whose life he had taken all these years. He shook his head and looked over at Blair and mouthed. 'I'm sorry.' "That's tough Toddman, especially for an artist. How did it happen?"

Todd turned his head in the direction of Manning's voice and saw his blob moving around the room. "Let's just say I'm not as proficient on a horse as I thought I was, and had the misfortune to fall and hit my head."

Manning had finally swept the whole office and had taken the last of the bugs and deposited them outside the office. Turning around he said. "Now we can talk." He looked at the people sitting in front of him and at the man who was the real Todd. He was slowly getting back his own memories but sometimes he kept seeing Todd's life flash through his mind. When he had awakened in the hospital in Seattle, he had known several things. He had remembered his real name. He had known his wife Tea, and he had realized he had been living someone else's life for eight years. How do you apologize for taking some one's life? He knew he wasn't responsible for his actions but still. On top of everything else, Todd Manning had actually talked Michael McBain into performing the surgery on him, and Manning knew that was a bloody miracle because Michael and Marcie hated him. "Todd, you have my sympathy about your eyesight. Tea didn't tell me. It seems I owe you my life. McBain told me, my surgery was almost too late. According to him, our unwanted guests were falling apart in me, but McBain was able to get every piece. Tea and I delivered them to John just a short time ago. I gather you and Kelly have been able to find out something about Carlo and Kipling."

Todd nodded, "Kelly perhaps you'd like to fill in Manning."

Manning looked up and said quickly. "The name's Jacques Boudreau, but you can call me Jake. Tea's still working on it but I think it's getting easier for her, we've been getting to know each other all over again. Haven't we Dawlin'." he looked at his wife and winked.

Tea blushed, then turned to Todd. "I don't think we're going to be able to keep up the charade any longer. Jake no longer even sounds like he used too, and although he's been working in this business these last eight years, it seems, he's more into oil than newspapers. Jake, it seems, is a wildcatter, who happens to own several oil wells off the coast of Louisiana. His company has been in limbo since his disappearance, but his wells have still been producing oil all this time. The bank was overjoyed to hear from him and we've made arrangements to set up funds here, in Jake's name so we can give you back your money Todd."

To say he was surprised was an understatement. Todd wondered if Carlo knew he had taken someone who actually had some pull when he had picked Boudreau. He'd bet even money Carlo thought he had picked a bum. If Boudreau really had money then between the two of them they could do some major damage to Hesser's pocketbook.

Todd looked over at the man who had lived his life for the last eight years. Jake had done some things as Todd Manning that Todd was still having trouble with, but he knew the man hadn't been himself. Tea was still with him, so he had to have some good qualities. "Well Jake, I'll let Kelly tell you what we've found out. Then you and I need to have a private conversation. Agreed?"

Jake looked at Todd, hearing something in Todd's voice that meant he wanted to keep the women out of it. Jake couldn't agree more and replied. "Absolutely."

With the bugs gone from the office, Kelly was able to speak freely about the undercover reporter at the Research Facility. She informed Jake and Tea about everything the reporter had found out about Kipling's little experiments in the past and the ones he believed Kipling was currently pursuing. Todd then informed Jake and Tea about his dreams and the corridor. At the mention of the corridor, Jake had gotten real quiet. Tea noticed that her husband had seemed to zone out when Todd was talking about the corridor.

"Jake, what is it? Are you remembering something?" Tea gave her husband a shake to get his attention. Jake turned his gaze to his wife and Tea felt a chill go down her spine. Jake had this haunted look on his face like he was seeing something that truly scared him. "Jake, you're scaring me. Talk to me."

"I've been there Tea, all this time I thought it was just some weird dream." he looked over at Todd. "Do you remember seeing a painting, you know the one with a guy screaming?" When Todd nodded, Jake shivered, goosebumps were running up his arms and he recalled some of the pain of visit after visit down that damn corridor. "Day after day they took me down there and hooked me up to some damn machine. The pain would start and then it would be followed by all these images. They were images of everyone in Todd's life, events and people. The more they hooked me up, the more of myself I lost, till all I remembered was the images and events I was being fed. At the end of each session they would ask my name and in the end, the only name I knew was Todd Manning. Your life had become my life. All I wanted to do was come home to Llanview, to my family, I felt this need that it was imperative that I change my appearance, so I had the plastic surgery. The rest of the story you know." Tea reached over and took his hand. "I'm alright, Dawlin'. It explains a lot I guess. I'm just glad they didn't wipe out who I really am."

Blair and Kelly glanced at the two men. Their lives were never going to be the same, too much had gone down for both of them. Blair felt bad for Jake, he had been through some horrific things as Todd. Margaret's rape and his execution, fighting for his life at every turn. She had loved him once but she had thought he was Todd. Having found her Todd, she couldn't conceive how she had ever believed Jake was Todd. Jake had had some of Todd's habits but when it came down to it, Jake as Todd was different, he had been bordering on obsessive when it came to his kids and wives. She was pretty sure that the obsessiveness had been a by-product of the implants, as they were set to reinforce any wavering by Jake. Just like Todd's had been set to trigger whenever he had tried to remember.

Kelly had been listening intently and knew the four people in front of her had only told part of the story. Still "Jake", that was going to take some getting used to, had said something about unwanted visitors removed by McBain. Which meant that he must have undergone surgery like Todd's. If his "visitors" were implants like Todd's then this story had gotten even more bizarre. One thing was certain. Jake was very different from the Todd everyone knew. It was true what Tea was saying, Jake no longer even acted like Todd and his southern accent was definitely becoming prominent. He couldn't continue to fool people into believing he was Todd with that accent. Todd was going to have to come out and let the world know he was back. The fallout was sure to be amazing and Carlo would know his plot was uncovered. Kelly turned to Todd. "I'm not sure how much longer we can leave our reporter undercover. Everything you guys have said makes me believe these men are very dangerous to cross and you've both have done just that now that you want to take back your lives. Todd, you've already upset Carlo's applecart by purchasing back the Sun. Jake's had one attempt on his life and Todd, you've had two. I don't want our guy to be another casualty. Let's not forget Jake is probably still a target. Carlo thought he was a liability months ago. His shooter is still at large."

Todd turned his head and tried to focus his eyes as much as possible on Kelly. "You're right Kelly, the reporter is getting pretty close to the action. If he can hang in there just long enough to find the entrance to Kipling's secret lab, I'll be happy. Then we can pull him out. As far as the shooter is concerned, John has someone keeping an eye on the person we think might be the shooter. Tea you're also right. Jake isn't going to be able to keep up the facade much longer. Jake, your accent is definitely coming out now and people are going to notice. I need your help maintaining the ruse just a little longer, so Jake you'll have to try and act like me for as long as you can. I'm working on something that will enable me to finally step forward as Todd. Just give me a couple of days. Ladies, I hate to ask, but could Jake and I have some time to ourselves. I need to talk to him privately and since I'm the one with the handicap maybe you gals could go find some coffee for us or something."

Blair looked over in mock shock and punched his shoulder. "Chauvinist" was all she said as she got up and encouraged Kelly and Tea to follow her. Tea didn't look too happy. She had a feeling the guys were going to be talking about something that was dangerous and possibly illegal.

When the women left the room Todd got up and pulled out his mobility device. He made his way over to the window by walking carefully. "So are you of the same mind as me?"

Jake walked over to join him. "Yep, when can we get them? Do you have a plan?"

"Actually, one has been rolling around in my head for a while. That's why I was thrilled when I figured out the whereabouts of the lab. Jake, you never received any knowledge about my alters because they were too well hidden in my brain. You've met Samuel. I want you to meet Pete." Todd leaned briefly against the window.

"Damn it's good to be out, but you got to do something about this sight, Todd. I can't work like this." Pete located Jake standing next to him. "So you're the son of a bitch who took our life. I ought to kill you but I've been listening so I guess I'll have to give you a pass since you got caught up in this like Todd did. But listen up Jake, I don't like what you did to Todd's family, even if you were under the influence of those damn implants. I'll work with you to get Hesser and Kipling but after that, you better stay clear. I'm working on a short fuse as it is. You might get caught in an explosion. Just giving you fair warning."

Jake looked curiously at the man who had just spoken to him. He had heard about Pete just in passing when Tea had brought up what he had been told were Todd's fake alters. But there was no mistaking the anger coming from the man looking at him. Jake couldn't really blame him. He had had to relive the last eight years as if a dream when he had awakened in the hospital and it hadn't been pretty. He couldn't believe how cruel he had gotten over the years toward Starr and Vicki and Jessica. Even Jack had recently suffered at his hand and he was wondering how they were truly going to help Jack, now that he, as Todd, had bought him his freedom. The Todd Manning he had become the last couple of years was worse than his few memories of Peter.

Michael and Larry had informed him just before the surgery that some of his personality traits had been altered because of the implants and their corruption; also the drugs Kipling had been giving him to try and mask the symptoms of the implants, had really done a number on him too. He owed a lot of people an apology. But right now there was the matter of Carlo and Kipling to take care of.

Holding his hands up in surrender even though Pete couldn't see them he said. "Hey, you're right, as Todd Manning, I've been pretty despicable, so if you want to go at it when this is through, I'll understand. I've got a lot to correct before I leave here, but both you and I want the same thing right now. We want them to hurt as much as they hurt us. More if it's possible. You can have your shot at me, but I'm not going to let you walk all over me, just know that. Now back to business, what do you and Todd have in mind for these two?"

Pete turned to stare out the window, "We're going to give them a taste of their own medicine. Are you on board? They strapped us in and gave us those treatments like we were guinea pigs. It's their turn. I'm going to be looking for Carlo, I have a feeling he's close to our estate. You need to contact Dr. Kipling and see if you can arrange a checkup with him. Make it for the end of the week. You get the appointment, I'll take care of everything after that. I'll be in touch when you're to join me for our little party. Don't tell Tea what's going on, she and Blair wouldn't understand. When we're through with them, they're going to beg to be taken to John and Bo." Pete turned and said chillingly. "When I'm done they'll wish they were dead."

He had never seen anyone as cold as Pete, and he had thought Todd was cold hearted but Pete put him to shame. Jake had to wonder what had caused this alter. He had never gotten past Peter just being a bastard, but now he wondered if Peter Manning had been more of a monster. Whatever Peter did to Todd had fractured him and Pete was the angry violent alter. Jake made a vow then and there that meeting Pete alone somewhere probably shouldn't happen, he might not come out alive. Before they could do any more talking the girls started to come through the door.

Pete spit out. "Get that Appointment. Contact Todd." and then he slumped against the window.

Blair saw the slump and immediately went to her husband. "Todd are you alright."

Todd pushed himself away from the window. "I'm alright Blair, just lost my balance." he took her elbow and they returned to their chairs.

Jake went and destroyed the bugs he had deposited out the door. He had had it with being watched and listened to constantly. He contacted Security and showed them the bugs and said if any more were found in his office they would all be looking for new jobs. Blair and Todd, Tea and Kelly watched as Jake transformed himself back into the Todd everyone knew. With a few more choice words for security, he slammed the door on them and turned back to his audience. "Convincing enough?"

"You'll do just fine Jake. Thank you," replied Todd.

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