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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Memories Unlocked #9

  Sawyer finished fueling the plane.   He could see Sam talking on the phone inside the little terminal.  She hung up and walked toward the plane shaking her head.  “So...” he asked?  “What did you tell her?”

          “What could I tell her?  She wasn’t too happy to hear we were down to our last option.  I swear she’s as stubborn as her husband.  She told me she wasn’t giving up.  If we don’t find him in Guam, Then she wants me to start looking between Hawaii and Japan.”

         “You’re kidding, right?”  Sawyer looking surprised.  “Doesn’t she realize it’s hopeless by now.  The guy just didn’t make it.”

          Sam shook her head again.  “She said she would know if he was dead.  She convinced he’s out there.  So the question is, if we strike out in Guam, are you willing to keep looking in the other direction?”

         “Sweetheart, I’ll go wherever you want.  The perks are fantastic,” he pulled Sam in for a smoldering kiss, then released her and helped her into  the plane. As he entered after her he continued.  “Besides, she’s paying the bills and thanks to her, this baby is now all mine.”  He patted the side of his plane and moved to the cockpit. Moments later they took off for Guam.

          A couple of hours later, Sam and James walked into the lobby of the hospital in Guam.  She looked around and spotted the information desk.  She turned to James. “Look, I’ll go ask some questions.  Why don’t you see about getting us a place to stay tonight?  If this doesn’t pan out, I want to have a quiet evening before we start to head back to the States.”


“Sure Sweetheart, if that’s how you want it.  I’ll call you and let you know the hotel and find us someplace nice for dinner.  See you later.”  Sawyer started to move away but stopped and turned back.  “Sam, Good Luck.”  He nodded and gave her a thumbs up for encouragement and left.


Sam looked around.  This was her last chance of finding Todd in Guam.  She walked to the information desk.


An older woman with curly gray hair was sitting behind the counter, rearranging papers.  Her name tag indicated she was a volunteer.  She saw Sam headed her way. “May I help you?”


 “Excuse me.  My name is Sam Vance and I’m a private detective.  I’ve been searching for a man the last couple of months and I’m running out of places to look.  I’m hoping he might have been admitted here.”  


The volunteer looked up. “Do you have a name, Dearie?”


“Yes, his name is Todd Manning.  Please if you can help, I know a little girl who would be very happy.”


“Oh, the poor dear.  Well, let me see if we have anyone by that name here.” The volunteer opened the admissions file on her computer. “No, we don’t have anyone by that name, I’m sorry.”


Sam leaned over the counter.  “Could you check and see if anyone by that name was admitted a couple of months back?”


The volunteer looked further back in the records and then shook her head no. “I’m afraid we can’t help you.”


It was the same answer Sam had gotten everywhere she turned, and like all the other times, Sam pulled the picture from her pocket. “He might have been here under another name.  Would you please look at this picture and tell me if there was a patient here that might have looked like this.”


“But Dearie, I’m just a volunteer.  I’ve only worked a few of the wards in the last couple of months, I highly doubt I would have seen the person you’re looking for.”


“Please, for me, could you just look at the picture?”


“Very well, let me see your picture.  I must confess, though, I don’t have much of a memory for faces.”  She took the picture.  “Well it’s surprising but he does look a little familiar.  Oh, of course.  He looks a lot like the young man who works on the children’s ward.   He’s such a dear, always flirting and teasing me when I’m on the floor.  It makes me feel like a schoolgirl again.”


Sam’s heart rate speeded up.  Was it possible?  “You say this man looks a little like my picture.  Can you tell me his name and where I might be able to find him?”


“But you said you were looking for a patient.”


“I’m not sure, but I need to see this man for myself.  Maybe he just looks like the man I’m searching for, but I have to know.”   


The volunteer pushed her glasses up on her nose and smiled. “Oh of course.  I understand Dearie.  You’re trying hard to find that little girl’s daddy.  Like I said, the young man works in the Children’s Ward.   I don’t know if he’s working now, but the nurses there might be able to help you.  Just go down that hallway, Dearie and turn left.  That will take you to the ward.”


Sam hurried down the hall.  She didn’t want to get her hopes up, but she prayed for Starr’s sake she was right.  Turning the corner she saw the door to the ward ahead of her.  Was Todd just on the other side?  Go ahead Sam. What are you waiting for?  Her steps slowed.  If the volunteer was right, and the picture matched the man working here, then that meant Todd was here because he wanted to be.  Which meant he didn’t want to be found.  That’s not your problem Sam.  You were hired to find him.  At least, Blair will know he’s alive.  She took out the picture and pushed opened the door to the ward and went up to the Nurses Station.  “Pardon me, I was told there was a man working here that looked like my picture.  Can you tell me if this man works here?” She handed the picture to the nurse.


The nurse took the picture and studied it. “Well it could be Mr. Drake, but I couldn’t say for certain.”


“Could you tell me if he’s working now?”  Sam looked around, but only saw some nurses moving in and out of the rooms.”


“I think he called it a day, but you might find him out on the balcony.  I thought I saw him head that way a little while ago.  It’s just down that hallway.” The nurse pointed to her left.


“Thank you.” Sam started to walk away and paused turning back. “This is a Children’s Ward, right?  Can you tell me what ... Mr. Drake, that’s the name you said?” The nurse nodded. “What does Mr. Drake do here?”  For the life of her, Sam couldn’t figure out why Todd would be working there.


The nurse smiled broadly.  “He’s the best thing that’s happened here in a long time. Most of our children are terminally ill and he’s managed to bring a lot of joy into their lives since he’s been here.  The children love him.”


Sam thanked the nurse.   She mulled over all the latest information as she walked slowly down the hallway leading to the outside balcony.   The name was weird, Mr. Drake, where on earth had he come up with that name?  The man had millions and yet he was in Guam working with sick kids.  It just didn’t fit with the image of Todd she had in her head.  The man the nurse talked about didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would abandon his wife and kids either.  She came to the door leading out onto the balcony.  It was large and seemed to wrap around the whole hospital.  She exited the ward and began walking around.  She noticed other doorways leading out onto the balcony.   Damn, he could have gone back in through any one of them.  She was about ready to go back in when she saw a man and woman sitting near the outside rail.  From the back, she wasn’t sure if it was him, so she hugged the building and pulled out the camera she used to take pictures for clients.   The man and woman seemed to be having a deep conversation.


Sam moved along the wall until she could get a good view of the man’s face.  Using her camera she zoomed in on his face.  It was Todd.  She recognized his scar immediately.  She snapped a picture and was about to approach him when she saw the woman lay a hand on his leg.  She took a good look at the woman.  She was certainly a looker.  Sam took another picture of the two of them together.   Could the woman be the reason for Todd staying in Guam?  Sam watched as Todd took the woman’s hand into his own.  She couldn’t hear what he said, but the woman smiled and got up to leave.   Todd didn’t move but looked out across the lawn towards the beach.  Sam watched the woman go in one of the entrances.  She thought about approaching Todd, then decided to wait and see what Blair wanted her to do.  She had found Todd, but would Blair be happy about the other woman.  She turned and left.  


Unknown to her, Todd had turned his chair and was watching her.  He had seen her out of the corner of his eye when he was talking to Miguela and had noted her taking pictures.  As he watched her leave, there seemed something familiar about her.  Who was she and why the hell did she take pictures of him and the doctor?


****

Blair was fit to be tied.  She hadn’t heard anything for days from Sam Vance and then finally, just that morning Sam had called asking if they should keep looking. It drove her nuts that Sam wanted to call it quits. Now Starr had begun to act out at school.  She had been mortified when Starr’s teacher called and said Starr had been fighting.  A short while after the call, Blair and Starr left her school and headed for home. 


Starr looked at her mom, she could tell her mother was upset by how tightly she was holding onto the steering wheel.  “Mommy, I’m sorry, but when Susie said my Daddy wasn’t coming home because he would go to jail.  Well, I just lost it.  I know what Daddy did was wrong but he would never stay away from me because of that.  He loves me and you and Jack.”


Blair bit her lower lip.  How could she tell Starr that maybe her Daddy was staying away because of that?  Todd hated being in jail.  Only one time had he been ready to go to jail to show her how much he loved her and she had turned around and crushed him by saying she was carrying Max’s baby.  


Because of her lie, Todd had done the unforgivable.  He had given Jack away and told her he died.  Now she missed him more than ever and she wanted him back as much as her daughter. Blair looked over at Starr.  She was staring out the window but Blair saw the tear running down her cheek.  “Baby Girl, I understand why you got angry, but you’ve got to stop being so impulsive.  Susie was just repeating what her Mom and Dad said and you know we Mannings never let gossip get to us.  Daddy is not going to jail because I told Uncle Sam I wouldn’t press charges.”


Starr brushed the tear off her cheek and turned gleefully  to face her Mother.  “Ooh, is that why you were fighting with him?  He was pretty mad when he left.  I’m glad you won’t make Daddy go to jail.  I wish he would come home so we could tell him.”


“So do I, Starr, so do I.”  Blair parked the car and they entered La Boulaie. Heddy was about to take Jack upstairs as they opened the door and Bair reached out and took her son. “Were there any calls, while I was gone?”


“Yes, there was a call from a woman named Sam Vance.  I told her you had gone to get Ms. Starr and she said she’d call back.  Oh, there‘s the phone, would you like me to get it?


Blair hugged Jack and gave him a kiss, then handed him back to Heddy.  “No, I’ll get it. You go ahead and take him upstairs and I’ll be up to see him in a few minutes.“  Blair ran to the phone hoping the caller wouldn’t hang up.


          A little breathless, she answered. "Hello?"


          "Hello, Blair."   Sam could barely hear Blair.  "I found him."


           Blair shook her phone as static crackled in her ear. "Sam, I can hardly hear you.  Did you say you found him?" Once again she got static. "Sam talk to me. Did you find him?" the static died down and Sam's voice came through clearly.


          "Yes, I found him.  He's on the island of Guam."


         Blair clutched the phone to her chest and took some deep breaths. He was alive. She put the phone back up to her ear. "He's alright.  Where did you find him?" Unfortunately, the interference interrupted the next few words, but Blair was able to make out the word 'hospital'. "Sam, stay there.  The children and I will take the next flight out. We should be there in a couple of days."  Blair hung up.  She dashed up the stairs shouting."Heddy, pack some bags for the children." As she got to the top of the stairs, Starr came running to meet her.


        "Mommy, where are we going?"


         "We're going to get Daddy."  Blair picked up her little girl and swung her around as Starr screamed, "Hooray!"


****


Todd  watched as the woman disappeared back into the hospital. Then he shook his head. You’re pathetic Todd, now you're seeing strangers and thinking you know them, not to mention you think they're taking pictures of you. God, you really do think the world revolves around you, first Miguela and now that woman. Get a grip.  He turned his chair back around and looked out at the ocean.  


He reached into his pocket and pulled the picture back out.  "Damn. Why can't I remember why I was carrying this?"  For months, he had studied the picture.  They were a  beautiful family.  His finger again traced the little girl's face.  Miguela had suggested they might be his, but it didn't make sense.  Surely he would have remembered that?  Maybe the truth was just that simple.  He had seen the picture and had wanted a family like that.  From the things he was remembering about himself, he obviously hadn’t deserved a family.  Todd thought back to the terrible memory of losing his daughter.  Had it been real?  Todd fingered the thread tying the woman to the children.  Whoever they were, someone had been mad enough to tear the woman away and then had repaired it.  Who could have done that?


“Okay Todd, say this is your family.  Why aren’t they looking for you?  Why were you on a raft, of all things, in the middle of a Goddamn ocean? You’ve got to stop. This is stupid.  You told Miguela you were ready to get on with your life.  It makes no sense to keep hanging onto something that has no meaning to you.”  He rolled his chair to the corner of the deck, where a trash can set, and dropped the picture in.  Then he turned and began rolling to the door that led to his ward.  He pulled the door open and started to enter.  He was halfway through the door when he stopped. “Shit”  He backed out and let the door close. Turning around he rolled back to the trash can and rescued the picture. He brushed some sand off of it and put it back into his pocket.  The anxiety he had felt that moment as he was about to enter the ward eased up as he put his hand over it.  “You might not be my family but you’re all I have from my previous life.  I guess I’m just stuck with you.”  The sun was setting as he entered the ward, strangely at peace.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Friday, July 29, 2016

Chasing the Monsters: 38

Later that evening, Todd returned home, with the trunk in his possession.  After the Rodi's meeting and deposit of the old item in the limo, his father went back to Chicago, again, with Ribsky, to continue working on the case.  Blair, waiting for him in the bedroom, was resting while the children slept.  He hoisted himself onto the bed across from her and ran his hand down her head to her back.  She caught a glimpse of a dark cloud passing through his eyes as soon as he looked into her eyes, and she touched his face.  "What is it, My Love?"

"It's nothing, really."


"Do you want to talk about it?  This nothing?"


He half-smiled at her knowing him.  "It's about something . .  . something that Ribsky told us."


"All right, what is it?"


"He said that he has a contact, someone who can look up the police calls from when I was a kid.  Remembered, I guess."


She frowned a little.  "I'm not sure I like you staying with this, Todd.  It's very dark."


"I know," he said, petting her hair again.  "I just . . . I want to know, Blair.  No one should get away with that.  Ever."


She didn't like the coldness in his voice or the look in his eye.  She just said, "Okay," in a soft voice.  It was his life, his experience.  She couldn't pretend to know what it felt like.  But still, inside her, she didn't like it.  "So, what did Ribsky say about it?"


"A woman.  Dispatcher.  Said she never forgot the voice of the little boy who called her."


Blair gulped, imagining a child Sam's age, on the phone, or Ray, calling for help, and no one coming.  The fear he must have felt, the despair.  She said, "Her conscience.  She couldn't live with that."


He turned onto his back, and looked at the ceiling.  "She lived with it long enough."


"Todd, can't you . . ."


"No.  I can't."  


There was no room for any other answer in his voice.


She said, "All right," and turned on her side, with her back to him.


After a few minutes, she felt him moving, and then, his large hand ran over her back and down her shoulder, wrapping in front of her and resting over and around her.  She lifted her hand and covered his.  


"
I was a little kid.  Peter was . . . hurting my mother.  I needed someone to help us.  No one should have ignored that."  He then whispered, "Don't be afraid, Babe.  I won't leave us."

"Never?"


"Not until I have to.  And then, I'll still haunt you from beyond the grave," he said, nipping her ear.


She turned over and faced him, and his mouth went directly to hers.  When the kiss ended, she said, "How do you know I won't go first?"


"Because you can't," he said.  The look in his eyes said that there was no further possibility of discussion on the topic.


She just sighed, and touched his face again.  "Not a good topic of discussion."


"Nah."


"Todd, I'm afraid, for you.  I don't want you involved in more of this.  It's just not good for us.  You have children, that need you."


"What makes you think there has to be a bad way of getting revenge?  Maybe I'll just let the authorities do their thing."


She rolled her eyes, "Oh yeah, right.  Todd Manning's doing that."  


"Stranger things have happened.  I've done it before.  I made peace with your aunt.  It didn't last long, but I did it. "


"You did.  Even let her take on the gallery."


"She does well with it.  Can't fault her there."


"She'll come around again.  You're hard not to love.  Especially when you're giving her great nieces and nephews and making me smile."


"That I can do all day," he said, "with my eyes closed."


"Oh I know you can," she said, reaching around him and pulling him close.  Then she sighed, and said, "I'm so tired for some reason."


"Just lie here, then, and let me hold you, okay?"  She wouldn't have moved away even if he didn't ask.  She felt secure in his arms, and she also knew with today's goings on, he needed her, close to him.  She snuggled in, and felt him wrap his strong arms around her protectively.  Then he said, "Hey?"


"Yeah?"


"Sing to me, Babe."  He hadn't heard her for so long, but remembered, clearly, how the echoes of her voice in his mind saved his sanity, more than once, and how listening to her sing in the quiet of their bedroom had taken away his night terrors.  "Sing."


She did.  She opened her lips and softly began, "Unforgettable, that's what you are," and then paused.  She said, "Don't you get tired of that song?"


He said, "No.  Not with your voice doing it."


She knew what he meant.  For a while, when he had first returned, the sound of her voice could do things to him that defied understanding.  Now, it was more as it always was; he just loved to hear it.  It's potency had lost strength, but it still quelled him.  As she continued, he closed his eyes and she watched him, breathing against her, and soaking in the sound.  


"That's why darling, it's incredible . . ."  


She was interrupted by a distant scream.


***


"Well, it's late, Bea.  This was a good session.  I appreciate you being flexible and having one in the later evening.  My schedule was very tight the last few days with the influx of the new patients and that disturbance earlier."


"Yes, the man with the aliens.  He was so afraid.  He really thought they were real.  I know, I have had that same feeling.  The sparrows, mostly."  Bea said.


"Yes, the sparrows," Ray said.


"Dr. Martino, eh, Ray?"


"Yes, Bea."


"I . . . feel grateful for everything you have done."


"You're welcome."


"I don't think I can ever repay it."


"No need."


"I do have one thing, though."


His curiosity was peaked.  "Okay, what is that one thing?"


"A gift for you.  Please don't say no.  Just come with me, please?"  She put her hand out to him


He took it and stood, "Sure."


They walked through the corridor, now letting go of hands, and to the large staircase in the center lobby, up to her room door.  She opened it, and there, in the room, was a painting facing the door.  It was a beach scene, that he recognized instantly.  It was Aruba.  He had mentioned it, many times, in their chats and in passing.  She had captured the beachfront perfectly.  He said, "My God, that's beautiful, Bea."


"Your favorite place, that can be put in my favorite Mountainview place, which was your office.  It meant so much to me to get well.  It's taken a lot, but you've accomplished so much and . . . well, I appreciate it."


He swallowed.  "It's not over, you'll still see me for sessions every other week."  It was as if he was reminding himself.  He would miss her, but it was time for her to . . .


"I know.  I'll be back for those.  I'm free, to go now, aren't I?"


He turned toward her, "Yes, Bea.  You're free to go."


"Can I go now?"


"Well, it's late, but the papers are all in order already.  We completed them earlier, remember?"


"Yes, that's why I'm asking," she giggled.


He smiled, knowing that Todd was just the person to copter over in the dark to get her.  "You're free to go, any time Todd wants to pick you up.  You're on your own now."


"No, not really.  I'm not on my own, I have my son and his family.  My family."


"Yes, that's right.  My mistake," he said, taking the painting from the easel.  He propped it under one arm.  "I have to take this with me, before someone else snatches it up."  He noticed a small area with her suitcase, packed, and her paintings and the large art portfolio Todd had bought her.  Meager things, but her things.  


She's already packed.  She knew all it would take was a simple phone call to Todd Manning and she would be gone.


She was ready to go.


***


"Todd?" before Blair could say it, he was out of the bed and bounded toward the kids' rooms.  Without hesitating, the first room he went to was Sam's.  Pushing the door open, he saw that the tent was set up, with the light on inside it, and his mini laptop set up, but no Sam in sight.  


Blair followed, pulling on her robe to keep out the chill in the air, and saw him, bounding toward the baby's room, where Jewel, in her crib, and Ray, in his big-boy bed, would be sleeping.  She was close behind him, when she saw him stop short, and flick on the light.


Jewel was sound asleep, somehow.  Ray was crying silently in his bed, sitting up.  Sam, was standing over him, covered in sweat, and breathing heavily, a slight moan coming from his throat.  Ray announced, through tears, "He scared me, Daddy!"


Todd went to Sam immediately, and realized he was cold to the touch, and Blair, gathered Ray in her arms and soothed him.  The three year old said, "I'm k, Mommy.  Sam's just lonewy, he just afwaid."


Todd had already picked Sam up in his arms, and was holding him, carrying him out of the nursery and into his own room.  At this point, Sam was sobbing and clinging to his father tightly.  Blair worked to get Ray settled back into his bed, hurriedly, worried about her other son.


Todd tried to set Sam down, but he would not let go.  He said, "Hey, Buddy, you're squeezing me pretty tight there."


Sam didn't speak.  He just made noises that were clearly the sound of too much breathing and crying at the same time.


"It's all right, I'm right here.  It's okay."  He turned on the light, "See?  Everything is okay.  Mommy's in the other room, getting Ray back to bed, Jack's asleep, Jewel's snoozing.  You're okay, Bud."


Sam didn't answer, and Todd began to get alarmed, when Blair rushed into the room, trying not to appear terrified.  "Hey, Sam, hi, Little Man, what's going on?  Did you have a bad dream, huh?"


The child didn't answer, except with more heavy breathing and groans.


"Sam, it's all right," she said, putting her arms out, and he let go of Todd long enough to go to her.  He held on tightly, and she smoothed his matted, damp hair, and shushed him, softly.  She said, "Todd, he's cold, and he's shaking.  And he's not talking," her voice cut off, from her throat tightening in fear.


"I'll call an ambulance," he said, "or I'll copter him over."


Sam spoke, "Grandma Bitsy."


"She's all right, Sam.  She's at her place, in bed, it's late."  Blair said.


"Grandma Bitsy, please, Mom.  Please?"


Todd and Blair looked at each other, and he jumped off the bed, toppling Sam's laptop and comics, and ran to the master bedroom.  She called after him, "Todd?  It's late?  Todd!"


Before she could get off the bed with Sam in her arms, he'd bounded onto the helipad, and started the copter.  Blair was already outside on the balcony, both she and Sam being tousled by the heavy wind from the propellers, and she went toward him, not sure what to do next.  He beckoned to her to load her son into the cab.  For a moment, she hesitated, but then, buckling him in, she looked at Todd and waited for his word.  He said, "I'm going," he said, "he has to see her.  I'll do whatever he needs."


Sam was now perfectly quiet in the backseat of the copter, buckled in, suddenly and eerily calm.  She said, "What's wrong with him, Todd?"


"He's scared, Blair.  He's terrified."  Todd looked away a moment, and then turned back to her.  "I . . . I've been that scared before.  For whatever reason, he needs her.  If he's not warmed up by the time I get us there, I'll bring him to the hospital instead.  Don't worry, Babe, it's only 20 minutes and . . ." he slowed his speech, assuringly, "I've got him."


A warm rush of trust washed over her, and she remembered him, coming out of the woods, after luring a bear away from his children; him, digging into the ice with his bare hands to save a bluish Sam; Leona's sharp, cadaverous grin, and how Todd had given his life for her and their son, and she sighed out.  "Okay," she said, trusting him, and letting go of his arm.  The copter lifted off, and he could see her, in the side mirror, watching a moment, before running back toward the house and the other children.  


He moved his eyes to the rear view and to the back seat, and Sam.  The boy was just calmly watching out the window.  He wasn't crying any more or breathing heavily.  He was still covered in sweat, but Todd had grabbed a blanket off the bed when carrying him out, and wrapped him in it, so that it covered his body and head, leaving an opening, like a hood for him to look through.  He hadn't thought to give the boy a headset, so he decided to leave him be for the twenty-minute copter ride to Mountainview's lawn.


Blair went back into the house and realized that she was shaking, herself, from head to toe.  She realized she had given up the terror, when she looked into her husband's eyes.  She trusted him, and she accepted that it was more than she trusted anyone.  Even though he had been the person who had committed some of the largest sins against her in her life, she now accepted that he also was the only man she trusted with it and with the lives of her children.  She warmed her hands by the fireplace, and then went back to the nursery.  Ray was already back asleep, and Jewel was snoozing with her hand wrapped around a little stuffed toy Todd had bought her.  Blair headed back to their room, to wait for his return.


***


Todd, landing the copter on Mountainview's lawn, went around to the cab and opened the door.  "We're here, Buddy.  We're going to see Grandma Bitsy."


Sam turned to his father and said, "Good.  He was in my room, Dad."


Todd squinted, slightly.  "No, Sam, he wasn't in your room.  We talked about this."


"He was.  He was a skeleton with skin on in some parts," the little boy swallowed.


Todd put his arms out, and Sam went into them without hesitating, the blanket falling to the floor of the copter cab.  "He's . . . he's not here, Sam."


"I know, not now," the boy said.


Todd secured the blanket around Sam, and carried him into the lobby.  He signed in, and then onto the staircase toward Bitsy's room.  The child was no longer shaking, or cold.  Todd felt assured that he would be all right, at least for now, and went to his mother's door.  He knocked, and she opened it within minutes.  She said, "Todd, I was wondering when you'd get here."


He said, "Momma, I . . ." and caught a glimpse of her bags and artwork, piled up and ready to go.  "You . . .are packed?"


"Yes, of course.  I called you and left a message.  I'm free to go, but . . . you don't seem like you knew . . . or got the message?"


"No, I didn't," he said, setting Sam down in front of her and he ran to her arms.  


"Grandma Bitsy," Sam began to cry again, "He was there, in my room.  The bad man."


Todd felt his own fists clench at his sides, but contained his reaction and continued to watch his son and his mother, as he got her bags together and moved them by the door.


"Did you do what I told you?" she soothed.


"No.  I didn't.  I was too scared.  I went to get my brother, and I couldn't talk, and I scared him, too."


"All right, Sam," she said, hugging him to her.  "It's all right, see?  Daddy's here, and he's strong and he'll protect you.  No one is not in your house.  You didn't do what I told you to, Sweetie."


For a moment, Todd wondered what she had told him to do, and a small part of him hoped that she wasn't teaching his son how to go inside himself to escape the fear or . . .


His concern was squelched when she said, "First, you ask God to calm you, then you go and paint.  Right?"


"Yeah, I . . . I think I forgot this time, Grandma.  He was right in my room, and he was a skeleton with skin."


She rocked him softly.  "Well, that's over with.  He wasn't in your room.  When we get home, we'll look and see what it was you thought was the bad man.  He's not here, Sam," she said, pulling back from the boy and looking into his eyes, "he's not anywhere anymore that he can hurt you.  You know that."


Sam sighed.  "Yeah, I guess so," he looked to his feet.  "But there's lots of bad men, right Dad?  Even my first Dad, Zeus, he was bad sometimes?"


"No, Sam, not at our house.  Not at Unforgettable.  Your old Dad's got that covered."


He looked down and his cheeks pinked.


She said, "You shouldn't be embarrassed.  Your father understands."


Sam looked up to Todd, as if afraid of his reaction.  Todd gently said, "Of course I do.  We all have dreams and things we're afraid of.  I even do."


"I don't want you to think I'm a baby," Sam said, "like my other Dad does."


Todd again felt ire in his gut, and thwarted it with thoughts of what his son was going through.  "I don't.  I wouldn't.  You're a good, strong kid.  The same kid who saved Hope and got her out the window at La Boulaei."


The boy nodded, "I was brave then.  Not so much, now," he looked down again.


"Yes, yes you are brave, Sam."  Todd heard himself say.  "You're brave enough to tell us what's going on, and to paint the pictures of it.  That's brave."


"Really, Dad?"


"Yep."


Sam, with his hair slightly stiff from sweat, smiled broadly.  Then he said, "I'll do what you said, next time, Grandma Bitsy, I just forgot."


"I know you will, Sam.  Now, will you help me carry my things?"


"Sure!  But wait, does that mean you're coming home with us?" his tone turned decidedly happy.


"Yes, if your father and mother will have me."


"Yay!  Can we Dad, can she?"


"Of course, we've been waiting for this," he said, reaching a hand down to his mother and helping her to her feet, "for a while," he finished, his hazel eyes meeting hers.  


"Well, let's get going!"  Sam said, running to her bags and picking up the smaller of the two. 

Bitsy and Todd lingered for a moment, and she said, "These are the things, Todd . . ." she gulped quietly, "that I should have done for you, my angel, and I'm sorry," her voice shattered, and she leaned her head onto his chest just below his chin.


His hand found her shoulder, and he said, "You did so much, Momma.  Please, don't," and the words sounded like someone else's voice, so thick with emotion he barely recognized his own.  "You did everything you could."


She pulled herself together and walked off toward Sam, and took his hand, and her other bag.  Todd watched the two of them, and swallowed back the lump in his throat, and went to help them.


"Gee, Momma, your art, some of it will have to be picked up."


"That's fine, just my suitcase and this little bag," she pointed to the one Sam was holding with two hands, "and the art portfolio, for now."


"Sounds good," he said, nodding, and the three of them went to the door and into the corridor.  


She stopped and looked back.  Todd said, "You, okay, Momma?"


"Yes, Todd, I'm perfect," she said, and through her tears she smiled, spilling one onto her face.  She quickly brushed her hand along his cheek, and then turned and almost skipped off, with Sam in tow, to the staircase.


He watched, hoisting her suitcase onto one shoulder, as Sam, happily talking and giggling, held Bitsy's hand with his left, and her duffel bag with his other, and she clumsily carried her portfolio with her free arm.  They were already in the lobby when he got to the top of the staircase, and both looked up toward him, craning their necks, and smiling.  "Come on, Dad!"  Sam said, gesturing him along.


"Yes, come on then, Angel," Bitsy said, and did the same.


He sighed and followed.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Who's the Real Todd? Chapter 22

As he pulled into the parking lot, memories flooded back. Good and bad they spilled into his head. Images with Marty not so good, but the images with Blair warmed his heart. He walked into the Bar and headed for the bartender. "I'm looking for a John McBain. He said you could point him out." Todd was looking around he didn't see anyone who looked like a cop.

"The boss said someone was coming but he hasn't gotten here yet. Can I get you something while you wait." asked the bartender.

"I'll have a beer. What do you mean Boss? I thought McBain was a cop." inquired Todd as he took a drink.

"He is but he also owns this place, bought it a while back when he was on suspension from the force. He's a little unconventional." the bartender set another drink down next to Todd's first and said. "You might as well make yourself comfortable. If you're here for a talk with the Boss you'll probably want some privacy. The back table close to the office is the securest place here."

Todd grabbed the two bottles and went and sat with his back to the wall where he could see everyone coming and going. It was a habit Samuel had gotten into in Paris and Todd had decided that that particular paranoid trait of Samuel's had some merit after the last week. He spotted the officer sent to protect him sitting by the door. He too, sat with his back to the wall and was watching all the patrons carefully. Todd watched as he nodded toward the bartender, then Todd noticed the concealed weapon the bartender was packing when he took the officer a drink. They had a short conversation before the bartender went back to his duties. It appeared McBain used off duty cops to help staff the joint. The front door opened and a man appeared outlined by the outside sun. Todd knew it was him the minute he entered. He didn't come across like a everyday cop. This was a man who played by the rules but just barely.  What was it Blair had said?That's right, McBain was an ex-FBI undercover agent. He had the air of the lone wolf about him.

John saw Todd studying him as he walked in. The man sitting at the table in the corner was quite different from the man he had seen in the hospital. He noticed the position Todd had placed himself in and recognized the trait that all predators had. Here was a man well versed in looking out for himself. He knew just what kind of danger he was in and was taking his own measures to ensure that he remain healthy. John walked to the bar and grabbed the beers set up on the counter for him, then he walked over to Todd. He had to smile as Todd's eyebrow rose as Todd took in the beers he was carrying.

"Obviously a short day, Detective McBain. I heard a few things about you from my fiance, Blair. It seems you worked for the FBI at one time. Why the change of pace? I would think things might be a little slow here for someone of your caliber." Todd took a drink and waited to hear what the man opposite him might say.

"Actually, Mr. Toddman, things around here have picked up considerably, some of it surrounding you. I have a question for you. Why the Alias?" John figured what the hell he might as well jump in feet first and see if he was in dangerous waters with this man.

"I believe you already know the answer to that one. I know Blair filled you in after I lost consciousness in the hospital and I'm also sure Bo verified the truth of what Blair told you. Besides, it's not an alias. It's a name that belongs to someone Carlo Hesser is familiar with, maybe he would be the best one to explain to you." Todd leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.

John was a bit taken aback. What the hell was Manning talking about?  He wondered what was going on. Manning had just gone silent. At first, John thought something had happened to Todd but he appeared to be breathing okay. John waited, if Manning didn't show some sign that he was alright soon, John would get help. He was just about to get up when he saw Manning stirring.

Samuel sat back up slowly and looked across the table. He appeared to have alarmed the man. He reached for a drink and stopped. Todd was drinking beer but Samuel had never developed a fondness for it. "Excuse me a minute Detective, I'll be right back." Samuel walked over to the bar and ordered a glass of red wine then returned to his seat opposite John. "I'm sorry for the interruption but I've never liked beer. Todd has a rather eclectic palate but I prefer a good wine. I believe it's from all those years living in Paris. Forgive me, we've never officially met. I'm Samuel Toddman." Samuel offered his hand across the table.

John realized what had just occurred. He had been around Jessica enough to know that he was meeting an alter. He hadn't expected that one. John took the hand offered. Samuel's shake was firm, John felt the irregularities and took a moment to notice the scar tissue on Samuel palm. He also noted the swirls and whorls on Todd's fingers. This man had fingerprints in the system. John wondered what he would find if he took the prints in for analysis. "I see." John knew the details behind Jessica's alters. Something equally horrifying must have happened to Todd to produce Alters. That was another distinct difference between Todd and the Manning John had known all these years. In fact, Manning had never acted like he had anything like the alters his sister and niece had. Obviously if Todd /Samuel was the real Manning then Carlo hadn't gotten everything he needed to implant into Walker/Manning. This Todd was pretty remarkable if he managed to keep a secret from professionals intent on finding out his whole life story. The stuff they were able to accomplish with varying degrees of torture would make an ordinary man buckle in no time. John gave himself a mental kick when he realized that Samuel was patiently waiting for more than an 'I see.' he cleared his throat and took a drink from his beer. "My apologies. I've only met Jessica's alters. So Samuel, what did Todd mean when he said Carlo was familiar with you?"

"One thing you need to know. Carlo is unaware that I am an alter of Todd's. He believes that I'm a made up alias of Todd's that was not erased during the treatments he performed on Todd. He doesn't understand what happened but he knows that Todd has not made an appearance in eight years and he believes that I still have no memory of Todd. We are doing everything we can to keep Carlo in the dark and so you see why Todd is living as me. Also, at this point in time we have no choice, Todd arrived back in this country on my ID. Everything has been bought under my name. There are already a number of people who are aware of my true nature. All of them have been apprised of the need to keep the knowledge to themselves and we ask that you help us in that regard also, now I believe I've answered your original question. Do we have your word that this stays between us?" Samuel picked up his wine and sipped. He had stated their case to John. Was he going to help?

John was in a quandary. He had been all set to dislike this man. He knew about Todd's past and he had been sure that this Todd was as arrogant as the one he had known for the last eight years but he found himself actually liking Samuel.  Would the same be true for Todd? The only way to find out was to get to know him, and Bo said he was to be trusted and helped. Obviously he had an enemy, one that appeared to be targeting both Todds. "Sure Samuel I wouldn't want you killed on my account." John answered Samuel request.

"Excellent. Well that was a delicious wine but I think Todd wants to talk to you." he sat back again and drop his eyes for a moment. A few minutes later, Todd looked across at John. "Thanks for listening. You're probably wondering why I called Bo earlier." he reached for his beer and took a drink, almost choking from the taste after just drinking the wine.. "Whoa, I've got to remember not to do that again." he chuckled and got to his feet. "Be right back." he walked over to the bar and got the bartender to give him a glass of water, downed it in a couple of gulps and walked back to John. " Now where was I. Oh yes you're wondering why this meet. Here goes. Blair and I have come up with a possible suspect for the sniper who shot Manning." he paused to get a reaction and he wasn't disappointed.

John sat up straight and leaned over the table. " Spill, why the hell didn't you say something sooner."

"I figured we needed to get to know each other a little bit before getting down to the nitty-gritty. Sorry, I thought you needed to know the whole truth about me if you're to understand what I'm going to tell you now. John, can I call you John?" John nodded. "Good, bear in mind what I'm going to tell you is conjecture right now. If Blair told you about me and Manning, you are aware we are trying to prove Carlo had a hand in planting my memories in Manning and then putting him in my place here. This plan is bigger than we thought and more people are involved. It's time you saw this. As you study it I think you'll figure out what Blair and I did." Todd reached into his pocket and handed Blair's timetable to McBain.

. John got right down to business looking at the timeline Todd handed him. He acknowledged that Blair had done a pretty good job laying out the events from Walkers arrival on. John paused at the memories of meeting Natalie for the first time. He continued down the list noting Christian's death on the list. He thought that was unusual until he noted Christian's return also on the timeline. Why was Christian part of this timeline? He looked over at Todd. "Just out of curiosity, why did Blair add Christian to this timeline. I thought this was about you, Manning and Carlo."

"It is but you see, a funny thing popped up in my search this morning for all things pertaining to Carlo Hesser. Articles came up about Christian Vega and his connection to Carlo. Keep reading I think you'll get what Blair saw." Todd got up and ordered another beer for himself and John and rejoined John at the table.

It was a little hard to read about Christian's death, Natalie had blamed him for Christian being taken from her. John noted that Blair zeroed in on the killing that sent Christian to prison. Christian had remembered his true identity and begged John not to tell Natalie. Later he and Christian had to fight their way out of Statesville in the middle of a riot with killers chasing down both Christian and himself on Carlo Hesser's orders. Christian had managed to somehow free himself from Carlo's control. Hold it,Carlo's control, that meant Hesser had been using some sort of mind control. John saw what Blair had seen. If you followed the events from Todd's disappearance there was one thread tying everyone together, Carlo Hesser and mind manipulation.

Todd had been quietly letting John read and he recognized the moment John picked up on Blair's discovery. "You see him, don't you. The third person who has joined my elite little club."

John saw him but was having a hard time figuring out where Todd was going. Christian had broken Carlo's hold on him. "From what I'm seeing here, Carlo managed to also use some kind of mind control over Christian but that was 7 years ago. Christian broke that control."

Todd leaned on the table and said. "Are you so sure, John? As ex-FBI, I know you've heard of sleeper agents. Maybe Carlo wanted everyone to think Christian was free of him. He had gone to a lot of trouble to make Christian into a killer. Do you seriously think that the man who engineered this whole switch with me and Manning, would have fallen down on the job with Christian. I don't think he would. I know it's hard to believe but I think Christian is the sniper. No one would even look at Christian as a suspect. I don't like the guy but he's Blair's partner at Capricorn, he's met me as Samuel and now I have to worry he's keeping tabs on Blair. Plus Manning is expected to be released soon. Manning still has a target on this back. I was hoping to hear some good news from Bo about the two assailants that tried to kill me. I don't suppose there is anything you can tell me about them."

John frowned, this meeting had taken an ugly turn with this development. Todd was right, Christian had gotten free of Carlo's control way too easy. On top of everything else, John had the info on the assailants. John pulled the papers from his pocket " Well actually I do have news but you're not going to like it. We found their bodies down by the docks. It was a professional hit. Looks like Hesser hates sloppy work and loose ends."

That was bad news, "Damn, I was hoping you guys would get them before Carlo." Todd didn't like the fact that Hesser was cleaning up so fast. Just when he thought he had a lead, another wall popped up. " Did the marshals find any sign of Hesser at Dr. Kipling 's Home?"

"Sorry Todd, but that proved to be another dead end. We're keeping an eye on Kipling. There's been an awful lot of ambulance traffic around there lately." replied John.

Todd started to stand up but was hit with a bout of dizziness. He grabbed the table to keep from falling down. He dropped back into his chair. " Looks like I'm going to need to call Blair. My body's calling it a day." he felt the dizziness pass. "Should have realized I could only push it so far."

When Todd had started to fall and grabbed the table, John had thought he might be drunk but there were only four beers on the table. Manning didn't sound drunk if anything he sounded very clear. The lighting in the bar wasn't that hot but as he looked at Todd he could tell this was more than being drunk. Todd just didn't look real good at the moment.  Obviously he wasn't fully recovered from that poison. "Todd, I've got a couch in my office why don't we let you lie down and I'll give Blair a call. Is she at Capricorn? He helped Todd up and opened the door to his office setting Todd down on the couch and closing the door.

Todd eased down on the couch knowing he looked pretty pathetic right at the moment but it took too much energy to worry about that. "John, call the Sun, Blair's holding down the fort till Kelly and Manning are back on their feet. Don't alarm her. Just tell her I'll be a little late getting home. I think if I rest a few minutes I should be able to drive home on my own."

John knew an exhausted man when he saw one, and Todd wasn't going to do any more driving that day. Even as he started to call Blair, Todd drifted off. "Blair, it's John I was wondering if you could stop by the bar on your way home. I've been having a chat with Todd and I wanted to go over this timeline you made. You're coming now that's great. I'll see you when you get here." he looked down at the sleeping Todd, " Okay Pal, I didn't worry her, but you're probably going to be mad at me anyway. You can talk to her when she gets here." he left the office and walked back to the table where he sat and looked at the papers Todd had brought.

With Todd resting in his office and waiting for Blair to arrive, John decided to put in a call to the station. He hit the extension for the records department and began talking, " Yes this is Detective McBain, I need you to pull up all we have on Christian Vega. I want everything, leave the file for me in my office I'll get it later." he hung up and grabbed a pencil and started making his own notes on Blair's timeline.

He began adding in times and dates when Manning showed up at Flynn's and the decision was made for Manning to have the surgery and become Walker Lawrence. He recalled that during that whole time, even before the surgery, he had never seen Manning's original face. It had been heavily bandaged from day one. Since he was working undercover, his bosses had gotten him the information on one Todd Manning who lived in Llanview, Pennsylvania. He had read Todd's whole story and hadn't liked what he read and when he had to work with the guy he had gotten a strange vibe from him. There had always seemed something a little off about the guy. Then when Manning held Marty and essentially raped her, he could no longer stand the guy. Manning just rubbed him the wrong way and surprisingly, the man in his office didn't seem half bad. If Blair had agreed to marry him again then he'd see what he could do to make sure that the guy lived long enough to make her happy.

Blair walked in and saw John sitting at the back table next to his office. Strange, she didn't see Todd. She had been sure that was Samuel's car in the parking lot. John was pretty engrossed with something. She stopped, ordered a drink and then walked up behind John.

"You should know better than to walk up behind a cop, Blair. You never know, you could find yourself on the wrong end of his gun, " said John without turning around.

Blair laughed and said. "Is that any way to talk to an ex-wife, you might just give her ideas. You're lucky I'm not looking to be on the wrong end of your gun, mister. Haven't you heard, I'm engaged to be married." she walked around and sat down in the chair opposite him.

"I heard. This is something you want, right? Are you sure with everything going on that you're not jumping into something prematurely? You and I both know what Carlo is capable of. He's vicious when backed into a corner. I hate to say this but looking at all your history here and adding in some of my own knowledge, Carlo did a number on your Todd and put one over on all of us with the current Todd. Now he's put a hit out on Manning and I doubt if he's called it off. The bodies of the two assailants that attempted to kill Samuel were found floating off the docks yesterday." he set his pencil down and looked at her. He cared a lot for Blair and didn't want to see her or her kids caught in this. "Carlo doesn't suffer fools gladly."

Blair got serious when she heard about the assailants. John was right. Carlo was cleaning house after each setback. So far he had managed to effectively cut all ties with him. Current ties at least. She was sure Carlo didn't know they had discovered his connection to Todd and the Cherryvale Clinic. "John, he's cutting ties to himself. Now you know we think Christian might still be tied to him. Do you think he'll try and cut that tie?"

"I don't want to say this, much less think it, but I'm not so sure that Christian is in any danger. If anything I think at the moment he's very safe. Unfortunately, that's not good for us. What I mean is, Carlo is very happy with Christian even though the attempt on Manning failed. I'm afraid Christian might have had a hand in the deaths of the assailants. This is all supposition because we have no proof. But the more Todd talked the more I realized he's probably right." he paused and looked at Blair knowing how this latest wrinkle was really disturbing her. She didn't want to think that her friend could be dangerous.

"Blair, I'm sorry, but I believe Christian could very well be a sleeper, a very dangerous one. I know he's not responsible for his actions but if we can't get him out from under Carlo's influence and he succeeds in killing Manning or Todd, we won't be able to save him. I can't tie him to the two assailants but I can't rule him out as their potential killer either. You need to be extra careful around Christian now. If he's working for Hesser, then he's probably reporting to him. You have to continue to be relaxed around him. I'll be looking into anything that can shed some light on this." he started gathering up her papers.

"John I thought you wanted to talk some more about the timeline and when did Todd head home you didn't say on the phone." asked Blair

"Yeah about that. Your timeline is pretty self-explanatory. The real reason I called you is in my office," said John.

Blair looked around at the office in surprise what on earth could John be talking about. John opened the door and she saw Todd on his couch, passed out.

John knew what her next question was going to be. "No Blair, he's not drunk. I think he's exhausted. When he almost collapsed he said something about his body calling it quits for the day. He said he just needed to rest for a moment and not to alarm you, and he would see you at home. I figured he's still recuperating from the poison.  He's in no shape to drive home. I know he's going to hate me tomorrow but I figured he'd rather go home with you then have a policeman take him home.  My bartender can run Samuel's car home and I'll have a patrol car bring the bartender back."

Blair thanked John and walked over to Todd. She knelt down "Todd, time to wake up."

Todd slowly opened his eyes. "Hi Blair, what are you doing here?"

"Oh you know me, I go where the action is, but I think you've seen enough action today Mister. What do you say we blow this joint?" said Blair.

Todd sat up and looked over at John. "I thought I told you not to alarm her. I thought cops could be trusted."

John shrugged " I didn't alarm her. I told her I wouldn't let you drive home in this shape and I knew you wouldn't want a policeman to take you home. So here's your ride. Sue me."

As exhausted as he was, Todd had to grin. John tried to use the old  you’re too drunk to drive excuse to explain why Blair was here. He knew better. Still, he was glad to see her and John was right he wouldn't have liked going home in a police car. Standing up he slid his arm around her shoulders and she let him lean on her as they departed Rodi's. Todd threw back a parting shot. "If you seriously expect me to believe you, John, you don't know me very well. But don't worry this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."



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