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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Who's the Real Todd? Chapter 35

It was gray and rainy as they stepped off the plane, but it suited Todd's mood. He had gotten somber and introspective long before the plane had begun its descent. The limousine took them to the bungalow Todd had picked out for their stay. Any other time Blair would have loved it. The bungalow sat on the hillside overlooking Puget Sound. It was quite lovely, but everything was overshadowed by the real reason for the trip to Seattle. After getting settled, Todd and Blair decided to try and enjoy the time they had left before his visit with Dr. McBain.

The night after their meal with Larry, Blair had caught Todd up on the young Doctor McBain. She explained that for a short amount of time Michael and his wife Marcie had been adopted parents of Sam. Eventually, they had to give him up to Walker who was his real father. She had remarried Walker at the time to provide a stable home for Sam, and when Walker had gotten over-obsessive about Starr and her boyfriend it had become necessary to take custody of Sam as well as Starr and Jack for their own safety. The next year Walker had gone a little haywire. It had been during that year that Walker had plotted to take Starr's baby and raise the child with Marty. Blair and Todd surmised that Walker had been unraveling for some time probably beginning around the time he had started objecting to Cole.

That afternoon they made their way to Samuel's appointment. With Todd's X-rays in hand, they were shown into Dr. McBain's office. Todd was too nervous to sit, so he paced, brooding the whole time. He had Larry's assurance the Dr. McBain was one of the best in his field but it was his life on the line.

Michael had been informed that Samuel Toddman was waiting in his office. After his conversations with Larry Wolek, he had been curious to meet this gentleman. The case sounded fascinating. He had been wondering all morning where he had heard Mr. Toddman's name, but as he entered his office he placed the name right away. "Mr. Toddman, how coincidental that you should end up in my office once again. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances." Michael had been looking at Samuel and now he realized someone else was in the office. He stopped for a minute recognizing Blair and wondering why she was with Samuel. " Blair, this is a surprise."

Todd spoke up. "My apologies Dr. McBain, I'm aware you two know each other. Blair is my wife and is here to support me."

Michael looked from Blair to Samuel and realized that Blair was fully caught up with Samuel's dilemma. So they probably should get down to the reason for the visit. After his chat with Larry Wolek, Michael had gotten an unusual call from his brother John. John had indicated he was aware of Samuel's problem and had stressed the need for secrecy. Between Dr.Wolek's call and John's call, Michael knew this was an extremely delicate and dangerous matter. "Samuel, may I ask a question?"

"Certainly Doctor, what do you want to know?" answered Todd.

"The first time we met you were trying to find out about your accident and where you had been before being brought to Philadelphia General. I remembered you being brought to us from the Kipling Neuroscience Research Facility. Tell me something. Do you believe that the implant I'm about to try and remove was placed in you at that research facility?" Michael waited, he feared that Samuel was about to confirm his suspicions.

Todd looked at Michael and spoke grimly. "I'm certain Dr. McBain. They put this thing in me and now it's killing me.  Are you going to be able to remove it?"

Michael held out his hand for the films that Todd had brought with him and he put them up to view. He flicked on the light and all three of them looked at the film. Blair gasped when she saw for the first time the thing on Todd's brain. Michael studied it for a long time and then turned back to Todd and Blair. "I'm not going to lie. This is going to be very tricky and dangerous. The implant is attached in a very precarious location that deals with your memory and your vision. Not to mention until we do a navigator scan I won't know how deep those wires go into those areas.  Dr. Wolek told me about your heart, so it adds another level of concern. The odds of you coming out of this totally unscathed are slim to none. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"

Todd was holding Blair's hand and he squeezed it. "You're telling me that I might not even make it out of surgery alive." Blair's hand felt so cold at that moment.

"Not exactly, I'm telling you that in order to remove that item I have to go into some very sensitive areas. From what I see here, there will be some damage from this surgery and at this point, I don't know what might be affected by that damage. I have a top notch team here and I don't like people dying on my watch. I also have chatted with the top cardiovascular surgeon here and he'll be assisting to make sure your heart keeps beating." Michael looked at Samuel to make sure he was listening to him. Samuel met his eyes and Michael knew he wasn't saying anything Samuel hadn't already figured out. "So now the question is how soon do we attempt this."

Todd looked over at Blair, she nodded, and he spoke to Michael, "We've discussed this Doctor. I'm tired of living in this shadow of a life. If I'm going to be free to live my life the way I started then I need to have that thing removed as soon as possible."

Michael sat back in his chair. "Very well, I want to take the navigator scans today and we'll do the surgery in two days. Is that agreeable with you?" Todd nodded and Michael made arrangements for the scans to be taken. Todd and Blair returned to the bungalow a couple of hours later. They walk into the sitting room and Todd walked over to the picture window and looked out across the Sound as Blair made a call to Starr. After a few minutes, she hung up the phone and walked to him and rested her head on his shoulder. "Starr and Hope send their love. They hope we're having a wonderful time. Starr was curious why we picked Seattle of all places to come to for a honeymoon. She needs to be told, Todd. I know you want to protect her but she's a big girl now."

Todd looked over his shoulder at Blair and said, "How can I tell her when I'm scared to death about it myself."

Todd wasn't going to let a little surgery ruin his honeymoon. He had Blair dress for the evening and then they headed to the Space Needle. Todd had reserved the whole restaurant for his very private dinner with Blair. After an excellent dinner, they danced as the restaurant turned slowly at the top. It was heavenly moving slowly above the city in the clouds. Blair was held by the love of her life and she never wanted to come down out of those clouds. Suddenly she began to cry and Todd pulled her closer and merely held her. "Shh Blair, it will be alright. I'm not going to let him beat me. If I can survive two bullets and a crash off the coast of Ireland I can survive a little brain surgery. " She looked at him with tears in her eyes. "Really you should know I mean what I say by now. Even though we were separated by years and oceans we still have the kind of connection that comes around once in a lifetime. I feel you, Blair, I feel you clear through to my soul. I know with you here I can't get lost."

The love showing from his eyes overwhelmed her. His words seemed to reach deep inside her and settled in her heart pulling the door shut behind them, locked forever away from anyone who would seek to pull them apart. He was beautiful and he was hers. He reached up and dried her tears and guided her to the window. "Remember, everything down there can't harm us, we're here in the clouds. I need you to keep us up here Blair. Don't let me pull us down. You're the biggest risk taker I know and you've taken your biggest risk yet, marrying me when it could all fall apart. I need the strength you possess to pull me through this. So Blair what do you say. The first roll of the dice brought us here. The chips are on the table do we let them ride. We have no idea what the next roll is going to bring us. This is your call, Blair."

She nestled into his arms and said. "You love me enough to trust yourself to me. Are you sure you want to do that mister? I got some very interesting ideas floating around in my head right now." Todd's hold tightened imperceptibly. "I'm going to hold on tight Todd. You just consider me your Lady Luck. We're going to roll those dice and come up the winners and Hesser and Kipling are going to lose it all." she turned just enough to look into his hazel eyes. "I'll be here as long as you need me."

Todd had the limousine drop them off about a block away from the bungalow. He helped Blair out and they walked slowly through the park that was close to the bungalow. They found a bench and sat down. It had been hot all day but now there was a little chill in the air off the Sound.

Todd took off his jacket and draped it around Blair's shoulders when suddenly fireworks began to fill the sky. "Oh my God, It's the 4th of July.!" Exclaimed Blair looking up at the display over the water.

They looked at each other remembering the last time they had enjoyed such a display. Todd had blacked out all of Llanview just to give Blair the fireworks. This year the day had crept up on both of them. Blair had thought it unusual this morning how quiet the hospital was when they saw Michael. Now she realized it was because of the holiday. Michael had known the hospital would be slow and therefore it would make it easier for a secret meeting.

As if reading her thoughts, an arm went around her shoulder and pulled her close. "Larry and I figured the fewer people around the better for all concerned. Forgive my paranoia but I couldn't take the chance. If Carlo sent someone to follow us, they followed another couple down to the Sound today and watched them take a boat ride. Meanwhile, you and I went to the hospital. I couldn't resist surprising you again. I knew the fireworks were going to start and I thought you might enjoy them from here rather than stuck in the bungalow. Happy Fourth of July Blair." he kissed her once again and she sat back in his arms and watched the sky explode.

They took the stairs slowly up to the bedroom and opened the door to find the room lit simply by candles and on the nightstand near the bed stood some chilled champagne and flutes, fresh strawberries and a bowl fresh whipped cream. Todd raised his eyebrow he hadn't ordered any dessert and then Blair said. "Good it's all here."

"What do you mean?" asked Todd

"You'll find out in a minute if you'll do the honors and pour us each a glass of champagne," Blair said as she kicked her shoes off, she came and waited in front of him and receiving her champagne she made a toast. "To the only man in my life who has ever gone out of his way to really know me." she raised her glass to him and Todd smiled and saluted her back and they drank, then she turned around and said "Would you be so kind as to undo me, Todd"

Todd set the flute down on the night stand and slowly unzipped her dress. She stepped out of it and reposed on the bed looking up at him. A while ago you used flowers to paint me. I've never forgotten the feelings . Todd, I love strawberries and cream, show me how much you love strawberries and cream." Todd couldn't believe what she was asking but suddenly he could picture her covered delectably in whipped cream. He unbuttoned his shirt slowly as she watched , when he was ready he joined her on the bed and taking a strawberry dipped in whipped cream he began to paint his designs. As each design was completed he would take a bite and then offer a bite to her. At first, she was eating but soon she was moaning and arching with every stroke of the whipped cream. Now that he had her painted, it was his turn. He began to slowly lick his way through the designs knowing she was turning desperate, but he wouldn't relieve her tension.  He continued to bring her to a fever pitch. Blair was beside herself, she was practically pleading and still he was relentless, finally, she screamed his name and he knew she was ready and he gave her what she craved. The second round of fireworks was being shot off as Blair lay cradled in his arms blissfully satisfied and happy. She looked at her sleeping husband and prayed that God would see him through his next battle. She fell asleep to the beat of his heart.

It had been Todd's turn to roll out of bed first and he had gone and gotten a warm wet cloth to wipe off all the leftover whip cream. Naturally, that had resulted in another round of love making but then they were both awake. After quick showers, they headed downstairs where a pot of coffee and chocolate chip pancakes were waiting for them. Blair didn't know how Todd was doing all of it but he was certainly making it interesting. Only now this day was hers and she had something equally different in mind.

"Yesterday you had our day all planned out, I loved it and I was glad that I surprised you last night. But I want you to put yourself in my hands today. Will you let me do something for you today?" asked Blair as she ate a pancake.

Todd looked at her quizzically, He hadn't planned anything for the day because they hadn't known how many days they would have before surgery. So he shrugged."Hey, I'm all yours."

"Todd, remember when you gave me Araby. The day after our special night in the stables I told you how special riding was. Would you let me teach you to ride today? You once said you would give it a try. How about it? Are you up for it Mr. Toddman?" Blair looked at him daring him to say no.

Todd surprised her and said "Sure why not. It might be fun to try it, you said it was almost like flying. I'd like that."

An hour later Todd and Blair were walking up to a stable where they rented horses to ride. Blair walked around trying to pick out a gentle horse for Todd to ride but he headed for a stallion he liked the look of. "Todd , I think he's a little out of your league, you really should try something like this beautiful mare. That stallion looks like a handful."

Todd looked at her and said "Well he's safe to ride isn't he, They wouldn't have him available if he was dangerous. Right? Look I know I'm new at this but I like him. He strikes me as a loner. I really want to try him."

Blair looked at the stallion and he was beautiful, she saw Todd's face and knew he had his mind made up. Blair turned to the attendant and said, "How headstrong is he."

The attendant looked from the horse to Todd and commented: "If the gentleman keeps a firm hand on him they should be fine. Just don't give him his head or he'll take off on you. You need to go the inland trail, it will lead to some meadows where you can let them run if you want."

Blair was hesitant but she nodded and the attendant gave Todd instruction on how to mount. Todd mounted onto the horse easily, which came as a bit of a shock to Blair. He had always been a little reluctant around Araby. They headed down the trail specified by the attendant at a walk so Todd could get used to the feel of the horse beneath him. Blair watched and noticed that at least Todd seemed comfortable on the horse. "Todd do you want to attempt some different gaits. We could pick up the pace to a trot and then move to a cantor." Todd nodded and she instructed him how to get the horse up to the next two gaits. Todd didn't care much for the trot but settled into the cantor quite easily and seemed to be enjoying himself Blair saw the widening of the trail and knew they were probably close to the meadow. Suddenly a branch fell off a nearby tree and Todd's horse broke into a gallop. Blair reacted instantly and began giving chase. "Todd, just hang on, I'm coming, try and pull him up." She was petrified as she watched the stallion pull away from her horse. Then she saw him nearing a downed tree. Todd would never be able to get him stopped, he was going to crash and hurt them both. Then all of a sudden the stallion jumped the log beautifully and miraculously Todd was still on board. Blair slowed down to watch as Todd maneuvered the horse into a graceful turn and let him have his head again. They were galloping round the meadow as if they were in a race and once more Todd turned the stallion toward the fallen log. They were poetry in motion together. She marveled and wondered when Todd had learned to ride.

Once more the stallion cleared the log and this time Todd brought the horse around and slowed to a cantor coming to a stop beside her. He was ecstatic. "Come on Blair you should let your horse have a go. It's a beautiful meadow." he started to turn his horse to get ready for another run.

"Hold it right there. Todd, when did you learn to ride?" Blair asked bemused.

Todd held his horse in check and looked at Blair. "I learned in Ireland. After I was healed enough, I began helping Aman. Aman only had two horses, but he allowed me the use of one of them. You should have seen my first attempts Aman got some good laughs out of them. When I finally mastered the technique. I took the youngest of Aman's horses for rides along the cliffs of the island.  You see, I was going to surprise you." he shook his head to get away from the past and smiling said. "Come on let's ride like the wind and just feel free." He took off at a gallop and Blair raced after him laughing, she didn't have a chance at catching him so she angled her horse to intercept him as he came around and then joined him as they continued around the meadow. They rode for a couple more hours then returned to the stables.

On the drive back to the bungalow Todd dozed off from the morning exercise.

He was going down that corridor again. Damn hadn't they gotten enough, he had nothing left to give.  He already felt so empty like they had torn his life away. That wretched door opens. There they were like two spiders waiting for a tasty fly. He was the fly. Once again the Doctor place the wire near the back of his head. Then he just smiled and pushed the lever. There it was that sound like a million bees converging on him, any minute now they would arrive.

"Aaaaagh!"

Blair almost wrecked as Todd's scream filled the car. She quickly pulled over and found him passed out . She grabbed her phone and dialed Michael's emergency number. "Michael, this is Blair, Samuel was sleeping and he suddenly screamed. We're in the car. I'm headed to the hospital now."

Michael had answered the phone immediately when he had seen the caller. "Blair, do you think it's his heart."

"No, his heart is beating soundly", said Blair," but he's not responding to anything."

"Blair, it could be the implant. Get him in here as fast as you can, I'll have someone waiting when you pull in." Michael hung up and started calling his team. It looked like Samuel was going into surgery a day earlier than planned.



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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Memories Unlocked #19

Blair sat there for a moment, her heart was beating fast as she chewed on her lower lip.  Her worst fear was true.  Todd was paralyzed.  She had hoped the wheelchair was just a ruse, but the doctor had blown that out of the water.  Blair looked back toward the door.  She wanted to go to him so bad and tell him it didn’t matter but that would just infuriate him.  He hated the thought of being weak and pitied.  When she first met him, he was at an all time low but he refused to let it drag him down.  Everyone in town had been convinced he was raping nurses and he fought every step of the way to prove his innocence, and he did, much to the chagrin of Bo and the Llanview Police.
He had been there for her as a friend when she thought she wanted Cord and had been her rock when she shot Max due to momentary madness.  Now this.  It must have been a crushing blow to find himself without his memory or his legs.  She looked back at the doctor.  “Tell me, how did he end up working in the children’s ward?”


“Todd was really depressed and was quite an ogre to the staff because of his problems.  Any attempt to give him a name or questions about the raft just made him angrier and more frustrated.  One afternoon he saw the children outside getting some fresh air.  They were getting restless and cranky because all they were allowed to do was get some sun.  He interrupted their moaning with paper airplanes.  The children were delighted and soon were laughing and having fun.  It was the first time I actually saw a smile on Todd’s face. The children and Todd formed a bond that day and when he was well enough to leave the hospital, it was my suggestion that he stay on and become the activity coordinator for the Ward.  He still needed physical therapy and we were trying to help him get back his memory.  He agreed because he had nowhere else to go and I believe the children kept him from dwelling on his own problems.  He’s been great with the children and they love him.  I was surprised when you said he was leaving.  I had no idea he made that decision.  I do know something has been bothering him for some time and I think it has to do with his flashes of memories.  If I may inquire, what happened between you and Todd and why was he on the ocean on a raft?”


“As I said doctor, Todd and I were having problems.  He disappeared a few months ago from Hawaii and recently I found out he was stranded on an island with two other people.  I was told he left the island on a raft, intent on coming home to me and the children.  How he ended up here is a much a mystery to me as it is to you.  Tell me, why didn‘t you try to find out who he was?  I mean, I know he didn’t remember but what about fingerprints. Surely those would have given you some idea who he was.”


Miguela nodded, “They would have if we could have gotten fingerprints but unfortunately Todd’s hands were damaged when he came to us and there were no fingerprints to be had.  We tried to see if anyone had been lost off a cruise ship or if there were any boats missing here in the South Pacific, but none was found and he was unable to explain the raft.  All we found on him was a picture.  It was of you and the children but he had no idea who you were or why he had it.”


It was all too much for Blair.  She broke down crying.  All her fears about Todd being hurt had come true and the reality of Todd’s situation tore her heart out.  He had tried to come home and instead he had ended up lost.


****
Todd held his son and opened the bowl of oat rings so his son could grab them and eat.  He grinned as the little guy tossed several of them on Doctor Sanchez’s floor.  “Hey now, you’re supposed to eat those not play with them.”


Starr watched her father.  He looked different from the last time she had seen him and she knew something was off.  “Daddy, why are you sitting in that chair?  Did you break your legs?  Mommy told me about the time she was hurt real bad and had to walk with crutches, is that what happened to you?  How come you didn’t call me?  I’ve missed you so much.  Mommy said the reason you left is because of what you did to Jack and that you tried to take us from her.   She was really mad at you at first.  Daddy, why did you give Jack away and then bring him back?”


Todd had looked up when Starr had started to ask her questions.  He wasn’t sure how to answer her questions about his legs.  He heard the hurt in her voice when she asked him why he didn’t call.  “Starr, I couldn’t… wait .. who is Jack?”


“Daddy don’t be silly.”  She moved closer to her father and ruffled Jack’s hair. “Jack, Daddy’s teasing, he knows who you are.” She then hugged both her father and brother.  “See, all together again and this time, we’re going to stay a family, just like my friends.”


Todd blinked his eyes to clear the tears that were forming. He looked at the baby in his arms. Jack wasn’t an adult, he was his son. Suddenly he saw himself standing in a room.


She was angry .”You didn’t care, did you, Todd?  You gave my baby away and then you brought it back!  But you didn’t care about me, at all.  You didn’t care how much I was hurting.  All you cared about was whether or not I found out what kind of monster you were.  The kind that would take an innocent baby.”. She sobbed and continued, “and get rid of it because he couldn’t raise another man’s child!


He stood there looking at her. ”There were so many mistakes..”


“Admit it, Todd!  I want to hear you say it!”  she moved towards him. "And be honest for one moment in your sorry life, I want you..to ..tell..me..what ..you ..did!”


They were face to face. “I did it.  I did everything you said I did!”


She sobbed and backed away from him and started crying.


 Starr didn’t know what to do.  One minute she had been talking to her dad and the next he had just seemed to forget she was there.  She saw tears start to fall and shook him.  “Daddy, what’s wrong?  Why are you crying?”


The memory vanished but the pain of what he had done remained. He looked at his son and daughter through his tears.  God, I really am a monster.  Just then the door to the office opened and his wife walked in with Dr. Sanchez.  He looked up at the woman he knew was his wife and saw tears in her eyes.  It was as if the moment had just happened. “Why are you here?  What I did to you and them is unforgivable. You’re right, I am a monster.  You should leave and stay as far away from me as possible.”  He tried to stop the flow of tears by wiping them away quickly and then he rolled his chair over to his wife and handed his son back to her.  “You need to go!”  he moved his chair past her and rolled out into the hallway intent on getting as far away from them as he could.


Blair stood there stunned.  She clung to Jack and looked at Dr. Sanchez. “What just happened?”  Starr looked like she was going to burst into tears herself. “Starr, what did you and Daddy talk about?”


“Mommy, we were just talking about Jack.”  She began to cry in earnest. “ Why did Daddy say we should leave.  Why was he crying?”


“Starr, you stay here with Dr.Sanchez. I’ll go find your father.  We’re not going anywhere.”


Miguela held out her arms to take the baby from Blair. “He’s probably headed for the entrance.  He had his duffle bag on the chair.  I believe he came to say goodbye and then saw you.  You should be able to catch him there.”


Blair ran out of the office with only one thing on her mind, to get to Todd before he got away again.  She found him just outside the entrance on the sidewalk.  He was cursing and pounding on his legs.


“You stupid bastard.  You can’t walk and now you know the real truth about the kind of man you are.  You thought being a rapist was bad.  God, how could you give your own son away!  What a fool I am.”  He pulled the picture from his pocket.   “I thought if I just got my memories of you back,  I’d find a reason to keep going but the more I learn about myself the more I hate myself.”


Blair walked up slowly behind him, listening to him berate himself.  Her heart ached for him the same way it had the night she made love to him after they decided to keep Jack.  Her poor Todd, always believing the worst of himself.  He didn’t think anyone could love him   He was maddening, infuriating, capable of terrible deeds and yes, cruelty, but he also loved with all his heart and she loved him with all of hers. “Todd..”


He spun around in the chair.  “Why did you follow me?  I told you to go.”  It was like looking at the picture, only now the woman was talking to him.  She was beautiful.  Her eyes still had traces of tears and the sunlight played off a tear on her lashes as she blinked.  She had been crying and he knew it was because of him.   


“I’m not going anywhere without you.  You once told me we were soulmates.  After all these years and everything that’s happened, that is still true.  There have been times in the past that I hated you with every fiber of my being but no matter how hard I tried, you were under my skin and I knew we would always be tied together.  I forgive you.”  She got down so she could look at him, face to face.  “Whether you believe this or not, I came looking for you because I love you and I missed you and our family is incomplete without you.”  She started to cry again.


Todd raised a hand and began brushing her tears away.  He was surprised when she gave a little laugh and grabbed his hand. “What?” he asked about her strange reaction.


Blair kissed his hand. “You don’t remember but it seems you constantly catch me crying and your first instinct is to brush away my tears.  It was one of the endearing qualities you have that surprised me when we first got to know each other.  You’ve never been known for your gentle side.  In fact, I doubt many people even know you have one.” Unable to stop herself, Blair leaned forward and softly kissed him. As she drew back she saw his expression. She had seen it before, that look of utter bewilderment that anyone would want to kiss him.  It was that very look that had captured her heart so many years before.  That first Christmas, they had been two lost souls seeking comfort with each other and it had ignited a love so deep that Blair was now determined to hang onto it.  She stood back up still holding his hand. “Thomas Todd Manning, the only place you’re going is home with me and the kids.  I don’t care if you never fully regain your memories. We’ll make new ones, and if I know you, and believe me, I know you better than you know yourself, you’ll find a way to get rid of that wheelchair and get back on your feet.” She started to move behind his chair to push him back inside but he stopped her.  


“Wait!” The kiss had totally surprised him.  He realized that although his memory of her was still faulty something in him recognized her on a deeper level.  The taste of her lips lingered on his and he found himself wanting more. One look at her standing above him told him that she was bent and determined and nothing he said was going to change that.  Don’t be a fool, man  She said she forgives you. just go with that.  It’s what you really want..

Blair looked down at him, afraid he was going to once again insist they leave without him
“What?”


“If I’m going to go home with you, I think I should know your name. After all, I can’t keep calling you Mrs. Manning.”


Blair beamed. “I love it when you call me Mrs. Manning.“ She leaned down and whispered in his ear. “It’s Blair.  I love you, Todd Manning.”. She kissed his cheek gently and then began pushing him towards the entrance.


Todd reached up and touched where she had kissed him.  It had felt right.  For now, he was going home with his family and they would work things out along the way.  The wind picked up the picture that had been sitting on his lap and sent it flying through the air.  Todd watched it blow away.  It didn’t matter, he now had the real thing.  


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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Who's the Real Todd? Chapter 34

Everybody applauded and came forward to give their heartfelt congratulations. Todd and Blair were a little overwhelmed. The orchestra began playing again softly as Todd and Blair separated to visit with their families. Unbeknownst to those within the house a man stood just inside the treeline looking across the terrace into the room watching the festivities. He removed his hat and said softly. "My congratulations Mr. Toddman, she really is a beautiful prize. For your sake, I hope she'll keep you occupied so I'll be able to regain my hold on your paper. I really don't want to have to kill you. I regret that I can't say the same for our current Todd Manning. He's becoming a liability that must be dealt with soon. May you continue to enjoy your happiness Samuel but I'll be keeping a close eye on you. I fear your memory could return soon and that cannot be allowed. I have no wish to make the beautiful Mrs. Toddman a widow." Carlo noticed Detective McBain moving to the window, he backed up deeper into the shadows. "Mustn't let you see me, Detective. I'm afraid that would be completely unacceptable. Definitely counterproductive."


John had been talking briefly with Natalie when movement from outside had caught his eye. He excused himself and wandered over to the window to see if he could figure out what he might have seen. The sun had fallen below the horizon and it would be dark soon. John searched the treeline wishing the sun had stayed up just a little longer. Natalie came up behind him and said "What's the matter. Did you see something?"


"I'm not sure, why don't you come with me out on the terrace, I need to get closer to the treeline," said John and he held out his hand. Natalie looked at him briefly, nodded and taking his hand went out on the terrace. They stood together admiring the view and John took his time looking even closer at the treeline where he thought he had seen movement. Suddenly a doe walked out of the trees and began grazing not too far from them. Natalie was enchanted by how close they were to the creature but John still felt like someone was watching their movements. Then out of the corner of his eyes, he spotted him. John pulled Natalie into his arms and said. " Relax and play along. We're being watched but he's not doing anything right now. I wish Bo had let me assign some officers for here today but he said that would give Samuel away. Whoever it is, has obviously been told to just watch and report back. Let's go back inside. I need to have a small talk with Samuel." John looked at Natalie wishing things were back the way they used to be. She thought they were putting on a show for the viewer. Dare he take advantage to steal just one kiss. She looked so lovely he was kissing her before he knew it.


Natalie had been startled when John had pulled her into his arms but at his words she had played along. Then they were looking into each others' eyes and he suddenly kissed her. It had been so long she just gave herself over to it. She knew he was just doing it because of the watcher, but she found herself drowning in his kiss. It felt so good but she shouldn't be doing it.


John broke the kiss and stared into her eyes.  There was still something there, but this wasn't the time to look into it. He turned his head to see if the shadow was still watching and no longer saw him. Whoever it was had left.  He decided he would come back out later and see if there were any clues that might tell them who the watcher was. They walked back inside. John went in search of Brody and Natalie walked over to where Jessica and the children were sitting. Todd had joined her and he was playing with Liam, letting Liam fuss with his hair. He looked up as she approached and said. "He was getting fussy and Jessica had her hands full with Ryder, I hope you don't mind."


"No that's fine. He's really taken with you." She held out her arms to take Liam and Todd stood up and handed him to her.  Then she said,"John needs to talk to you."


Todd caught the inference immediately and went to find John but suddenly found his path blocked by Dorian.


"Hold it right there, I don't know what you are up to but you don't fool me for a second. You might have Blair convinced you're Samuel Toddman but I know that can't be true. I don't know where you've been all these years or why Walker wanted to be you but I know you're Todd." Dorian stated furiously. I don't know who painted these portraits but it certainly wasn't you."


Todd took a moment to support himself by gripping a chair top as he switched places with Samuel. Samuel swayed for a moment as he took control, but Blair had seen him sway and hurried to him thinking something was wrong.


Dorian had also seen the moment of dizziness and wondered what had happened. "Are you alright Todd?"


"Samuel, are you okay? Do you need to rest a moment?" asked Blair.


Samuel looked at Blair and quickly reassured her. "Blair I'm fine. It's just been a long day. I guess I forgot to eat. Your Aunt is under the impression that I am your ex-husband Todd. Before I could explain everything I got a little dizzy. I'm sorry if I scared you. Dorian, I hope I may call you that, I guarantee I'm not Todd Manning. As for these Portraits they most definitely were painted by me. If you take a good look at them you'll see they were painted years ago before Blair and I met. If you don't believe me, ask my cousin Vicki. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have for me perhaps we could sit down."


Once she understood what was taking place, Blair turned to Dorian, " Dorian, I promise you this is Samuel and not Todd. But you need to understand that Samuel suffered a heart attack several days ago and I will not have him under a lot of pressure to prove himself to you or anyone. We'll be glad to sit down with you after the honeymoon and allow you to grill him, but tonight is my wedding night and neither Samuel nor I need your third degree. Do I make myself clear?"


Dorian looked at her niece and saw genuine concern for her husband at the moment and realized that Blair was not going stand for anyone hurting Samuel. She had to admit, now that she heard him he didn't sound anything like Todd. Maybe it was coincidence, but he could have been Todd's double. Cassie came over and said, "Mom this is my fault I should have warned you that Samuel looked like Todd. He explained it to me last night when he called because he didn't want me to be confused. Now having seen him, I can certainly see why you would think he is Todd, but surely after hearing their vows, do you really think he would be playing with Blair's affections that way?" She smiled an apology to Samuel and Blair. "Come on Mom, I think you need a drink."


As Cassie ushered Dorian away, Blair looked at Samuel. "Are you sure you're alright?"


Samuel reached and took her hand and brought it to his lips. "Lovely Blair, I'm fine. The reason I was unsteady is because Todd and I made the switch abruptly. You are exquisite this evening. I am quite envious. I must go talk to John, but before I retire and turn you back over to Todd I hope you will allow me one dance." Blair leaned forward and kissed him gently. "Most assuredly, Samuel."


Samuel found John and they discussed the uninvited guest. Samuel decided that he would let Brody and John do their investigating but he was pretty sure he knew who had watched the wedding and he also knew Carlo wouldn't have left any incriminating evidence around. For right now he wanted to concentrate on his guests and his beautiful wife. "John, I'm grateful you and Bo are concerned for my welfare but I believe whoever was out there has left for the evening.  I want you and Brody to get off duty and enjoy the rest of the evening."


Samuel directed John towards the small group consisting of Brody,  Andrew, and Ray.  "Gentlemen, there are four lovely unattached women in this room and they all need escorts into dinner. If you don't mind. Let me give you your charges for the evening. Brody, if you would be so kind as to escort Jessica and her little ones into the dining room. John,  if you would please help Natalie and Liam. I would be most appreciative." Samuel smiled at their dumbfounded faces and turned to Andrew and Ray. "Ray would you be so kind as to escort Kelly to dinner and Andrew, I'm sure you would love to escort Cassie." Both men nodded in agreement and Samuel found Jack and Sam and gave them their charges. He watched as the men made their way to their assigned charges and then he announced. "I would like to invite you all to dine with us as we continue our celebration. Gentlemen, you have your orders, the dining room is straight through there."


Dorian and Addie were stunned when little Sam held up his elbows to his grandmother and aunt and charmed they each took an arm. Starr was surprised by her brother who held his arm out to her. With quiet laughter, the men claimed their charges and followed after Sam and his charges. Samuel had walked to Vicki and Blair. He gave a slight bow, winked and said. "Until later Blair." he stood briefly with his eyes closed and then Todd looked at his sister and wife and remarked, "I guess you two are stuck with me." They laughed and he escorted them to the dining room.


Vicki again marveled as she recalled the empty room from earlier now transformed into an elegant dining room. The caterers had done an excellent job and soon all were enjoying a marvelous dinner. Todd had even provided food the little ones would enjoy. As the meal progressed the little ones began to get antsy so Todd began telling them the story about the two dragons that stood guard at his door. Soon the dining room was quiet as everyone became engrossed in the tale Todd was spinning for Bree, Hope, and Sam. Even Dorian found herself enchanted by the storytelling prowess of Samuel. At the end of the tale, the children clapped enthusiastically and then Ray toasted the happy couple. A short time later the children were showing signs of wilting and the evening drew to a close. Two limousines were standing ready to take everyone home. Todd and Blair stood outside the entrance to say goodnight to all their family, then Todd turned to Blair and swooped her up into his arms. He carried her over the threshold and setting her back down he said. "Welcome to your new home Mrs. Toddman."


Todd led her back into the great room and at his signal the orchestra began playing a medley of their songs. "Prepare yourself, Blair, all the guys have been begging me for a dance so here." Blair laughed and waited patiently wondering who would be first. Not surprisingly Tom emerged first. "Golly Blair have you seen this place yet, just you wait you're going to love it, I'm not very good but I think you're terrific." He quickly grabbed her and soon he was carefully dancing a box step trying very hard not to step on her feet as the strains of the first song ended, Tom bowed to her and said thanks and Blair waited for the next one. She knew immediately when Rodd showed up he made a very formal bow and then said."Blair, you are most ravishing, I really don't see what you see in Todd, surely he can't compete with me in the lover department. Come you really must give me a try."


Blair laughed and said "Rodd, I think Todd has surpassed you in the lover dept. But you know how jealous he is, do you really want to face Todd over me."


Rodd thought it over and said. "Yes, lovely Blair sadly it is true, I am a lover, not a fighter, but if you ever find yourself in need of a good lover you know where to find me." he released her. "Amore Bella Mia."


Suddenly Blair was grabbed and roughly pulled into his arms and she found herself face to face with Pete. "God Woman, you're damn gorgeous. Listen up you spitfire. You've stomped all over his heart for the last time. You hurt him again and I'll deal with you. He and I have come to an understanding so I think it's time we come to one too. You are so deep in his blood that his love reaches all of us. I'm exceedingly uncomfortable with it, because of that I could never physically hurt you but lady you might not like the way I make love, don't ever give me a reason to show you." he spun her away and disappeared.


Blair stood there terrified and excited at the same time. Pete had told her in his own words that he felt something for her, but he was still very protective of Todd, the thoughts that had raced through her mind had been positively scandalous. She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to find Samuel before her. She knew it was Samuel because he waited patiently for her to take his hand. She took it and he felt the shiver that went through her body. "Shh, I'm sorry, he's quite a handful but he said he had as much right as the rest of us to have some time with you. Todd and he have called a truce so Todd let him have his dance. I can tell you Todd was not too happy about the way Pete acted." Samuel waltzed her smoothly around the room . "Blair, you are the only one who has ever truly held Todd's life in your hands. I believe you know that and that you are prepared for every eventuality. Please remember we're also watching out for him, you're not alone. My Dear, you are a jewel any man would want and I'm very glad you are our jewel."


Blair stopped dancing and stole a gentle kiss once more. "Samuel, tonight I realized how lucky I really am. All of you give me your own special kind of love, even Pete and it's endearing and charming and romantic and hot but it's all mine. I'm blessed. I'm married to all of you. And you know what? I love all of you."


Samuel took her face into his hands and kissed her. As she kissed him back she felt his arms go around her and suddenly his kiss deepened and she knew she was in the arms of her husband. Suddenly a lone saxophone began playing "My One and Only Love". He stopped kissing her and whirled her around then brought her back into his arms where they danced to the song, the room lit only by the moonlight filtering in through the windows.


As the song ended Todd paused and asked her to wait for him. He walked over to musicians and after a few minutes, they began to leave. Todd walked her outside to the terrace and held her. They stood there and looked down on the lights of Llanview. "Thank you, for letting me into your life. For coming to my defense when no one else would. For saving my life more times than I can count. Finally, thank you for finding me." he kissed the nape of her neck by way of a Thank You kiss.


Blair turned and faced him her hand going up, moving his hair lovingly off of his face. "Why don't you thank me properly when we get home. I love this new house but I don't want to christen it by a roll on the floor. Let's go home."


Todd smiled. "We are home. Come with me." he led her back into the house and up the stairs till they reached the master suite. He opened the door and let her enter ahead of him. Blair walked into the room falling in love immediately. Moonlight from the windows spilled across the bed. From the window, she could see the lights they had seen from the terrace. She turned and walked back to the bed and sat down fascinated by the headboard. It was all hand-carved as she studied it she realized who had carved it. "Todd this is magnificent." Blair reached and traced the reliefs of their faces facing each other and below them, two hearts tangled together. She felt tears roll down her face. With a tremulous smile, she held out her hand to him and said. "Welcome home, Todd."


They spent the night making crazy passionate love and reveling in the fact that they were finally husband and wife. It was well into the early morning hours when they fell asleep exhausted. Blair was the first to wake up and discovered that her suitcase and a lot of her clothes had already been brought and placed in the room. She grabbed a robe and decided to explore her beautiful new home. She stood in the doorway of the beautiful bathroom remembering the long shower she and Todd had taken at one point during the night. She still felt his hands on her body as he explored it while washing it. Even now her body responded just thinking about him. She looked at him sleeping and carefully exited the room. She headed to the right and explored that wing first.


Each suite was unique in it own right. Todd had designed them and had given them touches of his memories with her. She walked into the first suite and realized it had the same feel as Key West. Of course, it was much more sophisticated than the little hotel where they had honeymooned but she realized for Todd it had been a life changer. Todd had even provided a beautiful sunroom in that suite all decked out with small palms surrounding a little oasis. Blair loved his touches and wondered what she would find in the next suite.


Blair laughed as she entered the next suite. The room was designed to reflect the heyday of Hollywood. It was very Art Deco, but the real surprise was the dressing room complete with a dress model wearing a full length hot pink gown. Blair recognized as the gown she had worn to get Irene's diary away from David Vickers. She remembered well that night, the excitement and the fun they had had. Putting one over on David had been such a farce, and then Todd had taken her soaring into the clouds and had proposed. That was the night he found out she was carrying his baby, their beautiful little Starr.


Having seen what Todd had done in the first two suites Blair headed down the hallway to the other wing but suddenly found herself grabbed from behind. " God Blair, I panicked when I didn't know where you were." he held her close and she could feel his heart racing. "Carlo was in the vicinity last night and I had visions of him taking you from me."


She turned in his arms and realized he had been truly worried. "Todd, why didn't you tell me about Carlo?"


"I didn't want our Wedding night to be about him but when I woke and you weren't there my thoughts went straight to him, especially since he has this obsession with you. Promise me you'll wake me from now on. It's pure hell to wake without you. " he began kissing her like there was no tomorrow.


She could feel his desperation and his love as she clung to him and she returned the love wholeheartedly holding him until his desperation lessened and his kiss became gentle . They came up for air and she said. "I'm sorry. From now on I'll wake you but I was so excited to get a look at this beautiful home. Forgive me." She smiled and then said. " Come, show me the rest."


The suites in the second wing had obviously been designed to appeal to his children. Whimsy and discovery set the theme in one where a whole wall was devoted to the exotic, as jungle flowers and strange and fascinating creatures filled aquariums and terrariums. At first, Blair thought they were real then she realized, that it was an amazing graphics art display that one could change with a few switches and go from a jungle, arctic, desert, and even ocean environments. It was something that would fascinate any adult or child. The display in the sitting room carried into the bedrooms with the use of high-tech sound effects and mood lights. It was amazing she walked into one room and felt like she was entering a jungle clearing, very faint animal sounds and the smell of exotic flowers filled the air. As she reentered the sitting room she knew Todd had been inspired by his Daughter's love for the strange and unique. Having seen that room they headed across to the last suite in the house.

Blair was expecting something sporty for the fourth suite but found herself very surprised as she entered it. It actually reminded her of the penthouse when Todd had first bought it. The room was very clean and precise then Todd moved to a wall and it opened to reveal all the latest in electronic games and computers and gadgets. Jack would adore it and Sam too she especially loved the fact that it could all be hidden away. Knowing Todd's penchant and expertise with computers he probably had plans to spend time in these rooms alongside the boys. All that remained to bring all the suites to life was furniture. Except for the special touches, he had left it to Blair to purchase what she wanted in each room. She couldn't wait to take Starr and go shopping.


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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chasing the Monsters: 48

"What kind of mother doesn't see something like this happening to her son?"  Blair said, waking up beside her husband. 

He was already awake.  "Same kind as a father who doesn't."


"At least you figured it out."


"Blair, come on."


It was quiet for a moment, and she said, "You're already up?"


"I never slept, not really.  I keep thinking about Sam,"  Todd said.


"I know.  The poor thing.  It really showed when Timothy was there, and he was not even really into it.  Just staying to himself."


"He's . . . something is wrong.  He's just so afraid.  I just feel like I'm looking at myself as a kid."


She swallowed, and turned toward him.  She nestled close to him, and put her arm across his chest.  She said, "Why does this have to be this way?"


"He'll be all right.  He will."


"I know, I meant you.  Why does it have to be that you had this stuff happen to you?  It . . . hurts me so much, in my heart, Todd," she said, and broke into tears..


He stroked her hair, and his throat tightened.  He said, "Hey, you want me to move on?  Then you have to."


"I know, but my heart breaks," she said, sniffling, and not entirely convinced that either of them could.  "Now, what do we do about our little boy?"


"We just have to be there for him, that's all.  I'll figure this out, Blair, just trust me."


"I do.  More than anyone."


"Then just hang in there.  Sam's going to be okay.  He has us, and the most beautiful mother ever."


She smiled lightly through her tears.  "Todd, you always . . . you just make me so happy, even when things are . . . tough."


He said, "I want to give you everything, since you give me everything.  I love you, Blair."


"I know, and I love you, so much."


"Then we're okay.  Right?"


"Yes.  We're okay, Todd."


He swung his legs over the bed and went to the bathroom.


***


"Broderick?" Ribsky said, making his way into the diner.


"Ribsky," Timothy said, standing and putting out a hand.


"No bother standing up," the older man said, taking a seat.


"I'm appreciative that you would meet me here"  Timothy said.  "I have . . . a concern, ya might say."


"As in?"


"Y'ar wife just died, Jack.  Ya have to make arrangements.  Ya have to grieve.  I lost mine, too.  I know what it's like."


"What does that have to do with me?"

"A lot of things."


"I care about one thing right now, Broderick, and that's making things right.  Pamela's dead, Connie's dead, and Todd and his mother were abused and tormented by this freak, and my police department, the Chicago P.D., somehow has a hand in it.  And, frankly, someone has to pay."


"I understand that.  But wouldn't ya tell anyone in the same straights to let the law handle it?  Ya just had a striking blow . . ."


He laughed, a loud bellow, drowning out Timothy's concern.  "The law?  The law, here, making it right?  Nothing can make this right!"


"No, possibly not.  But ya have to stop and deal with . . ."


"No, no I don't.  I can't.  Gotta keep going, moving.  She deserves that," he said, and his face was almost slick with perspiration.


Timothy was cautious.  "Jack," he said.


"What?" he snapped.


"Jack, ya won't be much good to anyone if ya fall apart."


"Oh I won't fall apart.  I won't.  Someone's paying.  Someone's paying big.  You don't spend your life, being a cop, risking your life, day in and day out, to make things safe for people, so they can just be taken away because of someone's greed or stupidity.  You know what I'm doing now?"  He leaned forward toward Timothy.  "Reading those journals of Connie's.  That Peter Manning was a miserable fuck."


Timothy felt so uneasy, he could do nothing but listen as Ribsky continued, 
"The things he did and said to Connie, never mind anyone else, he should have been boiled in oil for."

Timothy said, "Can I do anything for ya, Jack.  Anything?"


"Yeah, you could, like, maybe call a funeral director, if you really want to help.  I've got to go through records tonight, a huge stack, see who was working on the force then, get a list . . ."


"Don't ya remember, Todd said he had that."


"What?"


"Todd.  He told us he has the list."


"Then have it sent to me, will you?"  He scribbled on a pad.  "Here's my son's number.  His name is Lucas.  Call him, about the funeral shit."


Timothy nodded slightly, and turned to leave.  He couldn't help but feel the hair on the back of his neck stand up as he walked out, leaving Jack Ribsky sitting alone, leafing through Connie's journal.

***


"Dad?" Jack was moving faster than usual as he came into The Sun home office.  "Dad, where's Mom?"


"She's downstairs with the kids, it's breakfast, why?"


"I've got something."  Todd looked down to see that Jack had Sam's mini laptop in his hands as his eldest son closed the door to the office.  "It's right here.  It was the middle of the night, basically, so Sam isn't getting sleep.  If you look here," he pointed, "It shows a record of a live chat around 3:00 a.m."


"He was up?"


"He was up," Jack said.  "Dad, I'm . . . I'm scared."


"It's okay, Jack.  The thing to remember is that no one actually touched your brother, whatever the chat is about.  Can we see what was said?"


"Yeah, I think so.  I didn't want to go there without you."


"Okay, I get that," Todd said, and then clicked the mouse on the Chat History button, and it opened another screen.  There was one chat, sitting there, named by time.  "It's just one."


"We enabled it just yesterday.  We can't see the others."  Jack offered.


Todd admitted to himself, but not his son, that he was apprehensive about seeing the truth.  He clicked the date and time stamp anyway, and up came a chat record.  The name of the other chatter was etched into his heart instantly.  Jack said, "Houdini?  I don't wanna see this, Dad.  If anything happened to Sam . . ."


"Nothing happened to Sam, right now, aside from words."  Todd tried to convince himself.


"No, Dad.  There's pictures on Skype.  You can see the other person."


Having forgotten that fact, Todd swallowed and started reading.

Houdini:  Do you have your camera on, so we can talk?
SamTheMan:  Not yet.  I am tired. 
Houdini:  Well, then, turn it on.
SamTheMan:  I don't want to, I'm tired and I want to go to sleep.  I have to go to school tomorrow.
Houdini:  I just have a few things to tell you.  Turn it on, Sam.
SamTheMan:  I don't like this anymore.
At reading this, Todd stood up and paced.  He said, "Jack, this . . . let me handle this, all right?"

"You want me to leave?"


"I think it's better."


"I . . . feel sick, Dad."


"I know, but I promise you, Sam is going to be all right.  I won't let anything happen to him."


"But it already did happen to him, whatever it is."


Todd looked at his son.  "Please, Jack.  Just give me a little time with this."


"Okay," he said, hesitantly, and walked toward the door.


Todd said, "Jack?"


"Yeah?"


'"You did the right thing, helping your brother.  And for now . . ."


"No Mom, I know.  She'll lose it."  He walked out.


Reluctantly, Todd, shut the door behind his son and went back to the mini laptop.  He had an idea who Houdini might be, and continued to read:

Houdini:  Why not?
SamTheMan:  Because you scare me.  Sometimes you make me scared that something will happen to my family.
Houdini:  I never said anything like that, Sam.  You know I wouldn't do that.  I'd never hurt your mom or your brothers and sisters.  And I think you know that by now.
How would Sam know that?  Fucking Zeus.  Shit.  

The next series of things he did were almost impulsive in rapidity, and his fingers nimbly worked until he secured the encryption program that he used on The Sun website, and tracked the IP address.  


He wasn't the least bit stunned at what he uncovered:  

"Latitude and longitude.  I should just jump in the copter and go rip his fucking head off right now," he said aloud.

Except for the laptop and his desktop computer, he pushed everything off his desk onto the floor, and then folded his hands under his chin.  He read the rest of the conversation:

SamTheMan:  I guess.  Can we talk tomorrow?  I just want to sleep.
Houdini:  Okay, Sam, I'll talk to you tomorrow.
SamTheMan:  Can it be during the day?
"Yeah, Zeus.  You can't get up during the night to talk and let the kid sleep?  What the fuck?"
Houdini:  You know why it can't be during the day.  I'll Skype you tomorrow night, I'll try and do that a little later, so you can sleep more. 
SamTheMan:  Okay, I guess.  
Houdini:  Remember, our secret.
SamTheMan:  Yeah, I know.  Our secret. 
"That fucking degenerate freak," Todd said, closing the laptop firmly.  "Fuck," he said, just soaking in the reality of what he'd learned.  No wonder Sam's unhappy, tired, anti-social.  This asshole's been keeping him up nights saying God knows what. . .

Todd's eyes became slits, and he felt too-warm all over.  He pulled out his cell phone to call Perzno to fuel the jet for an emergency trip to Greece, but then thought of Blair and stopped.  How will I tell her?  She was married to this fucker while I was gone.  She has enough guilt about all of it.


He got up, and started cleaning up the mess he'd thrown onto the floor, and stacking it back onto the desktop, when Blair pushed the door open and came into the office.  "Todd?  What happened in here?"


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