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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Todd Manning, Enigma Chapter 21 (Mild Adult)

Chapter 21

         Gregor was in the middle of his lunch when the phone rang. “Hello...How did it go?...Excellent.....He was there?.... No, get out of town before they find you. Your money was wired this morning.” He chuckled, everything was going as planned. He picked up his phone. It was time to make his next move before Manning had a chance to recover from the last one. Uchin had managed to locate Kym.


        Kym and Lily were in the middle of pie-making when the phone rang. “Chase, get that, Lily and I have flour all over our hands.”

        “Stevens Orchard, what can we do for you?” answered Chase in his best business voice.

         “Excuse me, I’m trying to reach a Kym Daimler. I was told she was there. Is she?”

         “Yeah, she’s here, she’s baking a pie with my sister. Do you want to talk to her?”

         “If I could, I would really appreciate it.” Gregor couldn’t believe his luck, he had reached a child in the household. They tended to be very trusting. Hopefully, Kym wouldn’t think twice about taking the call.

         Chase walked into the kitchen, “Hey Kym, the phone call is for you.”

         “Did you get a name, Chase?”

         “Naw, he just said he was trying to reach you.”

          “Well tell him just a minute, and see if you can get a name. I’ve got to wash my hands.”

          “Okay,” Chase went back to the phone. ”Hey mister, Kym said she’d be here in a minute, but she wanted to know your name.”

         “That’s quite alright young man, it sounds like she’s busy. Perhaps I’ll try to reach her another time.” Gregor decided to get out of the call. Kym was obviously wary of strange phone calls and now wasn’t the time to get careless, there were other ways to contact her.

         “Hey wait, mister, here she comes. Kym, he says he’ll call back if you’re busy.”

         “Give me the phone, Chase. I’ll talk to him. Thank you.” Kym took the phone.

         “Hello, this is Kym.”

         “Dear Kym, it is so good to talk to you. Have you been enjoying your holiday?”

         She almost dropped the phone. She hadn’t heard his voice for several months. “Father?”

          "I’m so pleased you remember me. I must say I’m deeply disappointed in your actions of late. After all, I’ve done for you, it wounds me that you haven’t come home. I was injured and you were nowhere to be found.”

        “Father, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you had been hurt,” she answered concerned. His voice was a trigger that reduced her to the child always willing to please.

        Her response thrilled Gregor and he knew he was pulling her back in. Yes, Kym, you know your place and it’s with me. “That’s quite all right, you had no idea the violence your friend was capable of. He wanted to kill me.”

         Kym was just about to express her dismay at his statement when Lily walked into the room and all that they had been through flashed through her mind. She snapped out of her father’s spell. “You’re wrong, Father, Tom was only protecting us. You’re the one capable of untold violence. I don’t know why you called, but I want you to stay away.”

         Lily heard who Kym was talking to and walked over and took Kym’s hand, giving her support. Kym squeezed her hand and gave a weak smile, gripping the phone tightly waiting for her father’s response.

          Gregor felt like his head was going to explode. She was opposing him, something she had never done. “You dare say that to me? I own you, body and soul, and you will not talk to me like that.”

         Kym shuddered at his tone and sat down abruptly. She had always done everything he asked and now she felt his anger, like a hand reaching through the phone slapping her down. She dropped the phone pulling away as if from a rabid dog.

        Lily grabbed up the phone intent on helping her friend. “You leave her alone! You’re an evil man and I’m going to let my father know you called.”

         Kym quickly took the phone back from Lily. “Father, you mustn’t listen to her. Please don’t come for me.”

        “Your little rescuer sounds delightful Kym, maybe I’ll take her too when I come to get you. I know where you are now. I suggest you get ready to come home.” Gregor hung up, he grabbed his coffee and threw it across the room. This is your doing Manning, you’ve interfered again. That’s something else you’ll pay for.

         Kym hung the phone up shaking and grabbed Lily. “You shouldn’t have even spoken to him. Oh God, Lily, we’re in such trouble. He knows about you now, and he knows I’m here. I’ve got to get out of here, but we’ve got to keep you safe, too.”

          Chase walked into the room and saw their faces and knew something had gone wrong. “What’s the matter?”

         “Chase go get your father, it’s important. I’ll explain when you both get back here.” Kym hugged Lily. “I won’t let him get his hands on you. I swear.”

         Minutes later C.J. and Chase came running into the house. “Talk to me, Kym. What happened?”

         “My father called. He knows I’m here, and he says he wants me home. C.J., Lily talked to him and now she‘s on his radar. You need to find a way to protect her. I’ll leave. I never meant to bring this trouble into your home.”

“Kym you’re not going anywhere and we’re not running from Gregor.  I assure you, he’ll have to go through me and Joshua if he attempts to get you.  He’s just trying to rattle you.”

          “He did just that, C.J. I’m scared, he knows me and how to push my buttons. If he says he’s coming, he means it. I have to go. Your children have been through enough because of him.”

          "You need to take a deep breath, nothing is going to happen right this minute. We’re going to sit down and figure all this out and decide things together.”

          She looked at C.J. and felt something stirring deep inside. Speechless, Kym ran to her room.

          “Kym, what’s the matter?”

          “Dad, why did Kym just leave like that?” Chase was curious, so typical of his age group.

           “She’s very upset about the phone call Chase. You and Lily go find Joshua and tell him what happened, I’ll go check on Kym.”

           C.J. went to Kym’s room and knocked on her closed door. “Kym, whatever I said to upset you I’m sorry. Open up so we can talk. You have to know we like having you around and we won’t let your dad take you out of here.”

           Kym rocked herself on the bed, wanting to open the door to C.J., but very afraid of what she might do. All her training under her father was flooding back and all she wanted was to please a man. She wanted that man to be C.J.; she cared for him and had hoped that their relationship would be something more. But now her body was betraying her; he would hate her if she threw herself at him. “C.J. you didn’t say anything wrong. It’s me. You know what I was before I came here. Father’s voice brought it all back.”

          “Kym, don’t hide from me. I thought we were becoming close. Whatever is bothering you, we can talk about.”

          Kym got up and moved to the door. “Don’t you understand C.J., right now all I want to do is wrap myself around you and lose myself in your touch."

         On the other side of her door, C.J. stood stunned as he realized what Kym was saying. It had been a long time since he had even held a woman, but holding Kym at that moment was a heady thought. He had been thinking about her for some time. “Kym, open the door please.”

         She couldn’t help herself, she needed him at that moment and she opened the door.

         She was lovely and fragile, standing in front of him with tears in her eyes. “Kym, don’t cry.” He reached up and brushed the tear from her cheek as it fell. She was so vulnerable, he was almost afraid to touch her. “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are and how desirable? I’ve been holding you at arm's length because of everything you went through. I didn’t want to take advantage since you were a guest here.”

          Kym didn’t wait for him to say anything else. She wrapped her arms around his neck and began to kiss him. His lips were firm and slightly salty, the tip of her tongue savoring the taste as she deepened her kiss. His arms pulled her close.

          At first, shocked by the suddenness of her kiss, he quickly recovered and returned it with a passion that had been dormant for a long time. He lifted her slight form into his arms and carried her back into the room, kicking the door shut behind them. They reached the bed and he laid her down and slowly began to unbutton her blouse. Kym reached up to undo his shirt and C.J. stopped her. “This is for you. We’re going to take this slow.”

         Kym’s breath caught as she stared at him in wonder. No man had ever treated her like he was. It had always been about making sure the man was satisfied. She sighed as his hands began to caress her. She was already moist and eager for him but she couldn’t help loving the feel of his calloused hands on her body. They were good hands, hands that worked hard to provide for his family, hands the were causing her to squirm in response to the feel of his fingers making their move to her center. She arched as he brought her to a high she had never felt before. She moaned wanting more and he gave it to her. His tongue began to play with her. Every flick sent little shocks through her. She was tingling all over when he paused and she looked to see him remove his shirt. His muscles rippled and she licked her lips. Her gaze fell to his waistline and she quivered as he shed his jeans. A thrill ran through her as she lifted her hips to welcome him. The fit was tight and she clenched around him as they moved together.

          She was slick and ready for him as he entered. Her legs gripped him as she maneuvered him deeper inside, her muscles pulsing in a steady rhythmic way. He nuzzled her neck licking and tasting her flavors. The sweet taste of peaches where she had absentmindedly rubbed her neck with her peach soaked hands earlier. There was a saltiness mixed in too. He even tasted the soap she had used that morning to shower with. The flavors were intriguing telling him about her in a very earthy way.

           “C.J.” It came out the barest whisper, her voice catching as he licked her neck. She was feeling all these unusual sensations surging through her body. She wanted him so bad. “Oh God, what are you doing?” she pushed her hips closer, feeling him inside her, filling her. With each drive of his hips, she ached for more, but the combined touches of his tongue on her skin were too much. Every nerve ending was sensitive and she was overloading on the pleasure she felt. She could stand it no longer. “C.J. Please!”

          He could contain himself no longer, his blood had been pumping ever louder in his ears with each moan and word she said. Her final plea was his undoing. “God, Kym!” He came as she clutched his back, her cry glorious in his ear. C.J. laid down beside her and stroked her, slowly exploring her small body. He discovered a delicate butterfly etched into her hip but was afraid to ask her about it.

         Kym was overwhelmed with feelings as he touched her body. She watched his face as he studied her and when he got still, she realized he had found her butterfly. “I got her when I was in Macon several weeks ago. Lily and I decided to be adventurous after our sessions with the therapist.” C.J. looked up in surprise. "Relax, Lily got a washable one and I got the real one. I guess you could say it was our way of saying our bodies belonged to us and no one else.”

         C.J. bent and placed a tender kiss on it, tracing it with his finger. “She‘s as beautiful as the woman who wears her.”

         There was a small knock on her door. “Kym are you in there?  I hope you’re alright. Dad said he was going looking for you, but we haven’t seen him since we went to find grandpa.” inquired Chase softly.

          Kim looked up at C.J. and smiled. “I’m sure your dad’s around somewhere, Chase. I’m alright, why don’t you go back downstairs to your grandfather and I’ll be down shortly.”

          “Okay, I’ll tell grandpa.”

           She giggled “I guess that means this is over." She reached for his face. “Thank you, you have no idea what you just did.” She leaned over and gave him a kiss and slipped off the bed going to her bathroom to freshen up quickly.

          C.J. got up and dressed. He had a lot to think about over the next few hours.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Todd Manning, Enigma Chapter 20

Chapter 20

         Vicki had checked on Todd several times since he had arrived back from his building. He had been making phone calls repeatedly. She was getting hungry and it occurred to her he might be hungry too. “Todd, you really should eat something,” she said as she walked through the door, only to come up short when she found him asleep. She shook her head. He had looked so good that morning, that she had forgotten he had been in the hospital just 72 hrs earlier. “You poor dear, it was not a very good homecoming, I guess.”

         “If that‘s pity, I’m out of here.” Todd sat up and swung his feet to the floor.

          She hadn’t realized she had spoken aloud; he was kind of prickly whenever someone showed concern. Vicki bent over and brushed off the couch where his feet had been. “That wasn’t pity, just a statement.”

          He watched amused as she swept the invisible dirt off. “Why the concern?”

          “Todd, you just got out of the hospital and now you’re having to cope with someone after The Sun. You’re pushing yourself too hard. Now, I came in here wondering if you had thought about eating anything. Have you?”

         “Have you?” he asked in return.

         “Well, no....but...”

          “Great let’s go eat, I want to stop by the office and see if the cleaning crews been allowed in yet.” He grabbed her elbow and escorted her out of the room.

           An hour later they were standing surveying the printing room. Although the damage was apparent, overall the place was looking okay. The wall by the press was still a gaping hole, but that would be taken care of shortly. Todd also had a new shipment of paper stock set to arrive in the morning. “With luck, this paper will be back up and running by tomorrow, I’ll just have to put out a late edition." He looked around and was grateful no one had died.

          Vicki couldn’t get over the damage the small fire had done to the printing room. She stepped up and gripped Todd’s arm. “Todd, this is more than someone just disrupting your paper. This is serious.”

           Placing his hand on hers, “Vicki, it’ll be alright. I’m going to get to the bottom of this and find the one at fault.” He shushed her as she started to speak. “Look, I know he’s dangerous and I’ll work with the police as much as possible but I’m not going to let him destroy me or The Sun. Let’s get you back to The Banner, I need to go check on my employee and find out if John got anything earlier.”

        “Todd, have you talked to Blair since all this happened?”

        “No, I didn’t want to worry her. She’d be all over me to back off and let anyone but me handle the problem.”

         “And with good cause. You just got out of the hospital because you tried to handle something on your own. I don’t blame Blair for wanting you to work your way back into things slowly. Getting mixed up in whatever is going on at The Sun is no way to recuperate.”

         “Vicki, I’m fine. I need to sort out some legal issues like getting my name back, but aside from that, The Sun is my paper. I started it and named it what I did as a way to prove to the world I was my own man. For eight years, Jake was me, but the paper wasn’t solely his. Hesser and Kipling were manipulating things from the background. This stops today.”

        “Where are you going to start? You don’t have any idea who could be behind this.”

         “Actually I do, I just don’t have anything to link it to him yet. I got pretty good at finding leads when I was investigating my story down in Savannah. Give me some credit. John’s bound to have some information I can start with. After I see my man at the hospital, I’m going to check in with John. I’ll tell Blair about everything tonight.” They reached The Banner and said their goodbyes.

         Todd strolled into Llanview Hospital a short time later and went in search of his employee who was surrounded by his family. He made the choice not to intrude. Instead, he went looking for Larry Wolek.

         Larry was surprised to see Todd walking toward him. The last he had heard from Vicki, Todd was still in a coma. “You’re looking pretty good for a guy in a coma. Really, Todd, I’m glad to see you back on your feet.”

        “Uh thanks, Larry, I didn’t know you knew about it.”

         “As one of your recent doctors, I was contacted when you failed to awaken after your surgery. They were trying to find out any possible causes. I had a couple of discussion with your doctors in Savannah. But seriously you’re looking great and you can see. I guess the long rest did you good.”

        “Yeah, I suppose so. Listen, Larry, I’m trying to find out how my employee is doing. Can you tell me anything?”

          “He’s doing pretty good, Todd. He sustained some burns on his hand and his heart took quite a shot, but he’s recovering nicely. We’re just keeping him overnight to make sure there aren’t any complications.”

         “Thanks, not a very good start to the day for him. The Sun will cover his bills, I’m just sorry it happened.”

        “I would guess it wasn’t a very good start to your day either. You just got out of the hospital yourself, you really shouldn’t be under this type of strain. You should go home and call it a day. He’s going to be fine."

Todd looked at Larry. “I wish I could, but I still need to go talk to John.”  Larry was about to pipe in, and Todd stopped him. “Hey, you said I looked great, why the about-face?”

        “Because I know you, Todd, you’ll run yourself into the ground trying to find the person responsible for this accident. I know the toll the coma and injuries took on you. I’m just saying you should get back into things gradually. Remember when you tried to help Marty because she wasn’t following doctor’s orders? I just think you should follow your own advice.”

         Todd hadn’t thought about Marty in a while. Marty, sick while he and Blair were apart, in the alley, face down; he’d rescued her, later, she’d rescued him. They had come to an important understanding shortly after that.

         “You've got a point Larry, but this is something that won’t wait for me to fully recover. I’ve got to get the person who’s doing this. I’ll try to stay out of here. That’s all I can promise. Thanks again for telling me about my guy.” Todd turned and left before Larry could say anything more.

          Strolling into the police station, he headed straight for John’s office. “Please tell me Natalie got something, John.”

          “Hello to you, too. Your case isn’t the only thing she’s working on at the moment Manning, but I’m sure she’ll bring anything she gets as soon as she can. Have a seat if you want to wait.”

          Todd studied the man in front of him. “I’m not very good at thank yous, but I’m grateful for what you did. You saved Blair and the others, and in a way, you also saved me. I understand Sid was the one who shot me? I heard he was dead.”

          John shrugged. “I’m guessing you wouldn’t have gone to the dock that day if you had thought your life was really in danger. You just wanted to talk and things backfired on you. I just didn’t trust them as much as you did. Men like Sid and his buddies, work for the people they do because they are as unscrupulous as their employers are. You forgot Sid was going to use Kym and the girls as human shields. I didn’t.”

        “You’re right, I got sidetracked trying to get the leader and messed up with his goons.”

          “Besides, I wasn’t able to stop you getting shot, I only took out the shooter. You survived because you're too stubborn to let go of your life. Blair also held onto you for dear life that day and I think you stuck around for her.”

           Todd nodded, “Yeah, I guess so.” He wanted to get off the topic so he switched gears. “How are things between you and Natalie these days? I heard you’re Liam’s father after all. I could have told you that the first time I saw that kid. Too quiet. I guess that makes us related. Who would have thought it?”

          John had to think about that for a minute. He knew Todd was Natalie’s uncle. But the blood relative part of that had never really sunk in. It definitely was a small world sometimes. He was spared thinking about that as Natalie came into the room.

          Natalie paused as she saw who was standing with John. She didn’t know he had even come back to town. “Samuel?”

          “No, it’s me, Todd. What did you find out Natalie?”
           “Go ahead Natalie, did we get anything concrete to work with?”

           “Okay, we got a print off the inside of the switch box and it matched with an arsonist in the system, who specializes in electrical fires.” She handed the report to John and turned to her uncle. “Todd, does Mom know you’re back in town? Was The Sun more important than letting your own sister know you’re okay?”

           Todd was shocked at the anger coming from Natalie. They had been finally coming to a place where they could be civil to each other and now this. “Whoa, I don’t know what I did to get you mad at me again.”

           “You disappeared, Mom was worried. Your own wife was driving us all crazy trying to find you.”

         “I guess you’ve been out of the loop for a while. Blair and John both found me. I even came back here long enough to testify against Hesser, but it was all hushed up because of the hit out on me. Vicki has known where I’ve been for quite a while. In fact, I had lunch with her a little over an hour ago. She was the first person I looked up since arriving back in Llanview last night.” His gaze was steady and her eyes dropped first.

         Then she turned to John, “You knew where he was and didn’t say anything. Why?”

         “His life was in danger. Bo and I felt the fewer people who knew his whereabouts the better. He was brought in for the trial in secrecy.”

           “But the trial was over almost two months ago.“ She turned back to Todd. “Why did you stay away after the trial was finished?”

          “The hit was still on and unfortunately I ran into some trouble.”

           “Well, that sounds like the Uncle Todd I know,.  Let me guess, you got in trouble with the law again.”

           Todd had no answer, he was reeling. She still thought the worst about him.

            John reached for Natalie’s arm, “Natalie, Todd was shot and almost died. He’s been in a coma for over a month.”

            Natalie was in shock, she realized she had jumped to a conclusion based on old memories of her uncle. “Oh God, I’m sorry. Mom knew?”

            John nodded.

           “But why didn’t she say something?”

          “You and Jessica were going through some rough times, your mom probably didn’t want you to worry about anything else.” John gave Todd the once over and realized he was still processing Natalie’s accusation. “Manning, can I get you something, maybe some coffee.”

        Todd shook his head. I can’t win. I should have stayed in Savannah.

       "That’s the coward’s way out. You’re Todd Manning, you’ve done enough to meet with everybody’s approval. If they can’t stand you, that’s their problem, not yours. You still have Blair and Vicki and the kids. The rest can go to hell.”

        That’s your answer to everything, the lonelier I am, the better you feel. I won’t hide so you feel good. Go away.
         Todd felt a hand on his shoulder and looked into Natalie’s eyes. “Todd, I’m sorry I jumped to that conclusion about you.”

         “You’ve had good reason in the past, don’t worry about it.” He strolled over to John’s desk. “So any chance of catching this guy who worked on the switch. I’d like to find out who hired him?”

         “We’ll try and find him, Todd. I’m not making any promises.”

          “Good, well I need to get home to Blair, she still doesn’t know about the incident today. Natalie, take care of my grand nephew.” Todd left quickly, he had to get away from Natalie, her accusation had really gotten under his skin.

          You got in trouble with the law again? Todd squared his shoulders.  Enough. The people he loved knew he had changed. The rest no longer mattered.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Todd Manning, Enigma Chapter 19

Chapter 19

Todd had his chauffeur drop him off at the Banner and walked into the lobby. He was anxious to see her. He had come to rely on her in a way he had never thought possible. He opened the door to her office and stood, watching her. She was in the middle of something with one of her reporters and didn’t notice him. In the past, he would have interrupted, but for now, he just wanted to look at her.

“Okay Gerald, this will work, but make sure we get signed waivers before printing it.” Vicki looked up from the paperwork just as Gerald left her office and saw him standing there.

“Yep, just me.” He grinned, he always got a kick out of surprising her.

“But when did you get back? How are you?” Vicki walked toward him, wanting to give him a hug but holding herself back.

“I’m fine, maybe a little thinner. A coma kind of puts a crimp in your eating habits. So how’s business?” he sauntered past her and into the room. He picked up a copy of the current story and took a hard look at it.

Vicki grabbed the paper, “The Banner’s doing great.” She wanted to scream, he was so frustrating sometimes.

Todd looked startled, “What’s the matter? Why are you mad?”

Vicki tossed the paper down. “You, your attitude. You almost died and yet you walk in here and act like it didn’t mean anything. Why do you do that? Why won’t you let me worry about you?”

He hadn’t meant to get her upset. She knew how he was.

“Hey, calm down,” he held up his hands in mock surrender. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m glad you care. I need you to care. I’m just not great when it comes to mushy hellos.” He met her eyes. “I came here because I wanted to see you. I missed you, Vicki.”

She shook her head and gave a small laugh, her anger evaporating as quickly as it had appeared. “Oh, Todd” She couldn’t say anymore.

“Can I have a hug?”

“But you hate hugs.” She studied his face to see if he was serious.

“Well, I’d take one now, as long as you keep it between us.”

Vicki acted quickly before Todd changed his mind. What surprised her, even more, was the hug she got back. She held him at arm's length. “Does your being home mean it’s over?”

“I don’t know. The contract on Samuel was withdrawn. So there are no more attempts on my life. I’m not sure it’s over though. There’s trouble concerning The Sun.” He slipped free of her arms and her piercing eyes.

“What kind of trouble?”

“Nothing I can’t handle now that I’m home.” He moved a little bit away from her. “You look good, sis.”

“You’re evading my question. Don’t go off and do something impulsive.”

“Give me a little credit, Vicki. I just found out about it. Even I can’t get into trouble this fast. Stop worrying.”

“That’s what I do, remember?” she smiled lovingly at him.

“Oh yeah, “ he grinned a little sheepishly at her. “Look, I got word down in Savannah from the managing editor. There’s been a rash of foul-ups and small catastrophe’s that have hit the paper in the last couple of weeks. One whole issue was printed backward and shipped before it was spotted. Three separate incidences of shipments of issues arriving at the outlets late. It’s like someone has pulled strings to make The Sun look bad.”

“It’s been in a bit of a flux with Jake dying. There were bound to be a few problems with no one at the helm.”

“Damn, how could Kelly just go off and leave like that.”

“Todd that’s unfair, she wanted to go home to her son. You know what it’s like to be separated from your children.”

“I didn’t have a choice, Vicki. Kelly’s been away from her son all this time and now all of a sudden she’s feeling motherly.”

“Todd, enough! Kelly just found her way back with Joey and she wanted to reconnect with her son, too. You’ll manage without her. You and Blair were a good team once before, you can do it again.”

“Alright, I’m sorry. I’m not sure if I want Blair involved. These complications at the Sun are just too convenient.” His cell phone went off suddenly and Todd answered. “How bad? I’ll be right there.”

“What is it, Todd?”

“There’s been an accident and injury. Something to do with the press. I’ve got to go.”

“By all means, you should go. Todd, I’m glad you’re home.”

He took the moment to kiss her cheek before rushing out.

Vicki touched her cheek, that little gesture by Todd always moved her. She walked to the window and looked over at the Manning building. Todd was right. This accident on top of everything else wasn’t a coincidence. Someone was definitely causing trouble.

Todd walked into the building noting the ambulance already in place at the curb. There was a large crowd of onlookers by the printing press. “Everyone clear out. Give these guys some room.”

The group looked to see who had just spoken and amid murmurs, they hurriedly left.

Todd joined the EMTs as they worked on his employee. Todd recognized the man as one of few people who had been employed by him when he started The Sun. “How is he?”

“He’s alive, sir.”

“Good.” Todd noticed the man awakening. “Is he out of danger? I need to talk to him for just a moment.” Someone had started playing for keeps and this poor guy had gotten caught in the middle.

“Give me one minute.” He moved closer to the man and read his name tag. “Phil, take it easy. Do you remember anything?”

“Do I know you?” Phil asked groggily.

“You tell me?”

The face above him came into focus and Phil recognized a man he had known from long ago. "Mr. Manning? Is it really you?”

“The one and only, Phil. They’re going to be taking you to the hospital, but I need to know what happened?”

“All I remember was turning the machine on like always, then nothing.”

Todd nodded. “Okay, We’ll figure it out. You just recover.” He looked at the EMTs. “You should probably go now.” He backed up and got out of the way as they wheeled Phil out the door. Todd wandered over to the press. The switch was charred where Phil’s hand had been in contact with it. Suddenly there was a spark and Todd caught a whiff of smoke. He saw some sort of vapor rising from behind the switch. He placed his hand on the wall thinking to get a closer look at the mechanism but quickly pulled it back away again. The wall behind the switch was hot to the touch. Great, a fire. If he didn’t get it stopped quickly, it would probably make it impossible to find the sabotage. He walked to the fire alarm and pulled it, then went in search of an extinguisher. Employees were streaming from the building when the firemen arrived. They found Todd standing with an extinguisher in hand, spraying down the switch.

“Sir you need to leave. We’ll take it from here.”

“I can’t leave, I need to know if the switch was tampered with.”

“That’s our job sir, you need to go.” Just then smoke billowed from the ceiling tiles above and Todd found himself being escorted from his building.

He stood out on the street and thought back to the day he had bought the building from Asa. The old coot had gotten a handsome amount for the Omega building, but it had been worth it to Todd. That day Blair had been happy. Now someone wanted to take that away. Deep inside, he felt a cold anger building and this time he didn’t try to stop it. Whoever was behind this had gone from dirty tricks to endangering lives. Okay, you want a fight, you‘ve got it.

Now you’re talking Todd, but you know who’s behind this as well as I do. This is Daimler’s handiwork.

The Monster was right. Daimler had made his first move. I’ll handle this.

You’re kidding yourself, you need me.

I said I’ll handle it.

  The voice went silent, but the cold rage remained. Todd came out of his reverie, just in time to see the Fire Marshal headed towards him.

“We got it put out before it got out of control inside the walls and ceiling, one of my men said you were concerned about sabotage. You were right. The switch that started all this, was definitely tampered with. It appears this was a deliberate act. We found evidence that someone stripped the wires and rerouted them to the “on” position. Whoever pushed that switch would receive a dangerous shock. Your quick thinking with the extinguisher kept that wiring from being damaged by the fire.”

“Thank you, I think. Is it okay to return inside? I’d like to see the inside of that switch.”

“ I believe you should wait for the police. My men still need to do a thorough run through of the entire building to make sure there aren’t any hidden fires we don’t know about. There’s still a lot of smoke in the building.”

Todd was deep in thought and waiting on John to make an appearance when he felt a hand on his elbow and looked into the concerned eyes of his sister.

“My God, Todd, what happened?”

“Isn’t it obvious, the joker has upped the game from pranks to attempted murder. A guy who’s worked for the paper since I built it was almost killed today. It was odd Vicki, I saw him laying on the gurney and knew him. The years seemed to drop away for a moment. That guy was hurt because someone is out to get me, only this time he’s using my paper.”

“Todd, talk to the police. Promise me you won’t try and handle this yourself.”

“I can’t make that promise Vicki. Here comes John, you should go. I’m afraid you’ll be in the line of fire next and I don’t want that.” He put his hand over hers. “Go home.”

He watched as she left, looking around trying to see if anyone was showing any interest in her. He relaxed a little seeing everyone’s attention was still on the building.

John raised an eyebrow as he approached Todd. “When did you arrive back?”

“Yesterday. As you can see, someone knew about it, too.“

“How do you figure that?”

“Everything was fine here yesterday. This was just done last night. It was a welcome home to me.”

John took a minute to talk to the fire marshal and then he and Todd entered the building.
Todd was disgusted. The printing room was a disaster. No paper would be going out today. His only hope would be if Vicki allowed him to use the Banner’s Presses. He and John made their way over to the wall and switch where it had all started.

“This looks like the place,” John remarked facetiously

“You’re a riot, John.”

John picked his way past the remains of the wall until he could get an up-close look at the switch. He noted the scorch marks on the inside of the box. “I’m guessing this is where your employee was shocked”

“Good guess. There were also marks on the outside of the wall but those are now destroyed. The EMTs had just removed Phil when I came to look at the switch. I smelled smoke and saw the sparks, that‘s when I pulled the alarm. Whoever did this could have hurt a lot more people if I hadn’t stopped to take a closer look.”

“So I’m guessing you have someone in mind for this, Todd”

“I’m leaning toward someone, but I've got nothing concrete to go on right now.”

“Would you care to share?”

“Not yet John. I just don’t have enough information.”

John had an inkling who Todd had in mind but he didn’t want to push. There was the matter of the sabotage and injured employee to work on now. He called Natalie and told her to bring down the forensic team, they might be able to secure some fingerprints from inside the switch box and wiring. It would give them a starting place. “Natalie will be here soon. How did you find out about it?”

“I got the call from the managing editor while I was at the Banner. I came right over and the rest you know.”

“Can I speak to this editor?”

“I guess. I'll get him here.”

Todd knew the guy but not well, he had been hired by Jake. Still, he was able to point him out to John, when the guy walked through the doors. “Len, it is Len, right? Could you give the lieutenant and me the short version of what took place here when Phil got hurt?”

“Well, it’s just like I told you on the phone, Mr. Manning, they were getting ready to run the front page, when the copy editor noticed a glitch in the main article and called me down to double check it before we printed. I gave the okay to the change needed and Molly, that’s the copy editor, reset the page. She gave Phil permission to run the page and then all hell broke loose.”

“What do you mean?” asked John.

“Well Lieutenant, Phil reached for the switch and all of a sudden he was jerking and unable to let go. The lights in the room dimmed and one of the copy boys had the presence of mind to tackle Phil breaking the link. Some of the guys went to work trying to revive Phil, Molly called 911, and I called Mr. Manning”

“I see and all of this stuff worked just fine yesterday?"

“Yes, sir. Mr. Manning, what do we do now?”

“Are there any employees still here?“

“Everybody but the printing room staff is still here.”

Todd made a quick call. “Thanks, Sis, I’ll owe you one.” he hung up and looked at Len. “Okay, the Banner is allowing us the use of their printing facility, paper, and ink for today’s run. Get the staff and get over there. We can still get a paper out. Get moving Len."

Len knew from his voice that Manning was serious. He hadn’t worked for this Manning but he had heard stories. If he still wanted to have a job he needed to get this paper out. “I’m on it, Sir.”

Todd looked at John, “I’d like to be kept informed if Natalie finds anything. Not that I think you’ll get anything, but everyone makes mistakes. I ought to know. I’ve made my share over the years. I’ll be at The Banner.“

John watched Todd leave, knowing one mistake Todd wished he could take back. He had made an enemy of one man he might not be able to beat.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Todd Manning, Enigma Chapter 18

Chapter 18

        As they pulled into the clearing Todd asked the driver to stop and stepped from the car. Todd held out his hand for Blair to get out with him. She took it, exiting the car, uncertain what he was up to. Todd instructed the driver to take the kids to the side entrance. He stood with his arms encircling Blair, facing the house and watching the setting sun cast a rosy glow down on Dragonheart. “A short while ago, I stood right here and you told me that our house was proof of my love for you.”

       “Todd, we haven’t been home in ages, what are you talking about?”

       “It’s hard to explain.  I think I was dying and you brought me here. There was this glow surrounding the house and the air was warm and welcoming. The house seemed to be inviting me into its safe arms. Then you spoke two little words. For one brief moment, I lost sight of you, but I knew I could find you again, all I had to do was listen.” Todd paused and hugged her close, knowing this time she wasn’t disappearing. “Then I heard you. Thank you.”

       “Todd, what were the words?”

       “Come home.” He said it softly, whispering it in her ear and he gently kissed her cheek.

        Blair felt a tear drop on her cheek. She didn’t understand everything he had gone through, but somehow her love for him had pulled him back to them, and she was thankful.

         She turned in his arms, “Welcome home, Todd.” The passion of his sudden kiss threatened to overwhelm, but she regained her control and eased back bringing the kiss to a close before she fainted. Wiping her lipstick off his lips, she grabbed his hand and said, “Let’s go in before the kids wreck the place.” Laughing, she pulled him toward the front door and Todd followed, this time holding tightly to her hand.

        They walked through the front door just in time to see Jack and Sam sliding down one banister while Hope and Starr slid down the other.

        “What the hell?”

         At the sound of Todd’s voice, the giggles stopped and all eyes turned to him.

        “You guys started without me and that is so unfair.” They all watched astonished as he dashed upstairs and flung a leg over the rail. Sam and Jack yelped and jumped off knowing he was headed their way. Before Starr and Hope had even gotten clear, Starr watched as her mom followed suit and came down their side. Todd rode down like a pro, but Blair discovered there was a certain technique needed for a smooth ride and after one go, she decided to just watch from the bottom. After several more trips, Blair called a halt because her heart couldn’t take anymore. It had been more unnerving and precarious than she had thought it would be, and the thought of one or more of them falling was just too much. “Alright, enough. There’s still unpacking to do and we need to get some dinner.” She shushed their groans and they all headed up to their rooms.

        Todd moved into the living room and put on some music and got a couple of drinks. Handing her one, he grinned. “Here, you look like you could use a stiff one. I’ll tell them the banisters are off limits unless I’m around. I don’t want them hurt either.” He worked to keep from smiling even more when Blair took a big gulp and almost choked. “I’m sorry. It was my design, I always wanted a sliding banister.

        Blair looked at him. “Are you serious?”

        “Yeah!” he laughed at her expression. “Listen, Peter was the last one to believe in fun.” The look of disbelief on her face was too much. “Okay, I’m lying, you know why I designed the banisters that way. Sliding down them is just an added bonus, I know it scares you, so no more sliding.” He reached and cupped her face, “I just want you happy.”

         After the excitement of finally being home wore off, Starr took Hope and headed out to find James.  Jack and Sam retired to their suite to play games. Todd took Blair’s hand and walked out to the back terrace, looking down on Llanview. “It’s chillier than I thought, stay here, I’ll be right back.” Todd ducked back inside and grabbed the throw lying across the couch. “Come here,” he held opened his arms. She walked into them and leaned against him as he wrapped the throw around them both.

        “Hmm, cozy.” She hugged his arms around her tighter. “You realize this really isn’t a good idea. You have been living the better part of the last six months down south. The doctors would probably read you the riot act.”

         “I’m fine, Blair. You were there, I got a clean bill of health.” He could tell she wanted to say more, but he squeezed her. “It’s time to get back on track. I need to petition the courts and get my name back. The Sun is under attack by persons unknown. This is where we belong.”

        “I know you’re right, but I’m worried. This attack, why now?”
        “The Sun is vulnerable. With Jake dead, no one’s been running things. Someone is making an end run, hoping to get past my blockers. It’s got to stop.”

         “What are you going to do?”

           “Find out how they’re doing this. I was under the impression that Jake and I were the only stockholders. I bought my shares out from under Carlo, but now I’m wondering if Jake only thought he had control of his shares.” Todd rubbed her arms and realized she was shivering. “Let’s go back inside, you’re cold.”

“I’m not shivering because I’m cold.  I’m scared, wondering what else Hesser and his cohorts did to Jake and us.”

        “I need to talk to Tea. Maybe she can find something in Jake’s papers. It’s possible he signed something giving them his shares. He might not have known.”

       “Todd, if he did, then what?”

        “Then we’ve got a problem. Let’s not talk about it, now. It’s getting colder.” He felt a chill, his gut tightened and there it was. That feeling, like being wrapped up in ice; so cold it burned.

       “What do you want?”

        “You know what I want. I want out. You need to keep your focus. She’ll bring you down, she makes you weak.”

         “No! You make me weak. Go away!”

         “You’re a fool. She almost destroyed you before.”

         “Shut up!” He didn’t realize he had spoken aloud until he felt Blair turn in his arms.

         “Todd, what is it?”

          He looked bleakly at her. “I don’t know if I can keep it contained. It goads me.”

          It only took a second to figure out what he was referring to;  his cold anger, or the way Todd saw it, his demon. “Come with me.” She led him back in.  She knew Starr had returned home and took him upstairs to Starr’s room. Together, they watched Starr put Hope down for the night. She saw his face soften and the tension leave his body as Hope called him into the room for a goodnight kiss.

         “Goodnight, Dragon! I love you more than peaches.” 

          Todd laughed.“Let’s see you beat that.”  Blair sighed with relief.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Todd Manning, Enigma Chapter 17 (Mild Adult)

Chapter 17

        He woke to the sounds of Blair in the shower. Picturing her standing there lathered up and letting the water flow down her was hard to resist.

         “Behave yourself, you almost did yourself in last night. You don’t need to ravage her 24/7.”

          “Speak for yourself, Samuel. I quite like the idea.” Todd leaned back against his pillows, his arm under his head. “She’s hard to resist, that toned body, those gorgeous lips. Admit it, you’d love to be in there helping her wash. Stroking those fine muscles, you with your painter’s eye and touch. You want her as much as I do.” He was turning himself on thinking about her. “Damn, I’m nuts sitting here talking to you.” Todd hopped out of bed and headed to the bathroom. He opened the stall door and stood there admiring her lithe body. She was about to shampoo her hair.

           Blair turned at the sound of the door and saw Todd staring openly at her. He stepped in and took the shampoo bottle from her and put some in his hand.

           “Turn around Blair,” his voice husky. She tingled with anticipation as she turned.

            Todd began to slowly work the foam into her strands, the silky texture of her hair became mixed with the scent of orange blossoms and other tantalizing smells. He moved closer letting her feel how excited he was. Blair moaned and would have gotten closer, but he held her away as he finished her hair, then he turned her back to face him. He pulled her into his arms. “Go ahead, lean back and rinse, I’ve got you.”

          Blair was already breathless and the action of leaning back in his arms moved her hips nearer to his. He was so ready for her, and she ground her hips against him in response. Water cascaded down her back rinsing her hair, but Blair had only one thought, she squirmed closer, moaning, letting him know he was driving her crazy.

          Todd knew she was beside herself, but he waited until he was sure her hair was free of the suds. She continued to writhe against him pleading. He lifted her and entered as she wrapped her legs around his waist.

           Blair gasped and sighed as he settled her. Now firmly secure around him, she relished how he filled her and she began her ride. His mouth played along her neck and every so often she felt a delicious little nip. It was heady and her belly and groin rippled in reply.

         Todd nuzzled her neck and felt every quiver and movement as she rode him. She was heavenly to touch, her skin was like finely woven silk, smooth and slippery. She glistened with moisture, the droplets sparkled reflecting the overhead light. His lips captured those droplets, tasting her as she shivered in delight. The moment was upon them, he gyrated unable to stop, letting loose with a cry of pleasure. Their shouts mingled with the sound of the water splashing and then he let her down, clasped her face and tenderly kissed her pliable lips.
           Blair wound her fingers into his hair kissing him, feeling his strong muscular body rubbing hers, they were so close she could feel his heart beating.

           Todd raised his head looking at her. “Hi, Blair.”


          “How’s your morning going so far? I’ve got to tell you, mine’s pretty good right now,” he said, grinning.

           Blair laughed and hugged him. “Mine’s been downright spectacular so far.”

          “Great but look, I’m turning into a prune so what say we get out of here?”

           “Whoa mister, you need to finish with your shower, wrinkles or no wrinkles. I suggest you make it quick.” She laughed and stepped away and out the door before he could stop her.

             Todd laughed and made quick work of his shower, anxious to get back to his wife.

             Blair was putting on her makeup when he strolled out of the bathroom in just a towel. He was great to look at. His hair was swept back and glistening, still wet from washing. She watched his chest muscles move making note of the brief discomfort he felt as he slipped on his shirt. He slipped into his shorts and grabbed his slacks.

         “See anything you like?”

           Blair jumped realizing he was talking to her. “Everything,” she smiled then got serious. “I also saw you twinge a moment ago. Maybe we should slow down a little bit. You’re still recuperating.”

         “It’s nothing, a few sore muscles. Where you’re concerned, I’ll never ease up. If something makes you happy, that’s all it takes for me.” He strode over and offered his hand. “Let’s go eat, I’m starving.”


        Todd was on his laptop when the phone rang.


         “So it’s true, you’re back in the land of the living.”

          “McBain, nice to hear your voice too. I hope you have some good news for me.”

            “I think it’s what you’ve been waiting for. Interpol just contacted Bo and told him the contract against Samuel has been withdrawn. Looks like somebody decided to cut their losses.”


            “That’s kind of cryptic. I thought you’d be overjoyed.”

            “Let’s just say I think something else is in the works now. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad no one’s gunning for me. Blair and the family will be glad to hear we can get back to Llanview.”

            There was silence on the other end and then John said. “Okay, you don’t feel like sharing right at the moment. If I were to hazard a guess, would this something else have to do with the man on the ship.”

         “Score one for the detective.”

           “Todd what’s going on?”

          “I received an unexpected call just before leaving the hospital yesterday. He didn’t like my gift to him I guess.”

           “I know you scored a hit, Todd, we found the blood. You’re telling me he’s making it personal.”

           “As personal as it gets, John.”

           “So what are you doing about it?"

           “Me, I’m biding my time. I’ve been trying to find out where his call came from. Hold on a minute. Something just came up on my laptop.” Todd opened the message and frowned. “John, someone’s after The Sun. Tell Bo, we’ll be coming home soon. I’ve got to go.” Todd stood up, he wrapped his arms around his chest. Damn it! Who are you and just what are you planning?

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