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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Who's the Real Todd? Chapter 27

Suddenly feeling like an intruder, Starr knew it was time to leave the room, she tapped Jack on the shoulder, shushing him and indicated they should quietly leave. Once in the hall she suggested they see about getting some dinner before it got too much later. Starr could tell Jack was preoccupied and as soon as she had got Hope settled in her play area she turned and asked. "What's the matter Jack?"

Jack looked over at his sister remembering how when he was little she had teased him about the fact that their dad had given him away at birth. It had hurt and he remember the first time he had cried to his mom about it. She had told him, it had all been a big mistake and that his dad had moved heaven and earth to find him when he realized the terrible thing he had done. Now Jack understood the reality of it. "He did it, didn't he? He gave me away because he thought I was the son of another man."

She had been dreading this. Starr nodded and said. "But you know the story. Mom and I told you all about it years ago."

"Why did he do it? Did he hate me that much?" Jack was trying to understand how his father just gave him away.

"He didn't hate you Jack, he hated Max. Dad had just come back into our lives and he was so jealous of the feelings Mom had for Max. Mom had started worrying that Dad might try and take us from her. Because of that fear Mom told Dad, Max was your father and then she kept waiting to see if he could accept you. It was all her fault. Unfortunately, it ate away at him that he wasn't your dad. Did you know Dad delivered you down in Mexico? He told me about it later after he had gotten you back. He said it was just him and Mom and all he had to help him was a phone connection to a doctor here. He said you were the most beautiful baby boy he had ever seen, but it was a kick in the gut, when he realized you weren't his. You have to understand Dad. In a moment of insanity he saw you as an obstacle between him and Mom because Max would be around constantly since he was your dad. That's when he did the unthinkable, he gave you away and told Mom you died.”

Starr paused, looking at her brother trying to see how he was taking the whole story. “That haunted Dad and he tried everything to help Mom when he saw how badly she hurt over your loss. Right before you were born, I found out Dad was your dad but I didn't get a chance to tell him while he was down in Mexico. When he and Mom got back, Mom wouldn't let me tell him about you. It wasn't until the night Mom and Dad were getting married again that Mom decided she couldn't marry Dad without telling him the truth about you. That's when Dad found out what he had done. He tracked you down and brought you home and married Mom. But he didn't tell her what he had done because he knew she'd never forgive him for telling her you were dead. When that final truth came out Mom took us away from him."

She stopped again, letting the story sink in, then she said. " I want you to know something. For awhile we were the happiest all of us had ever been. We were a real family but the lie broke it up and that's why Dad can't forgive himself. Dad is his own worst enemy. He came back for us after being stranded on a desert island for over six months but Mom wasn't letting him close to us and he resorted to another scheme to get Mom back. That was the scheme that ended things between them. Then he disappeared and Walker showed up several months later. We didn't know Dad was even alive until Mom found him in Paris. He didn't have any memory of us and when he got his memory back he came here looking for his life back and you know the rest." she wondered what was going on in Jack's head. Starr couldn't tell if he was upset about the story or not. "Are you okay?"

Jack was trying to understand but it started eating at him "He still gave me away." He was angry.

Starr looked at him in alarm. "Jack, Please, he didn't mean to, He wasn't thinking clear. You heard his voice, you've got to believe me, he knows it was a terrible thing that he did. He can't take it back, it happened. Don't punish him. He's punished himself for it ten times over. Please Jack." her words fell on deaf ears as Jack tore up the stairs.

Jack burst into the room blazing mad " You told me you loved me but You Gave Me Away!"

Todd and Blair had jumped apart when the door had slammed open and now stared silently at their angry son. Blair got up and was going to go to her son when Todd stopped her. "This is between Jack and me. Give us some time."

Blair looked at Todd, but he nodded "I'm Okay. Go." After Blair left, Todd looked at his son. " It's your turn Jack. Let me have it."

"You told me you loved me. That you were here for me through this whole thing with Shane's mother. How can I believe that? You didn't love me enough to keep me when I was born. I was just a baby but you took me from my mother and just gave me away. How could you do that? I had never hurt you. Why?" Jack was crying and angry all at the same time. A couple of hours ago he had told his dad that he wanted him in his life, but now he wasn't so sure. He had seen love in his dad's eyes and he was confused.  It didn't make sense. If he loved him, he shouldn't have been able to give him away. "I just found you but now I feel like I hate you. You gave me away because you thought I was another man's child. So what. That's not right. Why did I become the enemy?" Jack sat down abruptly on the bed. Tears had started falling, he was hugging himself and rocking on the bed. " It's not right."

Todd struggled to get to his son, even though his head felt like it was going to drop off. He had to find a way to get through to Jack but he wasn't sure he was going to be able to. He managed to sit up but when he reached to make contact, Jack jumped from the bed and moved away. "Jack, Please! There's no excuse for what I did. I'm not a good person. I'm selfish to a fault.  At that time I wanted your Mother. I was blinded by jealousy because she was carrying the baby of a man, she, herself, had tried to kill. A man who would have sent her to prison for it but I had helped her get free of the charges. She told me that she loved me but that she wouldn't give you up and she told Max that you were his and she was going to carry you to term. All of a sudden all I saw was my life in turmoil, she wanted me to accept another man's child, a man I hated and I went insane. I tried to get her out of my system, but your mom is my drug of choice. I couldn't. On advice from my friend Sam and my sister Vicki I went to Mexico to track her down and tell her I would try to accept you."

Todd paused, trying to clear his thoughts as the pain in his head started escalating again. "She told me she still loved me and she wasn't going to marry Max. I thought, 'great I have another chance' and then she went into labor with you. It was a miracle that you survived, you were premature but I didn't realize it. Your mother asked to hold you but she passed out before I could give you to her. Then my jealousy of Max rose up because he had such a beautiful son and I didn't. I handed you over to the midwife and told her to get you out of there. Then I took it one step farther. I told your mother you had died. Several months later when your mom and I were about to get married she told me the truth." Todd was having trouble keeping focus but he had to get the truth out. "That was the day the bottom fell out of my world. You can't possibly hate me more than I hate myself. I had already lost one son and this time my own insane jealousy and fear had lost me, you. I knew I had to make it up to your Mother so I tracked you down and brought you home. But I was a coward and lied once again to your mother. I didn't tell her what I had done I let her think you were someone else's child." Todd was crying because he knew he had no more excuses.  He had treated his own flesh and blood abominably and with total disregard for the consequences.  Sam had been right. He had deserved everything that had happened when the truth came out. "I can't ask for your forgiveness because I don't deserve it, but when I told you earlier that I loved you, I meant every word. I will be here for you no matter what. You can hate me for my past, but I need you to believe me when I tell you I'm not that man anymore."

Jack listened and watched as his dad told him his side of the story. He knew from his Dad's voice that he meant every word. Jack couldn't decide what to do next. He was all cried out, he really wanted to believe his dad. Starr wanted him to forgive his dad and give him a chance. " You gave me away once, what's to stop you from turning your back on me now. I gotta go." Jack had to get out of there. He needed to think, his feeling were all jumbled up.

Todd heard the pain in his son's voice and knew if they didn't resolve this now he'd lose him. As Jack started to leave the room Todd made one last effort to connect. The rushing sound in his head was deafening but he forced himself to stand and grab Jack's shoulder. "Please Jack, give us a chance!" he got nothing else out as the roar in his head drowned out all thoughts and he blacked out at his son's feet.

Jack watched as his dad crumpled at his feet. He ran to the door and yelled "Mom, Starr help! It's Dad!" then he went back to his Dad. He knelt down afraid he might be dead. "Dad can you hear me?"

Blair arrived and took in the scene. "What happened Jack." she knelt down and felt for a pulse. It wasn't his heart that was beating steady. "Talk to me Jack."

"He was telling me his side of the story, he had sat up on the side of the bed, but I think his head was still hurting. I told him I had to get outta here and he stood up, grabbed my shoulder asking me to give us a chance and then he dropped to the floor. Is he alright Mom?" Jack asked.

“I think so Jack, I think the pain in his head caused his blackout. Help me put him back on the bed." They got Todd back on the bed and then Blair got a cold cloth from the bathroom and tried to bring Todd around. He began to mumble " Jack don't go, you've got to give me a chance. Jack ...my sins come back to haunt me... you were right Sam, I deserved it." his voice died out as he lost consciousness again

"How come he's not waking up?" asked Jack, he felt bad as he listened to his dad. He didn't want him to die or anything, he had noticed his mother checking the pulse and knew she had thought heart attack. Starr had told him Samuel had already had a number of attacks. What had she said about stress? That they were all being careful. He certainly hadn't helped that just now. He had been hurt and had just wanted answers from the dad who had actually given him away. Jack knew he had jumped all over Samuel because he had suddenly felt betrayed. It was stupid because his dad had gotten him back and he had grown up with a great mom and sister, he had even had a dad while he was growing up. He suddenly realized that his life hadn't been that bad. On the other hand, his dad hadn't been as lucky. The last eight years of his life he had lived in limbo. Away from all of them and another man had lived his life. What was it he had just said. 'he thought he deserved it.' Jack felt sorry for his dad all of a sudden. After everything, his dad had been the one who had ended up alone.

Blair continued to keep the cool cloths onTodd's head and prayed he would wake up soon. The pain should have subsided by now, Todd shouldn't have gotten up so soon. She knew he was driven to make amends to his son but today really wasn't the best day. It was done now, everything that he had done to her and his son was finally out in the open. Now maybe Todd could get on with his life and move forward leaving the past where it belonged once and for all. It was up to her son to give his dad that release and she prayed Jack would come to realize it. " I think he's going to be alright, Jack. Whatever caused the headache in the first place obviously has some leftover side effects. His heart is fine and his breathing is strong. He just needs rest. Would you mind sitting here with him until I get dinner finished? You don't have to talk to him if you're still mad. I just don't want to leave him alone. He's been alone for too long already. If you don't want to, I'll send Starr right up." she looked at her son.

"That's okay mom, I'll stay. Let me know when dinner's ready, I'm getting hungry." Jack said.

Blair smiled knowing Jack had gotten over his anger, and like a typical teenager his stomach was finally ruling his head. She handed him the cloth and headed downstairs.

Jack sat down next to his dad. He saw a man lying there, not a monster. He looked at the double scar on his face and remembered the additional ones on his back. He recalled watching him writhe in agony on the bed earlier that afternoon. He thought back to everything he had been told about his dad, all the bad things he had done. Then Jack thought about all the bad things that had been done to his dad. Then he replayed in his mind the stories Starr had told him of the father who had loved his children equally. In his mind he found himself remembering a man talking to him and being so gentle. He saw his dad laughing at him and Jack thought back to the movie night when his dad had winked at him and sided with him on the movie pick that night. His dad had been so happy that night and had gone out of his way to make sure that he had been happy that night too. Everything his dad had done since meeting him had been done out of love. Jack knew what he needed to do just then. Jack leaned close to his dad's ear "I love you Dad. I forgive you."

****

Moonlight streamed into the room shedding light on the bed, defining with light and shadow the muscles of the man lying partially uncovered as the silk sheet draped haphazardly over him. He slowly awoke covering his eyes from the moonlight as the pain from even that light hurt his head. He attempted to lift his head off the pillow and found he could with only some mild discomfort. He was wondering if that might change if he sat up. He went to remove the sheet and swing his legs off the bed when he was stopped by a very beautiful hand. "Whoa right there Mister. You just lay back down you're not going anywhere till I say so." Todd looked over and saw a very beautiful and scantily clad Blair lying next to him. Then he realized he had nothing on under the sheet. His head felt like mush but he was sure he would have remembered if he and Blair had gone to bed together. Blair reached across him and grabbed the wet cloth from his end table and laid it across his forehead. The feel of her body across his stirred sensations deep within but the cloth on his forehead felt heavenly as some more of the pain eased away. "Blair this is great but I don't remember coming to bed how did we end up like this."

"Relax Todd I'm sure you haven't noticed but the air is off. The building lost power a couple of hours ago and you were still passed out. Starr took Hope and Jack back to La Boulae. But I didn't want to move you. I locked up and came up here and undressed you, so you would cool down. Since we were the only ones here I got undressed too as the room began heating up. I laid down so I could keep an eye on you. Now let me cool you off and we'll see if you can sit up without feeling any more pain." Leaving the cloth on his forehead she got a second cloth and began to slowly bathe his body in cool water. Todd relaxed under her ministrations and his mind finally began to clear.

She began humming as she worked and he listened to the tune that had been playing the night of their official second date. Between her humming and the strokes of her hand, Todd felt his earlier sensations assailing his body again, he stopped her hand and looked at her sitting beside him. He took the cloth and began stroking her body cooling her off outside and raising her temperature inside. Unable to resist any longer, Blair straddled him as he continued his path down her body. He reached behind her back and removed her bra so he could let the cool cloth wash and caress all of her. Blair was almost transfixed as the sensations of the coolness of the cloth collided with the passion raging within her. Suddenly she felt the water being squeezed over her body and the sensations of the running water flowing everywhere had her arching her body in response. Todd felt his body responding to every little move she made on top of him and when the cool water flowed onto him off of her he almost bucked her off as all of his nerve endings sent messages firing to his brain. "God, Blair the things you make me feel." he lifted her to his side and soon all things between their bodies were gone and the love making began in earnest. Later, his head once again pounding, Todd collapsed back on the pillows as his body came back under control. Blair lay on his chest equally sated. She raised her head to give him a kiss and noticed the grimace and realized his headache was back. "My poor Todd. What did that man do to you?" she gently brushed a kiss on his forehead and began giving him a gentle massage at the temples.

Under her fingers the pain once again subsided and he lay there breathing in the scent of her. He opened his eyes to see her face above his and he pulled her into his kiss. Moments later she pulled up for air smiling that sexy kitten smile like she was almost ready to purr. "Obviously you're feeling better again. Do you want to try and sit up."

Todd nodded gingerly, and let her pull him up to a sitting position. He slowly moved his head side to side to make sure movement wouldn't bring on more pain. Then he swung his legs off the bed determined to try standing up. As he went to get up a wave of dizziness hit him. "God, I need to talk to Samuel. How many of these did he endure over the eight years." he managed to stay upright but only because Blair had steadied him. With her help he made it to the bathroom and leaned against the door frame as Blair got him some more aspirin. Even in the faint moonlight he couldn't help but admire her svelte body as she moved in front of him.

As she reached him she noticed the slight smile on Todd's face and knew he had been watching her. "Do you like what you see?" she asked as she handed him the pills and a glass of water.

He took the pills and remarked." From the first moment I met you." he continued," But the night in the park was when I really saw you. When you came to see me in jail the next day I realized a connection had somehow been forged between us. I never dreamed that connection would one day grow into Love. You're beautiful and reckless even to this day. I don't deserve you." he gently drew her out of the bathroom and turned her toward bed. Giving her a little shove he said"Wait for me." and disappeared inside.

Blair laughed and went to the bed looking for her clothing such as it was. If he made it back to the bed unaided she was going to talk him into spending the night at Dorian's. At least there they could be comfortable. She knew the other reason was simply to have more eyes keeping watch over him.

Todd emerged to find Blair waiting for him and fully dressed. "So I guess this means the fun's over." he remarked . Blair grabbed a pillow and threw it at him. He caught it and using it strategically he walked to where his clothes were laid out. Carefully he dressed and turned to her, "So we're dressed now what?"

Blair hopped up and took his arm "Now we go to Dorians where it's cooler and don't give me grief. We can't stay here it's stifling. Now that you're up we can go somewhere more comfortable."

"Blair, the last thing I remember before passing out was trying to stop Jack from leaving. How is he?" asked Todd, "I don't want to go to Dorian's if he's just going to be uncomfortable having me there."

"Jack will be fine, He's had years to deal with what you did. I think yesterday it just got pushed back to the front because he had just acknowledged you as his dad and had to wrap his mind around all the new feelings where you were concerned. You might be surprised. I think he's come to terms with it, wait and see." Blair replied.

Todd looked at her quizzically and allowed her to lead him out. It was late when they arrived at Dorian's so they entered quietly and walked into the sitting room. "Todd, how are you doing?  You were awfully quiet on the ride over." inquired Blair "Do you want to go lie down?"

"Actually, I'm starved do you have anything to eat here." asked Todd.

" Oh gosh , I forgot you had no dinner. Sit here I'll get us something."she said.

Todd sat down thinking about everything that had transpired. He had woken in such a good mood and then the day had turned upside down. Jack's involvement in Gigi Morasco's death, Samuel's visit with Ray that had been an eye opener until the pain, and then having to face Jack's anger and pain over his actions at Jack's birth, had all been draining and now he was wiped out. Life was a bitch. He attempted to remember some of what Samuel had described but the pain started coming back. He needed to chat with Samuel.

Blair returned with the food and Todd dug in. He realized he had missed both lunch and dinner. Blair watched him eat and kept him company. When he was finished she got them both a drink and they settled down to discuss their next move with Jack. "You realize Walker and Tea will be doing everything they can to keep Jack out of jail. I don't want him to end up in jail but I'm afraid if they get him off with no punishment, he'll think he's free and clear once again and he'll forget that he actually caused someone to die. You and I are going to look like the bad guys if we insist he takes his punishment."

Todd nodded and also knew in the past he would have been right alongside Tea and Manning. Something had changed in him after eight years in limbo.  He had been running from his sins all his life and it had only resulted in trouble. When he found himself in the tomb that night and knew he was dying. He realized life was too short. If Blair hadn't been there it would have been all over. It was time to be the father for Jack that he needed. Not necessarily the one that wanted to be popular with his son. It was going to be a battle but for Jack to have any kind of real life he needed to face the harsh truths now." We're his parents, we need to take a stand and stick to it Blair."

Blair did a double take as she realized for the first time that Todd was with her and was going to push for punishment not release. She had known for sometime that little changes had occurred in Todd since he had awaken in the tomb. She remembered her surprise that morning in the hospital when he had told her to call Bo. Then he had called Ray and seriously started therapy, but the fact that he was willing to be hated by his son and make Jack take his punishment was something she never thought she would see. The love of her life had grown up.

"Blair, Carlo is going to hear about this and you can bet your life he'll be watching to see how I react to the whole situation. If you and Samuel show a united front insisting that Jack take responsibility I think we can keep Carlo off guard. Manning is going to do things the way he was programmed that I would do, he's going to figure out a way to get Jack off. Knowing the circumstances, Manning is going to succeed. Be prepared for that. Jack is going to skate. We're going to have a fight on our hands making Jack realize that getting free of the charges at the expense of another isn't right. If we can't get that through his head someone else might just do it for us and it might end up being a disaster all around." Todd took a drink and got silent, thinking of the different scenarios where Jack could end up in deeper trouble than he was currently.

Blair moved closer and took Todd 's hand in hers. "We'll just have to make him understand before it comes to that"

"I hope we can, Blair. I don't like the other scenarios if we don't." he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it and then held it closed to his heart. Todd turned and looked wearily at her. "We can't do anymore tonight. I'm wiped out let's go to bed." She nodded and they headed upstairs knowing the next day was going to be a bitch.


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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Memories Unlocked #13



          Starr opened the door and walked into the hospital.  It looked a lot different from the one at home.  It was all spread out with many branching hallways.  She sighed knowing it wasn’t going to be easy finding her father there.  She gulped and straightened her shoulders and walked up to the desk marked Information.  An older woman was sitting there writing out something and didn’t notice her.


“Ahem, excuse me, I’m looking for my dad.”


           The woman jumped, startled by the voice. “Oh, dearie me, I didn’t even hear you come up.  You’re looking for your father, you say.   What’s his name, Hon?”


“Todd Manning.  Can you tell me where he is?  I haven’t seen him in a while and I really miss him.”  Starr’s voice trembled and she felt tears start to form. She blinked rapidly hoping to clear them from her eyes before they fell.


The receptionist caught a glimpse of the tears and noted how the little girl struggled to appear brave. “ Goodness, I’m so sorry to hear that.  Let me see if he’s here.”  After a brief silence, she looked at the little girl.  “There isn’t anyone by that name here.  Do you know why he is in the hospital?”


Starr shook her head.  “Mom didn’t say but I heard her talking to the another lady and she was told he was here.”  She thought back to what she had overheard.  Then she remembered what else her mom said. “Wait, he’s not a patient.  Mom said he works here.  Please look and see if he’s working here?”  Starr crossed her fingers and prayed as the woman looked on her computer again.


“I’m sorry Dearie, we have no Todd Manning on staff.  You must have misunderstood.  We do have a couple of Todds though.  One of them, Todd Barker, is in housekeeping and the other Todd Drake, works on the Children’s Ward.  Where is your mother?  Maybe if I had more information I could find out who told her that your father worked here.  Is she around, Hon?”


Starr did some quick thinking, “Um, she told me to wait here while she paid the taxi driver.  I’m not sure what is keeping her.  When she comes in she can tell you what you want to know.  Excuse me, but can you tell me where the bathroom is?”  She began dancing from foot to foot and the lady nodded toward the hallway to Starr’s left.


“It’s right down there, Sweetie, come back and see me when your mother gets here.”


Starr took off fast before the lady could ask any more question about her mom.  She went into the bathroom and leaned against the wall, her tears fell fast as disappointment set in.  She had been so sure she would find her dad right away. After a few minutes, she reached up and wiped her tears away with her hand. She straightened her shoulders and thought out loud. “Okay, the lady detective said Daddy worked here.  He’s got to be here.” She thought a moment longer and then grinned to herself. “That’s it.  Daddy is using another last name so they won’t put him in jail.  I’ll find those guys, one of them must be Daddy.”


****


“You were right Li, dragons are very hard to kill.”  Todd paused thinking about all his scars, he seemed to have escaped death a number of times.


“Mr. Drake, what happened next,” asked Blanca?


Todd looked toward Lucy’s room and noted that the nurses were still in there.  He was beginning to fear that Lucy was fighting her own battle to stay alive.  He ran his tongue under his lips and then forced a smile onto his face.  “What happened next?  I’ll tell you.”  He continued the story hoping to keep the children distracted.
 
Now the island that the dragon landed on was so isolated that the natives who lived there knew nothing of dragons.  The children of the island loved to play in a special cove near the ocean  and that particular day they had all decided to go swimming. One of the little boys spotted the large mound on their beach.


“Hey, look at that.  What do you think it is?” asked Kwan turning to his friends.


The children made their way down to the beach.  They moved closer to the beast.  As they neared it, one of the girls noticed it was injured.  “Oh the poor thing, we have to help it,”


“We should be careful.  It isn’t a whale or a shark.  My father says great sea serpents swim in the ocean, it must be one of those.” said Kwan  and his friends all nodded.  It sounded reasonable and they had never seen a dragon.  “Maybe we should just leave it alone.  It might eat us.”


The little girl who had seen the wounds turned to Kwan.  “ Look at how hurt it is.  We should help it.  Let’s gather some seaweed and we’ll cover the wounds.  Momma’s been teaching me how to care for our injured farm animals.  I bet we could, at least, make the beast more comfortable.”


Kwan wasn’t sure the beast could be trusted, so he and some of the boys decided to keep watch over it while the girls worked on helping it.


The dragon had awakened at the sound of voices but he was too worn out to attack the children and he was curious if they would harm him some more.  He cracked open an eyelid to watch the boys as they stood guard.  None of them wavered and the boy who had spoken stood directly in front of the dragon’s mouth with a stick.  It would have been so easy to snatch the boy and eat him but the dragon was intrigued by the boy’s bravery.


The girls returned and soon they began to smooth the seaweed mixture of crushed coral and herbs into the gashes in his side.  The dragon stirred in surprise.  The mixture was cool and soothing and he relaxed.  He rolled over giving better access to his wounds and again pretended to be asleep. They were helping him.  


His movement had caused all the girls to scream and  back away. Even some of the boys had moved back but Kwan had stepped forward and pushed his stick down on the dragon’s mouth determined to protect the rest of the children no matter what.  When the beast made no further moves, the girls began binding up the leg and the broken wing.


The great dragon allowed the children to continue and he again looked at the brave boy. He had felt the boy’s stick on his nose and he could have snapped it and the boy in two but he admired the boy’s courage.  He was the only one who had stood his ground when the dragon had moved.  As evening fell, the great dragon rested and tried to regain some strength.  After the children had dressed his wounds, they had cheered that they had helped the beast but then they had taken off to swim.  The mighty dragon had listened to their laughter and tried to figure out why they had helped him.  That night when he awoke he was surprised to find a pile of fish left close to his mouth.  The children were gone but they had been kind enough to leave him something to eat.


Days passed and the dragon got stronger. The children returned daily to get him food and drink.  The girls continued to dress his wounds and soon the boys had relaxed enough to help them.  Only Kwan remained vigilant. He had come out one night and had watched as the dragon attempted to get to his feet.  When the dragon was unable to get up, he let out an enormous blast of fire and roared his displeasure.  Kwan realized then how dangerous the beast was and he was not going to let his friends get hurt.  As his friends once again ran to get fish for the beast, Kwan approached the dragon.  The beast opened his eyes and looked at the lad in front of him, for the first time, he spoke.


“What do you want, Kwan?”


Kwan jumped. He was startled and shocked.  No animal that he knew could speak, yet the great beast was talking to him. For a moment, Kwan wanted to warn his friends.  This wasn’t an ordinary animal.  Kwan straightened to his full height, determined not to show the beast his fear.  “I saw what you can do.  I won’t allow you to hurt my friends.”


“I have no intentions of hurting your friends.  All of you have been helping me, but you are right to be afraid.  People like you are the ones who hurt me and I’m helpless right now.  If your parents find out I’m here, they will try to kill me and I’ll have to defend myself.  Because of your help, I won’t harm you but I need to leave this island.  You must find a way to get me on my feet.  The longer I’m here the more likely your parents will come looking for you and then they’ll discover me.  If you help me, I promise to leave you in peace.” Once again the dragon attempted to get to his feet and once again his damaged leg gave way.  “You see my problem.  Will you help?”


Kwan realized the best way to help his family was to get the beast off the island.  “My father is the tool maker for the village and I help him.  I think with the help of my friends, I could make something to help you get on your leg.  If I do that, will you leave and not hurt our village?”


“If you can get me on my feet, I promise to leave without harming anyone.”


“How do I know I can trust you?”


Todd paused in his story when he saw Lucy’s parents walked past the activity room in a hurry.  He felt a chill go down his back.  It appeared Lucy was failing fast.






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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Who's the Real Todd? Chapter 26

Starr checked on Hope but she had slept through her dragon's screams. Thankfully Hope was a heavy sleeper. Starr was still feeling the remnants of terror that had filled her as the sound had reverberated through the penthouse. Jack had asked to find out about his dad and Starr knew the time has come to tell him everything.

They got settled and she turned to her brother and asked, "Where do you want me to start?

"First off, tell me what's wrong with him." Jack was concerned. He knew that something bad had just occurred, but it seemed to just be one more thing to his sister and Mother. They appeared to know everything good and bad about the man he now realized was his real dad. He wanted to know about him too.

She wasn't sure where to start. "Dad has a bad heart from the events of 2003. He's already had several attacks and we almost lost him right after he came back to us. That night he collapsed outside Aunt Dorian's, the same people who hurt him back when he disappeared, tried to poison him. He's still suffering the effects of that, as well as having to watch the stress on his heart. I don't know what happened tonight but from what Samuel was saying it's my guess that the headaches are also caused by what happened back then. You know about Dad's alters, I know you've met Samuel. There are others Tom and Rodd are very nice and although I've never met Ms. Perkins, Mom tells me she not too bad. Pete is the alter who's dangerous."

Jack interrupted Starr. "I've met Pete.  He's a pretty scary guy."

"My God, when did you meet Pete? Does Dad know you met him? Did he hurt you?" Starr asked in alarm. She remembered her brief encounter with Pete right after she had told her dad about Walker being accused of raping their mom. She had thought Pete was going to go tear Walker apart. He was so cold and angry. What had he done to Jack?

"No he didn't hurt me, but he made me realize what I did yesterday to Shane's mom. He wasn't very nice, he kept hammering at me that I wanted something bad to happen, he kept repeating it. He said I was glad it happened and that I was just like him. But I'm not Starr, I'm not happy.  When it hit me that I caused someone to die, I got sick inside. I never meant it to happened but Dad helped me understand what I might have to do to make this right. Starr, have you ever seen Dad's back. It's covered in scars. Pete showed them to me. They looked pretty old did he get them in 2003 too.?

"No Jack, Dad got those long before I was born. Most of them were given to him by his adoptive father Peter Manning but I know he was severely hurt in 2003 so I'm guessing he probably picked up a few new ones just like the second scar on his face. But wait a minute, you're telling me Pete came out to talk to you about what you did to Shane and his mom."asked Starr.

"Yeah, I thought Samuel, I mean Dad, was going to get all mad and yell at me the way our other dad did and instead this Pete guy was here. At first, he was like real cold but he began talking about himself and Dad and doing really bad things and how he understood the rush one gets when a plan goes the way you want it to. That was when he started goading me about Shane. I broke down and he left and that's when Dad showed up. We had a long talk until I got sick and then you guys got home. Starr, it's funny but I know he loves me and he's going to help. I want to know more about him. What was he like when you were little?" Jack inquired

Starr smiled, "At times he was the biggest goofball you ever saw. He would do things you'd never figure a grownup would do, and the thing was, it didn't bother him if they thought he was silly, as long as I liked it. He and mom were always in love but Dad had a habit of doing something and mom would get mad and they would fight. Mom just never really understood how Dad was so afraid of losing us that he would make mistakes. Dad loves us, more than you know. When I was little I got into all sorts of my own kinds of trouble. Dad was always willing to give me a break, I think because he himself couldn't seem to stay out of trouble. He let me get away with tons of stuff and I would help him with his plans to get Mom back after she would break up with him. You were little when he disappeared and your memories are so few. That's why it's taken you this long to recognize him." Starr paused and looked at her brother. "He loves you so much. When you were a baby I actually got jealous of you and ran away. But when they found me, Dad let me know that his love for me was as strong as ever. Dad's a wizard when it comes to storytelling. Hope loves his stories and mom and I do too. You saw how his imagination works, remember the movie night. I think Dad's so good with Hope and kids because he understands them. Tom is near and dear to him and keeps him close to his inner child. He's special Jack, and I never realized how different he was from Walker till he came back."

Jack had been listening intently and when Starr brought up the father he had known most of his life he knew he had to ask the question. "I know he's been gone all this time but if he's our Dad, why did you and mom and Tea, even Aunt Vicki all think the guy who's in the hospital was Dad."

Starr looked a little embarrassed. "Some of that was my doing. I wanted Dad home so bad that I believed Walker when he told me he was Dad. He answered questions that I was sure only Dad and I would know. Cousin Kevin was suspicious of him and finally after some time Walker told everyone he was Todd. So Walker became Dad and like Dad, he and mom began their strange dance all over again. You know how many times they broke up and made up. Walker too got into his own share of troubles but I should have realized long ago that there was something off about Walker." 

Starr got off her bed and went to her dresser and took the two pictures she had there. One was Walker and the other her Dad. "She handed the picture of Walker to her brother.  "You love him because he's the only dad you've grown up with. You had nothing to compare him to but when Dad got home, I realized they were like night and day. By the way, mom and I call Dad, Walker because that was his name when we met him. I guess you'll have to keep calling Walker, Dad, and you'll have to call Dad, Samuel, so you can tell them apart. Anyway, I should have realized Dad wouldn't have reacted to Cole and my pregnancy quite the same way as Walker did. Dad's anger was always directed more at himself than me whenever I did something that disappointed him. Just like today. Dad feels he let you down and that's why this happened. I could tell he was blaming himself when he came up here earlier. Dad always punishes himself. If he had been here when Cole and I made love, he would have been hurt, because he would have felt he had somehow caused me to do it. That's not to say he wouldn't have been furious at Cole but I don't think he would have beaten him up like Walker did. Then again maybe Pete would have. I don't know but I do know he wouldn't have tried to take my baby. He would never have hurt me like that."

She paused, looking at her brother trying to gauge his reaction to everything, then she continued. "I also know that Dad's relationship with Marty would have been different. Mom told me Dad has never forgiven himself for raping Marty. I know that he's been concerned for Marty even though she's done so many horrible things lately. There have been times in the last few years that I was actually afraid of what Walker was capable of. I have never ever felt afraid of Dad. I know this is all very confusing right now. I love Walker and Dad both and it seems both of them are mixed up with the man who tried to have Walker shot and Dad poisoned. It's so important that we let the world believe that Walker is Todd Manning and that Dad is Samuel Toddman. It's the only way to keep them safe until Bo and the authorities get the guy who hurt them both. You have to continue to give your attention to Walker, he's the dad you know and people are watching. Come and visit here, letting people know you're coming to see me and Hope. That way the time you spend here won't be suspicious. The more time you give yourself with Dad the better you'll feel. We're here to support you, Jack, remember that. I love you. You're my brother. I know you didn't mean for this to happen but now that it has, we'll have to cope." Starr watched Jack's face fall as he thought about what he faced and she got up and gave him a hug. "Don't worry, this will work out. If Dad has anything to do with this we'll all get through it."

Todd woke up.  He hadn't meant to hit his head quite that hard. It was dark surely it wasn't time for lights out. "Man! Hey nurse, I could use something for the pain. Hey anybody here?" He paused as he felt what he laid on. This ain't like no prison bed he ever remembered. He started to sit up but the pain was so intense all he managed to do was fall back against the pillows.  He was lying on silk, where the heck was he?

It was easier on his head just to lie still, but he heard a door open and listened as someone entered the room. They sat down next to him on the bed, whoever it was sure smelled good. Maybe the bed belonged to her. "Todd, how are you feeling. Can I get you anything." he knew that voice. She hadn't turned on the light but her image appeared in his mind, she was tall, blond,a southern accent that would melt gold, pure sex kitten. Yeah, that's right, that voice belonged to Blair, now there was a woman worth fighting for. Cord was a fool. "Blair why did you let me drink so much. You know I can't go to the country club like this. I need that job, I told you, I'm outta here the next paycheck.  I'm gonna get as far away from Llanview as I can."

Blair sat stunned. What was going on? Todd was talking like it was 1995. What was she going to do? "Todd let me get you some aspirin you just relax. You said you were off today just rest." Blair got up and headed to the bathroom. She got a glass of water and the medicine and took it back into him. He took the pills and leaned back. "You just let that head get better, I'll come check on you later. "

"Thanks, Blair let the aspirin take affect and I'll get out of here before Cord comes over." Todd closed his eyes and rested, dozing back off.

Once she was sure he was asleep she turned the light on and reached for the phone. "Ray, we've got a problem. Todd just woke up complaining of a raging headache. But he said the strangest thing. He was talking to me as if it was 1995 and he still worked for the country club before his pardon came through. Any ideas?" she listened as Ray told her the confusion was probably caused by whatever had caused the pain earlier. He suggested just watching and seeing if the confusion continued. Todd was beginning to stir so Blair turned the light off before it would aggravate his pain.

Todd was back in that dark tomb. He couldn't believe what his new sister had just told him. Their father had raped her as a child. "You bastard, you raped your own daughter when she was a child. God what a pair of fathers, you and Peter cut from the same cloth. Look what you produced. Like fathers like son. Here's to me, Rapist makes three. " Todd got quiet again.

Blair just sat and listened, tears flowing slowly down. Why was he having to relive everything all over again? Carlo deserved to die for what he did to Todd.

"Blair we were making headway. Starr's all better now, how can you take the word of Dorian over me. You can't do it. You can't take Starr away, I'll fight for her and I'll win, don't do this to us." Todd couldn't believe Blair would do that, "You're taking Patrick's word over mine. To hell with you. You're not taking my daughter!"

Starr opened the door, "What's going on Mom. I heard him shouting my name."

"Ray thinks the shock to his brain this afternoon triggered some sort of memory access and your father's reliving his past. " Blair wiped the tears from her eyes as she waited for the next outburst that he might remember.

"Sam I don't want to talk about it. You're sick, you know that Sam. Nothing happened, he got mad and he used his belt on me. Stop it, Sam, don't go there! I'll kill you if you tell anybody especially Tea. I'm coming out. Blair get her out of her! Take her home.... Vicki, it's different, nobody hates you. Heh, The good Todd ...I'm not alright." Todd's voice trailed off again.

Starr sat down next to the chair unable to leave. She turned to her mom. "I remember that night with Sam. That's the night Daddy gave me Freddy the magic frog. He said he was going away and if I wanted to talk to him I should just talk to Freddy and he would hear me. That's when we met Tom

Blair nodded remembering how she forced Pete to come out and take over from Tom because she was convinced he was faking it. She was so used to Todd's anger that when Pete threatened her she just figured Todd was bluffing. How wrong they had all been.

Todd began talking again, only, this time, they listened in on a conversation of his alters. "I bought all these seats so I wouldn't have to talk to anyone... stupid attendant all I want is to be left alone. You'll miss me Tea you wait....” Todd tossed his head, his eyes open, seeing something none of them could see.

“You're no fun, Todd.  We were having fun.  We should never have let you out.....”

To those listening it seemed like Tom had entered the room and then just as quickly they heard Rodd.

“Love you no understand, the love you distinguish ....”, then another chilling voice.

“Give me your hand... you can't fool me....you feel pain,Todd... "

"That was Pete, what's going on." Blair and Starr turned around to see Jack standing in the doorway. " Why did Pete say that to Dad. He sounded like he was trying to hurt him"

"Shh Jack, Pete was only here because your dad is caught up in his past. Something has triggered this river of memories and your dad is caught in the current. We can only wait." Blair watched as Jack sat down on her other side fascinated by what he had overheard. He had noticed the tears on his mother's cheeks, he knew she really cared for his dad and this was probably hurting her to hear him go through this.

It had gotten so eerily quiet in the room when suddenly his dad's voice cried out. "Do you have any idea what you made me do!" the agony in his voice was palpable. Jack heard his mother's gasp. "You told me he was Max's but he was mine.  How could you do that to me? You can't possibly fix this. My god, He was mine!.....What did I do?" Todd was crying unable to keep the pain from escaping at the horror of what he had done.

Blair could stand it no longer. She went to the bed and sat down next to him "Todd, I forgive you, you need to forgive yourself. Todd, you brought him home." She was crying, hugging him and pleading, "Please, you're hurting yourself, you brought him home."

Todd's arms came up and encircled her as he came awake fully . The vestiges of the vision he had been trapped in filtered away. "I hurt you Blair and I failed my own son. No wonder you sent me away.  All I ever did was hurt you. It's my true curse, I'm destined to hurt you all." Todd released her and laid back against the pillow. "It was all so real like it was happening all over again." his voice caught threatening to break down again.

Blair took his hand in the darkness and with her free hand, she stroked his forehead trying to soothe the pain, both the physical and mental he was feeling. "It's over we've been down those paths and we survived. You're not destined to hurt me any more than I'm destined to hurt you. but we are destined to be each other's one true love. That's never going to change. I believe that with everything in me and you need to believe it too. The rest we'll take on as it comes at us because together we're unbeatable.

"Blair, I've asked myself over and over why you want to have anything to do with me. After our first encounter, I was surprised you still wanted to talk to me. Everyone else considered me something to stay away from but you didn't seem to care that you were talking to the town pariah. We even shared our misery as we started our little most pathetic game. That game ..huh it's the story of our lives." Todd reached up and took her hand from his forehead and brought it to his lips. "We're quite a pair." Blair kissed him in response.



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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Chasing the Monsters: 43

"You didn't do anything wrong, Jack," Jenna said, brushing some of his hair out of his eyes.  She kissed him, and it landed just west of his mouth.

"I just felt like an asshole, you know?  Grandma didn't know anything that Mitch guy did.  It was like, not my business or something, but she sorta acted weird about him."


"Like weird how?"


"She was all into him.  She even painted him.  I'm not even sure she's really done with it.  She seemed, confused."


"I don't know if we're meant to understand that."


"Me neither.  Anyway, she cried and junk.  I felt like shit."


"She cried because she realized what he had done to her baby.  Her son."


He smiled at her.  "How did you get so damn smart?"


"I don't know," she smiled back, and then kissed him again.  Then she took his hand and started walking.  "So, what happened after that?"


"My Dad came in, he was about to apologize to her, and she just sort of did it first, kinda.  She said she didn't want to see Laurence anymore.  Something like that.  Mom was amazing, as usual."


"Your grandma just didn't know.  So what you did, was actually right.  She didn't know, and you told her the truth.  Nothing wrong with that."


"If you look at it like that, no, there's not."


"Okay, then, think of it like that."


"I'll try, thanks."


"Was your Dad okay?"


"I don't know.  I don't get how he ever could be.  Lots of . . . well, bad stuff has happened to him, from when he was a kid."


She didn't answer.  She just nodded and pursed her lips.


He said, "I think I should tell him.  You know, that I'm going to go to college.  Maybe he could use to hear that right now."


"Maybe.  He'll be happy, won't he?"


"Yep."


"Then tell him.  He probably could use it."


"Yeah.  I'll tell him tonight."


"Good."


"Yep, it is.  And so are you," he said, running his hand on her hair.


***


The doorbell rang, and Blair, wiping Jewel's hands off in the kitchen, shouted, "I can't get to it!"


Todd came down the staircase, tablet in hand, and said, "I will.  And I'm working from home today."  He went to the door, still reading on his tablet, and opened it.  "Dad?" he said, peaking Blair's interest as well as his own.


"Son," Timothy said, and his face was twisted with emotion.  "Son, I . . ."


"Dad, what's wrong?"  Todd said, his eyes following Timothy as he shuffled into the foyer.  "Something's up, you made another trip from Chicago in the same week."


Blair came out from the kitchen, leaving Jewel in her high chair.  "Dad, it's good to see you," her voice trailed off, and she looked at Todd who gave her a confused shrug.


Timothy was already in the family room, sitting, staring off in a strange way.   At the same time, Bitsy, holding little Ray's hand, came back inside from a morning walk around the yard.  She said, "Good morning," and then took in the scene, realizing something was off.  "I'm taking the children upstairs," she said, and lifted Jewel out of her chair.


"Thank you, Momma," Blair said, walking into the family room.  Todd followed her.  Both of them stood in front of Timothy, who was deflated, like a crushed balloon, on the couch. 


Todd said, "Dad, what is it?  Are you all right?"


He looked up at both of them, and slowly responded.  "No."


"My God, I'll get a glass of water," Blair said, going to the kitchen.  


Todd, who had been standing, with his arms crossed over his chest, said, "What's up, Old Man?"


"It's . . . Pamela."


"The case?  She remembered something else?  Something in the journals?"


"No," Timothy said, "she's dead."  His voice shattered.


Todd sat down, slowly, across from his adoptive father.  "What?  What do you mean?"


Blair returned with a glass of water, and handed it to Timothy, who drank some of it, and brushed the moisture away from under his eyes.  He said, "She took her life."


"Oh my God," Blair said, covering her mouth, "that's . . . oh my God, no."  


We were just there.  The dinner.  It can't be . . .

"It was . . . a terrible scene.  In some strange way, I am thankful I was the one to find her."  Timothy croaked out, and drank more water.


Todd wasn't saying anything, and Blair said, "When?"


"Yesterday.   At her home."


"I'm sorry," she said.  The room became still.


Todd finally said, "She took her own life?"


"Yes," the Irishman answered, "I went back to see Ribsky, he said he had a meeting and I could wait there for him, hang with Pamela.  When I got there, the door was ajar in the front.  It was too late; she was already dead.  She . . . cut her wrists and bled to death."  He choked up and broke down into his hands.


Todd 
got up and Blair went to sit beside her father-in-law.  She swallowed, and said, "Oh Dad, how awful."

"It's a sight I won't soon forget, Bridgette."

Todd said, "Why did she do it, Dad?"  Blair knew Todd was already cataloging this in his list of harm done.


"Jack, he was despondent.  Somehow, he was not surprised.  She'd been plagued, for weeks, with thoughts and guilt.  And, we didn't know this, but she was dying.  Of cancer.  She couldn't handle what her sister left to the world.  Injustice and a cold world, from where I'm sitting."


"This wasn't her fault,"  Todd said.  "It's not even Connie's."


"I wish she could see it that way, Lad.  But can ya?  Ribsky was inconsolable.  I don't plan to be here long, he needs a friend, and somehow, we've bonded a great deal over these two people in our lives.  I must go back."


"Meaning?"  Todd asked, knowing the answer.  


"Meaning Pamela and you, Todd.  After seeing this, first hand, I just wanted to be close to me family."  Timothy took two tapes out of his pocket and placed them on the coffee table.  "Your 911 calls. I wasn't going to bring them, but then, I realized full disclosure was going to be best.   After these, I realized we may be up against something larger with longer roots than we thought."


Todd looked at the tapes but made no move to touch them.  "What's on those?"  He had to hear it.


"Several emergency calls.  Including one small boy."


He gulped.  "So, I didn't imagine it."


"No."  Timothy agreed.


"Did you listen?" he asked.


"Yes."


Todd looked to his hands and then said, "I don't remember much.  Not first hand."


"Ya said everything ya were supposed to.  The dispatcher was directed to send y'ar call to a specific line.  She never knew who was at the other end of it or why, but she did as she was asked.  According to Ribsky, she's been tormented over it ever since."


"Tormented?"  Todd asked, his voice quiet and restrained.  "She couldn't have been that bad off.  She never came forward until now.  She knew.  Someone knew.  People knew what was happening to us, and someone shoved it under the rug."


"Likely more than one person knew something, maybe not the details, but something.  The director, and the person on the line."


"Cover-up.  For money, likely, if I know Peter.  Probably awarded their silence well."


"She got nothing, that I know.  She was just afraid to cause trouble, I believe.  To lose her job.  The people involved are likely much more powerful.  She followed orders.  Her mistake was not standing up and saying something."


Todd fingered the tapes, but still did not take them off the table.  Timothy continued, "Ribsky is not giving up.  I'll have ya know he wants to get to the bottom of it.  Says it's a symptom of a sick system.  If there's one cover-up, there will be more.  And, he believes that all of it relates to the loss of Connie, and now, in an odd way, Pamela. He's like a man unchained.  This is why I feel I must go back."


"He's right," Blair said, standing and pacing, "it is sick.  How can someone let this happen to a little boy and his mother for money?" she said, her voice splintering.  


Todd put his hand out and she took it, and he gently pulled her to the couch beside him.  She gathered herself together, while Timothy went on.  "Ribsky says it won't end here.  He'll do more digging and get to the bottom of it.  He's more motivated, let's say, from heartbreak and a thirst for revenge himself," Timothy pointed to the tapes.  "I'm concerned, a bit, for him."

Todd leaned forward.  "He knows who it is?  The voice on the tape?"


"Not definitely, and he's not saying right now.  I think he knows enough to keep that quiet.  Can't have Todd Manning going off to try and right things, eh?  When he finds out the truth, he will take care of it, and he will tell us."


"The truth," Todd repeated, studying the tapes.  "Unless he goes and takes care of it himself.  Pamela's dead.  What has he got to lose?"


"This turn of events made him believe.  He no longer doubts y'ar memories and he wants justice.  Feels if that department can cover this, they can cover anything.  And these tapes, they're evidence.  He asked me to hold them, for safe keeping."  He reached for them back.


Before he could get his hands onto them, Todd slapped his strong palm down on top.  "No.  This is a piece of my past, and I need to have them."


"Ya can't.  Ya know that, Todd.  I have to keep them, under lock and key."


"Then why did you bring them?"


"I'm not even sure anymore.  Maybe so ya could listen, if ya insisted.  Which I knew ya would.  No use in trying to fight ya on these things.  I think I might do the same, now that I see what an unclear past brings.  But ya can't keep them, and I'm not even sure ya should hear.  As y'ar father, I wish ya wouldn't listen.  As a man, I understand if ya have to."


Blair was still crying, and she shook her head no as her husband gently picked them up.


Todd said, "Cassettes.  Hmf.  Just starting to be popular then, right?"


"Well, yes, they were pretty common by the mid 70s."


Blair was biting her thumbnail, watching Todd gently hold and turn over the cassettes.  He said, "There are only dates."


"Yes.  There were no other markings on tapes of this kind, Ribsky said.  The contact was told to put them into a file cabinet and lock it."


Todd seemed to be in another place.  "And she locked it.  And they've been there, in the drawer, locked away."


"Yes, Son."


Blair still had a firm grasp on his bicep with her free hand.  Her tears fell freely.  She said, "Todd, you don't have to."


He didn't answer her, and just stared at the plastic casings.


Timothy said, "Knowing what it would mean to ya, I brought them.  I just figured y'ad find a way to get y'ar hands on them if I didn't.  I'll wait here while ya listen, or make copies."


Todd didn't move, he just held the tapes in his hand.  Blair repeated, "And you don't have to, at all, Todd."


"Right," Timothy added, "ya can just let it go, if ya like."


Todd paused, and then said, "I can't."


Blair just closed her eyes, and Todd stood up.  "I'll be right back, then.  Babe," he said, touching her arm.  She opened her eyes and looked at him.  He said, "Don't worry about me.  I'll be all right, and it won't take long.  I'm going to make a copy, and listen later."  He disappeared onto the second level.


She fell onto the couch opposite her father-in-law.  Timothy said, "I'm sorry, Bridgette, I just thought . . ."


She spoke over him, "Oh, Dad, He would have probably broken the law to get his hands on those tapes.  He never could have just let it go.  This thing . . . this Hell he's faced since childhood has such a strong hold.  And now, another life.  Snuffed out.  Sometimes I wonder if it will ever let go of his soul," her voice rasped. 


"On the contrary, Dear Heart.  His soul has to let go of it."


A while later, Timothy drove himself back to the penthouse to rest and refresh himself with a good night's sleep before returning to Chicago.  He picked up the phone.  "Creena, I need to hear y'ar voice," Timothy said, calling his sister.


"Oh, Broham, what seems to be getting ya down?"  the nun said.


"The spirit of Thor is surrounding me, Dear One."  


"What?  Come now, Brotha, ya know ya don't even believe in that."


"No, but Todd's headed for painful trouble, and that man, Ribsky, that I mentioned?  He is as well."


"Goodness, no.  How did all this come about?"


"His wife, Pamela, took her own life."


She crossed herself.  "That is just horrible, Broham.  Are ya all right?"


"Yes.  Something was amiss with her.  She couldn't bear the weight of the world around her.  And, there's other news."


"What is it?"


"I hold in my hands two tapes that have a recording of Todd, as a child."


"Oh, that's darling, Dear One.  I must hear."


"No, it's not like that.  They're recordings . . . of him calling for help to the police.  They ignored him, left him to deal with it on his own.  I've listened. It rips y'ar heart out of y'ar body, it does."


She swallowed, and said, "A child.  Seeking help.  Why did they ignore him?"


"We don't know.  It was intentional.  We're speculating money."


"He was just a wee boy."


"Yes, and Dear Heart, I hope I was not wrong for telling him about this.  The detective, from Chicago, that Ribsky fellow?  He wants to help, but now he is driven by his own demons."


"Todd should not be in Chicago again, any time soon."


"No.  He shouldn't.  I'm hoping he won't.  But I am not sure what effect the tapes will have on him.  I feel such guilt, Creena, over the last year.  Sometimes, I . . ."

"Ya what, Brotha?"


"I . . . can't lie to ya.  Right now, I want a drink, Sister.  And I've been tempted, more than once."


"No, Broham.  That won't help matters.  Y'all lose everything.  The drink is no place to dive into, for y'all drown.  And of course, no one can stop ya but ya'rself."


"I realize it, and I promised.  But it calls to me, especially now.  Trying to forget seeing that woman dead . . ."


"I'm sure of that.  Just pray, or if ya can't, I will.  Think of those children, and of Todd, and this new friend ya have.  All will need ya.  And they'll need ya sober."


"I have been.  I suppose I'll muddle through, eh?"


"Yes, I suppose ya will.  Do ya want me to come there?"


"No.  If I need ya, I will come there instead."  He hung up.


Sister Rebecca Katherine went to her little address book and flipped through it.  Finding the number, she dialed.  "Hello, this is Sister Rebecca Katherine.  Yes, I'm fine, and ya?  Well, I have something to ask ya, if y'ar not busy . . .it's about Timothy.  It's . . . well, a very tough time. . .he needs a friend, and I thought ya would want to help.  Yes.  No, he's back in Llanview, for the night, at the penthouse.  It is important, or I wouldn't ask.  Thank ya."


She hung up, and looked out the window.  "Let's see what happens naturally," and she closed her eyes and prayed.


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