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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chasing the Monsters: 53

"Dad, are you busy?"  Todd asked, holding the phone in the crook of his neck, while he worked at the computer.

"No, Son, I was just reading through some briefs.  What is it?"


"Seems we have a problem.  Long version: Zeus has been contacting Sam without our permission or knowledge and wants him back.  Short version, I'm going to kill him."


"Todd, slow down, Lad.  What exactly happened?"


Todd filled Timothy in on the recent events, and the older man let him give all the details.  Todd's voice was filled with ire and disgust, and Timothy could hear it.   The older man said, "Well, ya have a case to put a restraining order on the man.  He's terrorizing the boy."


"Okay, is that where I start?"


"Yes, I will file it immediately with the Llanview Family Court."


"Thanks."


"Todd, don't go and hurt him, threaten him or show yourself to be a violent man.  If ya do, ya run the risk of proving him right.  Ya can't behave like Peter and prove y'ar not.  Do ya understand?"


Todd swallowed.  He wanted nothing more than to run off in the copter and land in Zeus' yard and strangle him slowly to death.  "I hear you."


"That's not what I asked ya."


He relented.  "I understand."


"I want ya to promise me."


"I don't think I can do that.  When I think of Sam, so afraid, scared to sleep, and how he's been manipulating him, I just want to squeeze The So-Called Magician's pencil neck until it breaks."


"Make sure I'm the only one that ya say that to," Timothy said.


"You're serious."


"Of course.  He's going to be looking to prove that Sam is in more danger with ya than he would be with them.  It's typical.  In fact, ya know enough about this from y'ar own past with Blair."


"Karma: it's a bitch."


"Possibly."


"When I think about how afraid Sam is, I just see myself.  It's . . . he's just like I was.  Terrified.  Not what a young kid should be, you know?"


"Yes, I know.  I'll get on this restraining order immediately.  Zeus may possibly be brought up on charges of risk of injury to a minor.  I'll check.  Just stay put, stay with Blair, don't do anything rash, Lad."


Todd didn't answer.  Again, his plan of squeezing the life out of Zeus would have to wait.  "What about Ribsky and the case?"


Timothy rolled his eyes and sighed.  "Oh, that, well, I am not feeling it, is that the expression?"


"Hmf, it is.  Why not?"


"He's obsessed, Todd.  No good can come from it.  He's putting himself into his work to avoid dealing with Pamela's death.  He wants ya to send the police roster to him.  He asked me to do the funeral arrangements and contact his son, Lucas."


"Whoa, wait a minute, that's odd, huh?  I can see why you're not feelin' it."


"No.  In fact, I felt he might be headed for something . . . possibly a breakdown."


Todd was concerned, and said, "Well, maybe with time."


"Time?  Can ya imagine y'arself without Blair, Todd?  I couldn't imagine life without Erin, and it happened."


He swallowed, and didn't like that his father brought up precisely what he was envisioning.  "No, I can't.  And let's not dwell on that.  I'll send the roster.  Just help the guy out, if you can."


"I'll do what I'm able.  And stay away from Zeus Zelenko."


***


He sat, in the motel room he rented, with a can of beer in front of him, and a half-eaten pizza.  Connie's journals were piled up on the table, and the curtains were drawn.  "There has to be more here, somewhere, something in passing about a cop, who was maybe on the take, a friend . . . come on, Connie, old girl . . ."

He paged through the oldest volume, which would have placed Todd at 16.  "That's a far cry from 6, old man," he said to himself.  He thumbed through, stopping here and there to read his sister-in-law's flamboyant script.

I met his son today: Todd.  He's a blustering sort of mess of hair and attitude.  Not quite my cup of tea.  There's something between them that's not quite readable.  Whatever it is, I sense the boy is damaged or spoiled, one or the other, and I can always see something like fear in his eyes when he's spoken to by Peter.  Other than that, Peter seems to be quite a find.  He knows how to treat a woman, and definitely spares no expense when we go out.  I'll have to give it more time, of course, but he's wealthy, and respected in the community.  What more could a girl ask?
"Hmf.  She was totally taken in there.  So blind to the truth about the guy.  You should have looked around the basement, Connie, and seen what respect looks like."  He turned a few more pages.  There were a few doodles along the edges of some of them, and sometimes scribbles where the dates were.  He stopped and read more:
Peter seems to have the respect of everyone.  His son answers his every beck and call, it seems, and does what he is asked.  He's rather quiet, at times, but knows his place.  Today, something odd did happen.  Peter mentioned, briefly, a court proceeding regarding a follow-up to a probationary period for Todd.  When I asked about it, Peter was very angry and didn't want to discuss it.  Seems Todd may have gotten into some kind of trouble when he was younger, a few years back.  I guess that's the norm nowadays with these teens.  Ungrateful and wanting everything when they want it.
"Looks like your sister Pamela had the brains," he said, and reached for the beer.   As he sipped, he fought not to let his mind go to his dead wife, or what had happened to her.  

***


"I'm looking for Lucas Ribsky?"  Timothy said, and a woman asked him to hold on.


"Hello?"


"Is this Lucas?"


"Yes."


"I'm very sorry for y'ar loss.  I am a friend of y'ar father's.  My name is Timothy Broderick.  I'm afraid y'ar father has asked me to take care of funeral arrangements and to call ya.  However, I have just met him, not long ago, and barely know the family.  I felt ya should know that he is not faring well with the loss."


"I know.  I can tell, and I have to apologize Mr. Broderick, for him putting the responsibility on you, as if you could even be considered responsible."


"I don't mind helping at all, y'ar father and I are involved in an important case, which is connected to y'ar mother's death."


"I know.  It's all he talks about.  We have the arrangements in gear, working on it."


"If I can be of help, I would be glad to."


"We could use a pall bearer, if you can."


"I can.  And I will.  Thank ya for the honor of including me."


"No, thank you.  My father needs a friend right now.  I can barely speak to him.  He cuts me off, talks about this case, and nothing more.  I'm assuming the man who he's searching the information for is your son, Mr. Broderick?"


"Well, yes."


"My dad seems to be . . . out of control.  It's all he talks of, and then he hangs up.  He won't discuss my mother with me.  In fact, I barely know what happened to her, and why."


"Well, I guess I see the reason, then, that I'm in touch with ya.  If you'll allow me, I'll meet with ya and discuss it.  I can shed some light on it, and we can at least put a face with a name?"


"Yes, that would be fine.  Tomorrow, at the diner?"


"Certainly," he had already been there, once, and that was with Ribsky.


"All right, say 9 a.m.?"


Yes, I'll be there.  Goodnight, and my condolences."


"Thank you," he said.


Timothy sighed.  "Dear Goodness, the poor family," he said, and dialed.  "Creena, are ya busy?"


"No, Broham, what is it?"


"I'm stuck in a muddle.  Thought ya could help me."  He went on to explain everything that had happened since his return to Chicago and the current state of affairs with Ribsky and his family.  


"This sounds very sad, and not particularly healthy for the man.  Is there anything ya can do?"  she asked.


"No, I can only support him and his family, I suppose.  They've asked me to carry the dead, I've agreed.  Ribsky is nowhere; I haven't been able to locate him in the last few hours or so.  His son is also concerned."


"Oh dear.  What can I do for ya, then?"


"I supposed just y'ar usual sisterly advice, is all."


"Well, I can do that, Broham."


"I know, that's why I called ya, Dear One."


"Watch over Todd, don't underestimate what all this has done to him."


"I wouldn't.  He's my first concern.  But I'm feeling he's all right."


"Perhaps this man, Jack, needs to do this his way?  Perhaps he needs this to get over his loss?"


"He may.  It's just a bit strange at times.  As if he can't think of anything else."


"Possibly he can't.  But at least he's committed, eh?"


Timothy hadn't thought of that. 



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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Memories Unlocked #26

# 26

Larry Wolek looked over the file and films that Blair had given him.  Blair hadn’t been exaggerating.  Todd’s injuries had been severe.  From the scans, he could definitely see the damaged parts of the brain that would cause amnesia.  The substantial damage to his back and spine was also a good indicator that paralysis was a definite possibility.  Laying the file down on his desk, Larry frowned.  He was not a big fan of Todd’s, but the man was the half-brother of his first wife and that made him extended family  Todd had clearly been through something terrible but was he faking everything or was the report correct.  He reached across his desk and phoned one of his colleagues.


“Dr. MacIver, I was wondering if you could look at the medical records of a new patient.  The man was badly injured several months ago and currently is suffering from amnesia and partial paralysis.   I just wanted to see if you agree with me on my findings.”  After getting an affirmative answer from the other doctor, Larry put in a long distance call to Guam.  He was still on the phone with Dr. Sanchez when Troy MacIver knocked on his door.


“Come on in, Doctor.  Please have a seat.” Larry thanked Dr. Sanchez and assured her that he would keep her informed of her patient’s progress.   Hanging up, he looked at  Troy.“Thanks for coming so quickly.”


“You have my interest up. You said the man had amnesia and is paralyzed and that his accident happened several months alone.  Just what kind of amnesia are we talking about?”


“Well, that’s the problem, for now, it appears to be total amnesia.  According to his last doctor, he woke up without any idea of his name or his past.”


“For that to happened, his brain must have experienced some major trauma.  Full retrograde amnesia doesn’t happen often.”


“I agree but I would like you to look at his scans.  I wanted to see if you see what I do.”  Larry got up and put the scans and X-rays up on the light board.  He then stepped back and let Troy get a good look at the injuries.


Troy whistled. “My God, how did he survive?  Most men would have died from the brain injury alone.”


“From talking to his doctor, it was touch and go in the beginning.  It’s clear the man has an indomitable spirit   As you can see by his x-rays, this isn’t the first time he’s been severely injured.”  Larry had to admit he had been shocked by the recent injuries, but it was the extent of Todd’s previous injuries that had floored him.  The last time Todd had been in the Llanview hospital had been the DID debacle.  At that time there had been no need for a full body scan.  Until now, Larry had not had any idea what Todd went through following his near death in Ireland.


Troy looked at Larry.  “The man must have a will of iron.  It looks like he has some significant damage in the brain that would certainly account for the amnesia.” Troy turned and picked up the file.  “This report says he has been having some flashes of memory.  That could be a good sign he’ll get all his memory back but it’s no guarantee.  The paralysis is another matter.  His back was broken in several places and the damage to his lower back would account for it. Everything looks like it’s been healing correctly but that kind of trauma definitely took its toll on the nerve bundle at the end of his spine. His surgeon was very thorough repairing the damage, but he would have had significant swelling.  Even though the swelling appears to be gone. The nerves might take a lot longer to rebound.  Why did you ask me to come and look at these, surely you saw the same thing?”


Sighing, Larry nodded his head.  “I did, but I just wanted confirmation of my findings.  So, you agree with me the amnesia and paralysis are real.”


Troy looked over at Larry.  “That’s a strange thing to say.  Yes, I believe the man suffers from both amnesia and paralysis. Mind telling me why you would think they weren’t real?”


“Because the patient you’re looking at is Todd Manning.  He’s not exactly known for his honesty.  I wondered if he was faking.”


Stunned, Troy looked back at the scans and X-rays.  So Blair had found Todd and now he understood why Todd had been missing for so long.  He had his misgivings about the man but the proof of his condition was right in front of him.  “Dr.Wolek, I know enough about the man to understand your reluctance but looking at these scans tells me he’s not faking anything, in fact, it would explain why he hasn’t contacted his wife all this time. Can I take it that Todd Manning is now back in Llanview?”


Larry nodded.  “He is.  Blair Manning dropped off this information to me just a short while ago.  It looks like Todd is going to still need some therapy.  He recently began to have some feeling in his right leg, but his left leg is still paralyzed.  I appreciate you giving me your findings on what you see.  As always, this is covered by patient confidentiality. I’m sure you’ll keep this to yourself.”


“Yes, certainly.” Troy saw himself out.  As he walked down the hallway, he thought back to his last conversation with Blair.  She hadn’t given up hope of finding Todd and it looked like she had succeeded, but he was guessing it hadn’t been the happy reunion she had hoped for.


****


Vicki waited until the car started moving to ask her question.  “Blair, were you planning on heading home after you drop me off at Llanfair?”


Blair nodded.  “Yes, it’s been a long day and I think everyone wants to sleep in their own bed.”


Todd stared straight ahead, his mind was racing.  It never occurred to him that Blair would want everything to return to normal so quickly.  How could he tell her he needed more time, without hurting her again?


“I was thinking you might want to all stop and relax for a little bit at my house.  After all, you have been gone for a couple of weeks.  I’m sure you don’t even have anything to eat at LaBoulaie.  Have dinner with me before you go home.”


Before Blair could object, Todd spoke up.  “Blair, I think that’s a great idea, let’s get something to eat.  I’m starved,  I got used to a pretty regular eating schedule in the hospital but you’ve been flying me all over the place without a decent meal.  You owe me, besides, it will give me a chance to talk with Vicki.”  he turned his head and looked directly at Blair.


Although Todd’s tone was casual and carefree, the look in his eyes told a different story.  He was upset about something. “Okay Todd, we’ll go to Vicki’s.  Starr would probably like some time to move around since we’ve all been sitting for so long.  Thank you, Vicki, dinner and some unwinding time would be great.”


A short while later the limousine pulled up in front of Llanfair. Todd was impressed.  It was a beautiful estate.  “Nice digs, Vicki.  With a house that size, there must be a lot of family living here, right?”


“Currently, it’s just me and my daughters: Jessica and Natalie.  My son Kevin is in Texas and my son Joey is in London.”  She looked at Todd but he showed no sign that the names were familiar.  Her eyes met Blair’s and she realized Blair had been hoping for something to click too.


“Oh well, I’ll get to meet my nieces I guess.  They know me, right?”


Vicki nodded. The limo pulled to a stop near the front door. A few minutes later Todd and the rest of them entered the house.  Starr looked around at all the decorations and exclaimed. “Mommy, did we miss Christmas?”


“No Starr.  In fact, we still have a week to get ready.  Don’t worry we have plenty of time. Right, Todd?” She looked at Todd but his focus was on the stairway leading up to the rest of the house.


The moment he had entered the door, the stairway had drawn his attention. Todd couldn’t look away, in his mind he saw Vicki standing at the bottom telling him how their father had abused and raped her when she was small. That memory had opened up his mind to something he himself was guilty of, but now, all he could think of was how his sister must have felt when she remembered it.  His eyes blazed as he looked at Vicki.  “How can you do it?  How can you live here after what he did to you?”


The anger and upset in Todd’s voice caught both Vicki and Blair off-guard.


“Todd, what’s the matter?  Vicki has lived in this house all her life. It’s the Lord family home.  Where else would she live?”


While Blair was baffled, Vicki realized the reason behind Todd’s anger and went to his side. She put her hand on his shoulder and his hand came up to cover her’s. She recalled his words to her back at the airport and understood where his upset was coming from.  “Todd, he’s dead, and can’t hurt me any longer. Those memories tore me apart for a while, but I’m stronger today, and this house has so many good memories now. Love, life, and happiness permeate it. It’s Home.  I can still hear the sound of laughter when Kevin and Joey were younger and Jessica grew up happy and healthy.  That’s something I have you to thank for.“  She squeezed his shoulder. “You saved her life years ago and I’ll always love you for that. You had no idea at that time that she was your niece or that you were my brother.  You did it because it was the right thing to do.  Look, Christmas is a little over a week away.  I’m grateful Blair found you.  We have much to celebrate. Let’s put our energy into getting you well.  Now, I invited you for dinner. Why don’t you go into the library and relax  I’ll have dinner ready before you know it.  Blair, why don’t you fix Todd a drink, I think he could use it.  It’s been a rough afternoon.”


Todd held onto Vicki’s hand reluctant to let it go. Then he released it and rolled his chair into the library.  Pulling up next to Vicki’s couch he locked the wheels and watched Starr as she searched around the tree to see if any of the gifts already there were for her.


Picking up one of the boxes, she shook it and looked puzzled. “Mommy, this box is empty, what’s going on?”


Blair laughed “Starr, those aren’t real gifts.  They’re just decorations  You know the real gifts won’t show up until Santa brings them on Christmas Eve”


Starr put the package down and frowned at her mom. “Mommy, I’m not a baby anymore.  I know Santa isn’t real.  Do you think I still have time to send my Christmas list to Aunt Dorian?”


Todd laughed out loud at Starr’s remark.  “I take it, Aunt Dorian is an easy mark.”


Blair smiled.  “When it comes to Starr and Jack, yes.  If she likes you she’ll do anything for you but you don’t want to get on her bad side.”


“Hmm, is that a warning or am I already on her bad side.”


“You’re not one of her favorite people, but don’t worry she’s not one of your’s either.”

“I see.”


Vicki walked into the room.  “Who isn’t one of Todd’s favorite people?”


Todd looked over his shoulder.  “Someone named Aunt Dorian.”


“Don’t worry Todd, Dorian and I have a very similar relationship too. But she’s in Paris right now so you won’t be seeing her anytime soon. Blair, I took a tray up to Heddy so Jack could continue to nap.  We can all eat in the kitchen.  I hope you don’t mind.“


Todd turned his chair to face Vicki.“Now you’re talking. Just point me in the right direction.  I’m hungry enough to eat a horse.”


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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Who's the Real Todd? Chapter 48

        Jake followed Pete back to the penthouse garage and parked his car, then he joined Pete in his car with Carlo in the back seat. They headed out of town. Within the hour, they pulled up to the boundary around the Kipling Neuroscience Research Facility. Jake pointed the way to Kipling's house and once again they parked the car out of sight and prepared for the second part of the night's activities.

         Kipling was such a megalomaniac that he felt he was untouchable and didn't think to put outside surveillance equipment to use. Luckily he had no patients there in the middle of the night. It made their plan much simpler because they didn't have to worry about gassing innocent people. With the help of the blueprints and the pictures sent by his reporter, Pete quickly found the ventilation system for the whole house, including the one that led to the downstairs labs. Handing over the canisters of gas to Jake, Pete said. "Here's where we separate for a short time. Here is the blueprint that tells you where you can find Kipling. He's all yours for the next forty minutes. Make sure you bring him to the downstairs lab within the hour. We'll meet you there."

       Jake left with his gas mask and the canisters and headed to get the man who had tortured him for years and fed him hallucinogenic drugs almost as long.

        Pete watched Jake leave. He had given him a man they both hated, but Jake had suffered more because Kipling had kept him on a leash long after he had let Samuel go. It was only right that Jake had the first crack at Kipling.

        He pulled the unconscious Carlo from the car and dragged his body up into the forest surrounding Kipling's home finding an outcropping of boulders. He laid Hesser down on the ground, in front of the outcropping, and strategically placed his legs directly in front of one of the bigger boulders. Pete quietly walked back to the car to get the tire iron. He returned to the spot and began to carefully separate the boulder till it was rocking precipitously ready to roll from its foundation of rocks around it. With one final tap, he stood back and stoically watched the boulder begin to descend picking up speed as it rolled down toward Carlo's legs. Pete saw Carlo rousing from the gas and gazed in silence as Carlo's head turned toward the sound of the boulder unable to see because of the sack over his head. Then in the dead silence of the forest at night, the sound of bones crushing under the boulder could be heard echoing for just a minute. If you listened closely a muffled scream followed the event. Pete returned the tire iron to his car and grabbed the tarp from the trunk.

         He walked to where Carlo once again lay limply on the ground, the shock of the broken legs knocking him out. Pete reached down and felt the legs noting the different fractures. Carlo would be laid up for months and require multiple surgeries to fix those legs. He laid a tarp over his shoulder and heaved Carlo up and made his way back to the house. Jake had left the door open for him and he entered and found the nearest examination room. He laid Carlo down and went about undressing him. Finding the bandages he began wrapping Carlo from the neck down, and when he got to the legs he temporarily attempted to set them doing the same kind of job on Carlo as had been done on him. With minimal setting, he wrapped the legs. He removed the hood and taking some gauze, he took off the tape from around Hesser's eyes and wrapped them instead with two thin layers of gauze and went in search of the wheelchair he had ridden in so many times.

          Todd and Samuel had been watching from the very beginning, Todd hadn't flinched when Pete had sent the boulder rolling but Samuel had turned away. Todd looked over at his brother and said. "You don't have to watch. Ms. Perkins is keeping Tom away, go be with them. It's not going to get any better Samuel. They deserved this and so much more. We're only going to give them a taste of what they put us through. If that's wrong or bothers your moral sensibilities then you should go."

          Samuel looked at Todd and remembered all he had seen and heard about Todd's young life and then he remembered those agonizing days years ago when he and Todd had shared the same pain. Todd had seen it all from a very tender age. It had fractured him and created his brothers but through it all, it had also strengthened him. When he looked at Todd again. He saw what he had missed the first time. Todd was not cold or uncaring about what was happening. It was tearing him up inside because he hated the feeling of rage that was pushing Pete, but he was helpless too because that rage was a part of him. Something inside him yearned for release, that dark monster known as Peter Manning. Samuel realized then why Todd was watching. Todd was providing Pete the means for revenge, but he was also tempering it so that Pete didn't lose control. If Pete lost control, Carlo would die and Peter Manning would finally win. Samuel no longer shuddered. Todd needed his help. Samuel went to Todd and laid a hand on his shoulder and stood side by side watching and giving him the strength to keep Pete from going too far.

         Pete found the chair he was looking for, he wheeled it into the room and then found some orderly scrubs. Donning the scrubs and some gloves he went to the room's computer and put in the details of one Carlo Hesser, patient. Hitting a button, he watched a small name tag emerge and taking it he wrapped it securely around Hesser's wrist. Next, he located the muzzle as he called it. It was designed to keep patients from biting their tongues during Electro Convulsive Therapy and made a very effective gag at the same time. After putting the muzzle on Hesser, he removed all vestiges of glue left behind by the duct tape and then he carefully lifted Hesser and set him in the wheelchair to prepare him for his trip to the lab. Pete strapped him in, making sure he couldn't move. Then Pete gathered his hair back in a ponytail and donned a surgical mask. Only one last thing to do. He located the medicine cabinet and found the drug he was looking for, 'Sodium Pentathol', he took a syringe and extracted some and then injected it into Carlo. Now they were ready. It was time for Carlo's treatment.

         Jake had set off the canisters and waited the allotted time for the gas to take effect. He entered the house and left the door opened for Pete and Hesser and went in search of Ivan. It only took moments to find him passed out in his study. Jake transferred him to a rolling chair and wheeled him down the hall to an examination room. He and Pete had talked in detail about the treatments and some of the things they remembered. Jake undressed Kipling and wrapped him in gauze the way he himself had been wrapped. He looked at Kipling's two arms remembering what had occurred in the study.

        He had stood steps away from a doctor he thought he could trust. Now all the pain from the headaches, and then the remembrances and nightmares flooded back. Jake had laid Kipling down on the floor and pulled each arm away from his body until he was spread-eagled on the floor. Jake had carefully rolled back Kipling's sleeve from his artificial hand and studied how it was attached. It was a marvelous piece of machinery that had been surgically attached. Jake knelt down on Kipling's arm to anchor it and with his bare hands he ripped the artificial hand off. There was a little blood, probably the equivalent of a cut finger, Jake staunched the wound and laid the arm across Kipling's chest and moved his attention to the other arm. Jake then searched the room for something heavy, he located the wine cart and removed the decanters from the top. He then loaded the cart down with books till he was sure it would provide enough weight to inflict some damage. He had started it rolling, and hadn't stopped until he had heard the cracking of the bones as he had rolled over the arm and hand. He returned the books to their proper places on the shelves and set the decanters back on the cart, and placed it back against the wall. After making sure everything was where it belonged in the room. He walked back over to Kipling. He used the broken arm to pick up Kipling and deposited him in the rolling chair.

        Jake began wrapping the injured arms up. If he was right, Kipling would be without the use of his arms for quite a while, especially the broken one. He grabbed the orderly scrubs and got into them and walked over to the computer and put in the information for the patient known as Ivan Kipling. Once the name tag came out he wrapped it around Kipling's broken arm and grabbed the syringe with the pentathol and injected it into Kipling. He grabbed the muzzle and gagged Kipling effectively and wrapped his eyes so that he would be able to see but not clearly.

          After retrieving a wheelchair, he transferred Kipling to it and strapped him in. Then he took the time to clean up all traces of anyone being in the treatment room. Jake then wheeled the rolling chair back down to Kipling's study and returned to the treatment room. On the computer, he changed the date and time to specify that Patient Kipling had been delivered to the facility the previous day and had been scheduled for treatment on the current day. He carefully put Kipling's clothes in a standard clinic bag and hung them on the back of his wheelchair. It was almost time to go to the treatment room but Jake did a quick inspection to make sure everything appeared in its place. He picked up the artificial hand and dropped it into the duffel bag and putting the bag over his shoulder he began to wheel Kipling out of the room.

        The hallway became very familiar and he knew he was nearing the elevator. Pressing the button he waited, Kipling was starting to rouse as the doors opened. Jake wheeled his patient inside and pushed the button for the laboratory level. "Just you take it easy Mr. Kipling, you're alright, it's just time for your treatment." His hand tightened roughly on Kipling's shoulder."

         When the doors opened, Jake wheeled his patient out. Kipling was semi- conscious and slightly agitated. "There, there Mr. Kipling, you really must relax, you know how these treatments go, they're for your own good." he strolled past the Painting and entered the lab. He set Kipling close to the machine. Locking the wheelchair in place as he began setting up everything. He walked over to the far wall and studied the array of implants behind the glass doors. He found the key to the cabinet and started to remove all the implants. He placed all but two sets in the duffel bag. He then took one complete set of implants and place it on the tray close to Kipling's head. He hooked up Kipling to the machine and waited. "Mr. Kipling, Doctor Hesser should be here shortly. Now you really shouldn't get too agitated. That will only make things worse. Mr. Kipling, you understand you need this treatment. You're out of control and something must be done to bring you to your senses. You can't continue the way you've been going, you going to hurt someone and we can't allow you to do that. This treatment is really for your own good. It will exorcise all your demons. You should try to remain as calm as possible. We only want to help." Jake glanced at his watch, Pete and Hesser would be arriving soon and the third and final phase of the night would get started.

        Kipling struggled to think clearly, he was in a lab that seemed vaguely familiar and his body felt strange, disconnected. He couldn't move. He couldn't focus no matter how hard he tried, his eyesight was fuzzy. The nurse was saying he was here for treatments, he didn't understand. His arms were on fire, and the nurse seemed to be waiting for Doctor Hesser to arrive. He tried to talk and realized he couldn't, something was stopping him. He moaned from the pain and the nurse turned toward him again.

       "I understand you're in some pain Mr. Kipling, but unfortunately painkillers will interfere with the treatment. Ahh, I believe I hear Doctor Hesser coming." Jake stepped out of the room and watched as Pete wheeled the bandaged Hesser toward him.

****

       Pete rolled Carlo down the corridor towards the elevator. It appeared that Carlo was stirring once more, only this time every movement or bump of the wheelchair caused him to whimper in pain. " Mr. Hesser, good, you're waking up. We're on our way to your treatment session so you needn't worry. I'll take good care of you. We haven't met, my name is Pete, but I assure you, you're in good hands. Dr. Kipling told me you've been having a serious problem with leadership issues and I'm told his new treatment gets to the heart of your troubles. You mustn't fret we'll have you back on your feet and restore your confidence in no time. Maybe an in depth look into your past will be just the ticket for recovery." Pete rolled Carlo onto the elevator letting Carlo get a vague view of his orderly. They began their descent.

       His head was all fuzzy, everything was confusing. Carlo didn't remember being in an accident, but he felt incredible pain radiating from his legs. Nothing was making sense. What did the orderly mean by his treatment session and Kipling? Something was very wrong. He shook his head trying to clear his thoughts, but that just made him sick. His vision wasn't clear, but there was something about the hallway the orderly was taking him down that was very familiar, maybe he was just going to see the Doctor.

       "You really shouldn't try moving Mr. Hesser, you'll only hurt yourself. Now you just relax and let Pete take care of you. It'll be for the best in the long run. Here we are. It looks like the Doctor is all ready for you. " Pete wheeled Carlo in and took him straight to the second machine in the room. He saw that Jake had Kipling all hooked up and the implants were standing ready. He looked into Carlo's eyes, he knew Carlo was getting anxious by the sweat forming on his brow, he leaned over and whispered. "Now Carlo this might hurt just a little but you'll feel so much better when it's over." He hooked up the sensors to Carlo's head the way they had been hooked to his. Pete reached for the implants resting on the tray and turned to Jake, " Doctor, as soon as you're ready, your patient is all set."

        Jake used his best Dr. Kipling voice and replied. "You may begin the procedure, Pete"

       "Carlo I need you to give me your attention. That's right Carlo, look here.'

         Carlo felt compelled to do as he was told and looked up at the orderly standing in front of him. He felt the orderly put some gel on his head and set something in the gel, then he noticed as if through a fog something placed on his upper arm and watched it begin to slowly move up his arm with an unusual gait. Carlo began quivering as the thing began clamoring over his neck, and he felt little claws digging into his scalp. He wanted to scream. Was he having a nightmare? This couldn't possibly be for real." Carlo began to moan as the thing neared the area at the top of his head and suddenly he felt something sharp enter his scalp. He screamed but because of the muzzle, no one heard him. An electrical current ran through him and then he heard Dr. Kipling say.

       "Carlo, I need you to go back and remember the night you brought Todd Manning to me. Remember Carlo."

        He had no choice, unbidden his memory came forth and from the corner of his eye, he saw a black hand reach for a lever. God no! Suddenly the image of Todd Manning and all the events pertaining to him were being played in his mind, and then sliced ever so finely away, and with each slice, Carlo convulsed in pain. He had no control, the doctor had asked for the scenes and one by one Carlo was forced to relive it and then it was ripped away.

         Jake had tried to keep his eyes on the machine where he saw data being fed in as Carlo was remembering. As Carlo's memories of Manning ran out he was nearly unconscious. Pete leaned over and whispered. "You did great Carlo. You were a good boy. You're going to be just fine. Now you need to do one more thing for Dr. Kipling, do you think you can do it?"
Carlo nodded still under the drug, "When you're asked about it, you need to tell everything that you did to Todd Manning, to John McBain. You can do that, can't you Carlo?" once again Carlo nodded. "Yes, I know you can Carlo, you're such a good boy.  Now you just rest.  Your treatment session is over, go to sleep.  Pete took good care of you didn't he?" As Carlo drifted off. Pete took out his pocket knife and his father's lighter and heated up the edge, then he carefully extracted the little implant and dropped it into his pocket.

         Pete closed the knife and walked over behind Kipling. In his best Hesser voice, he said. "Good Morning Mr. Kipling I'm so sorry for the delay, another patient required my services first. Now we really must talk about your penchant for hurting people. Mr. Kipling, I need you to give your full attention to your nurse.  He's the one you need to watch at all times.  This is very important if you lose him you will lose yourself." As Kipling kept his eyes on Jake, Pete picked up the second implant and using the gel, he set it down on the back of Kipling's neck Immediately the implant dug in just over the crucial brain stem and Pete watched Ivan arch in pain as the implant began searching for any information it could find.

          With a simple push of a button, Pete began transferring the information Carlo had provided. He watched as the data flowed and the implant on the back of Kipling's neck began to overload with the information being fed to it. Suddenly the implant began to whirr and Jake and Pete watched fascinated as a thin wire snaked out from the underside of the implant and began to insert its needle-like tip into Kipling's brain. Jake watched in horror as he realized that was how he had been fed all of Manning's memories. Of course, it had all taken place inside his brain properly, but he found himself getting sick to his stomach. As the information came to an end the wire withdrew back into the implant.

         During the whole procedure, Kipling had been captured by the images flooding his brain, he screamed as much as he could because they were being burned into his brain. Like a stylus, the wire had fed current after current through the neurons in his brain. He had wanted to tear his head off because it was like millions of little ants were working their way through his brain making new tunnels where there hadn't been any. He had been immobile and it had been agony. Kipling collapsed in the chair tears of blood running down his cheeks.

         Once again, Pete leaned down and whispered. " Yes, you did admirably Mr. Kipling and you'll never forget what you have learned, will you. Now listen to my voice, Mr. Kipling. You will be unable to see anything else until you unburden your story to Detective McBain. You must unburden or the images will burn until you will cease to see anything at all. It is my hope you have learned the error of your ways and will offer yourself to the law so you can begin to redeem yourself. You will do this because you must, isn't that right Mr. Kipling. It is as necessary as breathing and until you've redeemed yourself you will be alone trapped forever in your mind. Be sure and let the Detective know that it was Carlo Hesser that taught you the error of your ways. Now you may sleep Mr. Kipling everything will be over soon." Pete removed the implant and put it in Carlo's hand, in turn, he dropped the implant that had been used on Carlo into Kipling's broken hand.

           He left Kipling's artificial hand attached to the lever that had started Carlo's machine. Looking over at Jake, he wiped down the room and picked up anything that didn't belong in the room. Then he went to the computer and hacked into the Llanview Police phone line and had the computer leave a 911 call providing information to Detective John McBain as to the whereabouts of Hesser's hideout and Kipling's secret lab. He and Jake removed the muzzles and the bandages from around Hesser and Kipling's eyes and dropped the bandages into the duffel bag, Pete took the muzzles and sanitized them. Then he handed them to Jake to put back into the examination rooms. He left the data on the machine for John to find and walked out leaving Kipling and Hesser bound to their chairs.

            They gathered up the used up canisters that could be seen and locked the door to Kipling's home behind them. Pete turned to Jake, " Do you have everything you brought, gloves, clothing, etc." Jake nodded and he climbed into the car. Pete glanced back only briefly and got in and drove back to Llanview. He dropped Jake off to get his car and said. "Go home and live your life, be happy with Tea. This is over." he watched as Jake left and then he headed home. Before going to Dragonheart, Pete had stopped at the Sun and opened the vault with Blair's portraits. He had sat quietly staring at the woman he had begun to fall in love with. He was no good for her. Best to leave her to Todd. What he had done tonight was proof that she was safer with Todd. He had felt Todd's control slip a couple of times and had known for a brief moment that he had been channeling Peter when he had been playing with both men. He had felt that perverse thrill when he knew he had broken both men. Pete went to the back of the vault and found the drawer hidden there. He put the implants in the drawer and walked out carrying the bag. He headed down to the dock and disposed of all the items having to do with the raids. After emptying the bag, he dropped it close to a sleeping bum and headed home.


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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Chasing the Monsters: 52

He wasn't sure he wanted to wake her.  The laptop was on, next to him, and had been for three hours.  In the dark, the small screen gave off very little light.  Blair was sleeping soundly, and her breathing next to him this way had become a comfort to him that he knew he would never be able to live without again.  

He looked at her, lying there, her breasts slightly coming out of her pajama top.

Her hair always fell over her face when she slept.  He resisted the urge to brush it back and study her peaceful face, knowing it might wake her.  


Then, he realized it:  Sam hadn't cried out, screamed in his sleep, or moved around the upper level of the house.


He got up, carefully, and checked into the nursery, because it was on the way.  The two youngest Mannings were asleep in their places.  Jack's door was closed; Todd wasn't concerned about the whereabouts of his eighteen year-old, though in the past, he would have been.  Sam's door was open, and there, in the dark, was Sam.  He was sleeping, soundly, his arm wrapped around his pillow.  The tent wasn't even set up.  


He thought back to their conversation earlier; perhaps all it took was a promise that everything would be all right and that he'd handle it.  He decided to believe that, and made his way back to the master bedroom.  If only he had been able to hear someone say those words himself, when he was a boy.  It could have made all the difference in the world. 


Blair was already sitting up, looking intently at the computer screen, with her knees tucked up under her chin.  "What's wrong?" she whispered.


"Nothing.  I went to check on . . . everybody."


"How's Sam?"


"He's sleeping."


"Really?"


"Yep."


"In the tent?"


"Nope."


She was puzzled a minute, and then said, "Whatever you said to him, it must have made him feel safe.  I'm not surprised, because you do that for me, too, when I need it."


He ignored what she said a moment, and went back to the computer.  "Where the hell is he?  It's past three."


"He's late?  Or, maybe he doesn't show every night.  Did Sam say he does?"


"No."


"My poor boy, Sam.  I can't believe what he's been through, and we never even realized it."


"It's over now.  He's all right.  We'll take care of the rest of it, whenever that coward comes on this screen."


"What do we do?  He's going to see us, right away."


"I don't know.  We'll do what we do, I guess.  We'll know what to do when he shows his face."


A while later, Blair woke up to the brightness of the morning sun coming through the glass panes, as Todd opened the covering to let the light through.  She sat up, "Todd, why did you let me sleep?"


"He never showed."


"Oh, shit!"  she said, and her Southern accent was very pronounced when she said it.


"Yep."


"Todd, what are you doing?"  


He was readying to leave.  "Just let me go, Blair."

"Todd, no.  We agreed about this."


He ignored her, and readied himself to go outside.


"Todd!" she shouted and jumped off the bed, going toward him.


"Babe, come on.  Let me go do this in person, it's what Zeus deserves."


"What does that mean?"  she said, getting anxious.


He stopped and looked at her.  "It means . . . it means I'm going to do what I have to do."


"No, Todd.  That's enough."


"I'm not going to hurt the guy.  I'm just going to tell him to leave us alone."


"You can do that by phone.  Call him."  She handed him her cell.


"Blair, it's better in person.  More effective."


"Call him," she insisted, and he saw a look in her eyes he recognized.  Fear.


He walked by her, and back to the bed.  The clock read 6:00 am, and he sat down on the edge.  She crawled up behind him, and hugged under his arms.  "Don't go."


"Okay," he said, so softly, she almost couldn't hear it.


"You won't?"


"No, I won't," he answered.  Something in him was holding him back; he knew if he went, Zeus would end up hurt, or dead.  Get it together, you're not Peter.  You're not leaving them again.


She ran her hands along his chest, and moved herself closer.  Just then, a sound rang through the room, and both of them turned abruptly, Todd breaking free of her loving grasp, and Blair scooting up after him to the edge of the bed.  Both peered at the laptop screen.  It was a message, similar to the one he saw before.  A message appeared:

Houdini:  You there, Sam?
***

She was standing in an empty cathedral, and looking down, she could see that she was dressed in all white.  Was it her wedding day?

Her hair was long, and brushed like silk.  It shone as it covered her back to the top of her waist.  


The empty church had a haze caused by the glare of the sun coming in the stained-glass windows.  Colors were strewn onto the floor from the huge, colored murals made of glass and trimmed in lead.  She stood, at the end of the center aisle, looking straight ahead to the altar, and started walking forward, as if compelled.


As she walked, her white dress was marked with panels of colored light, and the emptiness of the church created an echo of her footsteps.  As she neared the altar, she saw him, his back to her, but she knew.  She knew who he was, without him turning.  His broad shoulders, and the shape of his back.  She felt her breath catch.


As she got closer, he spoke.  "Stop."


She did.


He turned toward her slowly, and her breathing escalated.  Her heart, beating rapidly in her chest, pounded almost against her sternum with fervor.  


And then, his face.


He said, "What must you tell me?"


She couldn't speak.  She opened her mouth, but nothing would come out.


He asked again, "What must you tell me?  Speak, woman!"


Her body jerked with the effort to answer him, and she saw him become enraged, and walk toward her.  


It wasn't fear she felt - it was excitement, through every vein in her body.


As he neared her, she felt her head tip up, toward him, and he whispered into her face, "What must you tell me?"


"Heed the Messenger," she finally said, and her grabbed her waist and pulled her to him, his mouth on hers, and his hand moving up her side and his thumb resting on her breast and pressing roughly against her.


She sat up in the dark, and realized she was sweating.  She took a gasp of breath, and sat a moment, clutching her nightgown at the neck.  "My God, how can I want him?" she asked herself, aloud in her pink room in her son's home.  "How can I want that monster?"


***

Todd wrote, using Sam's I.D.:  
SamTheMan:  Yeah.
Houdini:   Morning.
SamTheMan:  Morning.
Houdini:  I have a question to ask you today.  Will you accept my voice chat?
SamTheMan:  I don't know.
Todd looked at Blair, and her face was covered in tears.  He moved to take her in his arm and hold her to him for a moment, then returned to read the next message:
Houdini:  I want to ask you something important.  You've been enjoying our talks, right?  We had fun on the XBOX game?  I just want to make up for the bad things.
SamTheMan:  Okay.
Houdini:  I want that chance.  That's why I want to ask you if . . . if you'll come and visit me.   It's beautiful.  You've been to Greece before.  Beaches and sun.  And you can see Tea, Dani and Isabella.  Click the button for the video chat, and we can talk about it.
Todd caught Blair's eye, and she nodded.  He clicked the appropriate button, and they saw Zeus appear.  Todd had covered the webcam with his thumb, so Zeus could still not see them.  But there he was, on the screen, waiting to see the image appear.  His voice came through clearly, "Hey, are you there?"

Todd slowly removed his thumb from the cam area.  "Yeah, we're here, Zeus.  And before you hang up, maybe you should listen to what your 'calls' have done to our son."


Zeus folded his arms, and sat back.  "You know?"


"Yeah, we do."  Blair said, "Zeus, how could you do this?  You agreed that Sam would be with us."


Todd waited to see Zeus' response, and something in the man's face told him all he needed to know.  Todd said, "What do you want?"


Zeus answered, "My son back.  There's too much pain and trouble there."


"Pain and trouble?"  Blair's voice escalated.  "Your son has been in treatment because of your calls.  He can't sleep.  You made him keep secrets, you scared him to death."


"What do you mean?" Zeus said.


Todd answered, "You're fucking with his head.  He's kept it inside, he's been up nights, he's been afraid.  He has completely withdrawn.  That's what your talks have done.  He doesn't want to go with you.  He wants to live here."


"He's ten.  He doesn't realize he'd be better off."


"Better off?"  Blair said.  "How?"


"Let's just say he won't have the complications of being a Manning."


Todd fumed, "Complications of being a Manning.  You're not getting your hands on him.  He's been through enough."


"He needs a normal life," Zeus leaned forward.


Blair said, "A normal life?  You've been cyberstalking him, and talking to him behind our backs.  He's so scared he can't sleep, he can't play, he's not happy.  He's not."  Zeus' eyes traced her expression over the screen.  She said, "Please, Zeus.  He loves us, and he wants to be here."  For a moment, she saw pity in his face, and traces of understanding.


Zeus' face twisted, and then he shrugged and suddenly said, "I can't talk about this now.  We'll be in touch.  I won't call him anymore.  For now.  You'll be hearing from us, instead."


The screen went black.


She said, "He's suing for custody.  Of Sam."


Todd said, "Not yet.  I'll call Dad, see what's up with this from a legal standpoint."


Blair watched him reach for the phone and said, "Todd?  We can't lose Sam."


"We won't," he said, while listening to the phone with his other ear.


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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Who's the Real Todd? Chapter 47

Todd finished dressing, closing the clasp on his watch, and taking the band-aid off the ring. He had to get the supplies he and Pete would need to complete next part of his plan. He thought back to the early morning shower Pete and Blair had shared before he had taken back over from Pete. It had been hot to view and he was surprised at Pete, he had always considered him a little cold but there was nothing cold about the way he made love to Blair. It had actually shocked him that Pete harbored those kinds of feelings for Blair.

"You think you're the only one of us who can love her. Think again Pal, I can feel for her too. I find the sexiness about her and her tendency for trouble intriguing. It makes me hot. She's a girl after my own heart. By the way, thanks for not stepping back in right away, she capped off the evening nicely. I can see why you don't want to share." Pete laughed wickedly and wandered away leaving Todd with his own thoughts.

Todd laughed "You bastard." Todd wandered downstairs and found Blair in the breakfast room off the kitchen. "What are your plans for today?"

"I need to go into Capricorn today. Everything is a mess because Christian is MIA. I've already had a call from Carlotta wondering if I've heard anything from him. There was a call from Larry on the answering machine. He was checking on you and said he had information on Christian. A reporter from the Banner wanted an update and I stalled him. When are we going to let them know you're alright?" Blair looked across the table at him.

"I need about 48 hours, Blair, maybe less. I'll call Larry and find out about Christian and have John contact Carlotta. We'll bring her into the loop but getting her into Christian's room at the hospital can't happen since everyone believes the patient is me. You, Starr and probably Vicki should go to the hospital to keep Hesser from getting suspicious. If all goes well, this will be over soon and everything can begin to get back to normal. Don't worry I won't go out, I'll use my contacts to procure anything I need." He sat there and scooped up some eggs and kept eating.

An hour later Todd called Larry. "Hi Doc, what's the word on Vega?"

"Just as you suspected, more implants. I've been on the phone with Michael and we've decided he's going to bring his team here to work on Christian. Todd, we have to find out if possible, how many people were used by Carlo and Kipling. Christian's implants are just beginning to show signs of corroding. There could be people out there working for the government, working on borrowed time." Larry said. "John's been alerted to the situation and we've informed Christian. He's finally talking since he's seen what Carlo and Kipling put into him. John's already had several people in to get his statement. I've noticed a couple of people on the staff who have been making inquiries into the state of our patient and their names have been given to John. He's investigating and is checking for connections to Kipling. Have you had any problems with your wound?"

" I'm fine Doc. Blair and Starr and Vicki might be coming into the hospital to check on me just so that Carlo and Kipling's stooges can report they're visiting me. Can you help them out with that?" asked Todd


" We'll put on a good show Todd, I must say since Blair brought me in on this, my days have continued to be eye-openers."

"I'm glad we could enliven your days Doc. I can't really say the same, but then you know what I've been through." Todd had a knee jerk reaction to Larry's statement and then he kicked himself.

"Whoa Todd I didn't mean to say that everything you've been through was just for my entertainment." Larry was alarmed, he knew what Todd was going through and had been through, the last thing he had meant to do was make light of Todd's experience.

"Relax Doc, I'm fine. I know you weren't denigrating my experience. You're an alright guy. If it weren't for you the implants would still be in me and killing me. I'm just a little raw right now, what with the vision loss and everything. Don't mind me." Todd knew he had lost his cool and now he had to try and smooth it over with Larry

Larry heard something in Todd's voice that told him Todd was near the end of his rope when it came to Carlo and Kipling. He knew Todd was volatile and he had been holding it in for quite some time. Would he be able to keep hold of his anger a little longer or was he planning something?

Todd shook himself, he had gotten a little ragged with Larry and pulled himself back in. He couldn't afford to give himself away this close to having his plan work out. He owed Carlo and Kipling and nothing was going to stop him at this juncture. Todd signed off his call with Larry and made a call to one of his underground contacts. He needed something only they could provide. The shipment would be delivered the next day and his plans could go forward from there.

The next call he made was to Jake. "Are you ready to get some of your own back....Good... we go out tomorrow night. I'll call you, expect a late night....If all goes as planned this will be over by the weekend. This is between us, keep Tea out of it."

Todd contacted his reporter and got the location in Kipling's house that led to the hidden lab. Todd advised him to find a way to take the next night off and be out of Kipling's house, he would receive a call when it was safe for him to get his final story. Todd closed down his laptop and leaned back in his chair. It was happening and he knew he would have to lie once again to Blair. It was for her own good and that of the kids. If the plan fell through, at least she and Tea would be in the clear. Jake understood the ramifications of the actions they were about to undertake and it was possible it could blow up in their faces but somehow Todd had a good feeling about it. This time he and Jake were going to come out on top.

Blair arrived home with the boys in tow. Todd was overjoyed to see them and knew it was only the one night for right now, but it felt good to have them there. While Blair had Jack take their overnight bags up to the High Tech suite. Todd took Sam into his office and had a man to man talk with him.

"Sam, what I have to tell you is very important and you need to keep it a secret for now. Do you think you can help me out?" Sam nodded. "Very well there is something you need to know. Remember when I introduced myself as Samuel. Well, Samuel is just one of my names. I have another name and it's one you're very familiar with, my name is also Todd Manning just like your dad. Is that alright with you?" Sam nodded again. "Good, I'm glad to hear that, but you should know that some bad men are out to hurt me if they find out I'm Todd Manning, so I need you to still call me Samuel. You're part of a group of people that know my real name but can't tell it. This is really important and you have to keep it secret. Now have you ever made a solemn promise." Sam shook his head no. "Okay this is how you do it, we take our index fingers and we lick them then we press them together real hard and we swear not to tell anyone that I'm Todd Manning." Sam solemnly licked his finger and Todd did the same and pressing them together, Sam swore to keep the secret.

Todd remembered the last time he had made that vow. He had needed help long ago and two beautiful children had helped him, they had turned out to be his niece and nephew but he hadn't known it at the time. He hadn't thought about CJ and Sarah in such a long time. They would be adults by now, it was hard to think of them that way, in his mind, he would always see the two of them at his wedding with Blair. CJ had ushered and little Sarah had been the flower girl and having them there had been the icing on the cake. Todd came out of his daydreaming and realized Sam was waiting patiently for him. "Sorry Sam, got lost in some thoughts."

"That's ok, my dad's been doing that a lot too. He's got another name too and I have to keep it a secret, so I can't tell you but I know you won't mind. What happened there?" Sam pointed to the stain on the floor.

"I had a mishap the other day and the stain won't come out. You remember I told you some bad men want to hurt me. Well, the other day they tried to do just that and I got hurt a little bit. I'm alright as you can see but we're not letting people know that. I'm pretending to be hurt badly so the bad men will leave me alone for a while." He wasn't sure why he told Sam the truth, but now that he had, he had to trust the little guy to keep it quiet.

Sam's eyes widened and he said. "Bad men came here and hurt you? Did you get them?"

"As a matter of fact Sam, I did. At least that bad man, but there are more, so I'm being really careful since you and Jack and your Mom are here with me. Will you help me protect your Mom and brother, I could use some help?" Sam nodded again. "Great, I feel a lot better knowing I have some help. I'm counting on you to let me know if you see any strange men around the grounds okay."

"Okay." said Sam solemnly.

"Listen, enough with all the serious talk let's go find out what Jack is up to." he hoisted Sam up into his arms and headed upstairs. They found Jack thoroughly involved with the games console in the suite and soon all three were playing.

Jack had been playing for some time when he realized that his dad wasn't just watching but actually playing. He stopped and stared at his dad. "You can see!"

Todd looked over at his son and smiled. "Yes, but I have some help. I have a special device which is helping me. It's experimental and doesn't work for everyone. This is just between us Jack. It doesn't leave this room or house okay. Whoa Sam, you just beat us." Todd turned the conversation away from his eyes and both he and Jack congratulated Sam on his gaming skills. The little boy just beamed. Todd looked at Jack and knew he had been going through some pretty tough stuff since Gigi Morasco's death. He was meeting with Jake, and after everything was settled with Carlo and Kipling, he intended to have it out with Jake about Jack.

A short time later Starr and Hope arrived. Sam took charge of Hope and they went to play in the playroom while Jack went back to his games. Todd walked downstairs with Starr. He had taken her arm because it had gotten to be a habit and they went into the living room to talk. Blair saw his hand on Starr's elbow and flashed him a quizzical look. He looked at her and then saw her eyes move down to his hand on Starr and he realized what he had done. He released Starr and moved to sit with Blair.

Starr hadn't seen the look and instead marveled at her dad's ability to maneuver around the house. "Dad, that's really good. You're getting around in here almost as well as if you could see."

Todd looked at her and cleared this throat. " Well actually I need to tell you something." he looked at her and then just said it. " I can see you, but it's not what you think. I'm not cured physically, I'm being aided by a device. As long as I have the device, I have my sight back. Your mom and I decided to not alert the media. Hesser believes I'm incapacitated and we want him to keep believing that for the time being. You, your brothers, your mom and John McBain are the only ones that know what the device enables me to do. Until this thing with Hesser is finished it's best for all of you if the truth stays hidden. Now tell me what happened when you two went to the hospital."

Blair and Starr told him about their visit with Larry and about the reporters snooping around the hospital frustrated by the lack of any word. Blair let him know Christian was still under Carlo's control although willing to talk because of the implants being shown to him. "It was scary Todd, he was Christian but he was so cold. I hardly recognized my friend. Those implants are monstrous and Kipling and Carlo need to be incarcerated for life. Larry was telling us that even after Chris's implants are removed, he might still have some residual effects because of the training and memories that went into making him an assassin. I don't know how Carlotta is going to take this latest turn of events."

"From my own experiences with the implants, nothing is going to be easy for Christian and John informed me that Christian was responsible for two deaths. He'll have to face some time in jail probably, even though there are mitigating circumstances. I won't offer testimony against him but I can't offer testimony for him either. He almost killed me." his hand went to his side rubbing unconsciously, the memory still fresh in his mind of how close he came to dying.

Starr had only heard a portion of the story but seeing her father's serious face and looking where he had been shot it was clear it had been too close for comfort. The only thing her mom had told her was that her father hadn't been seriously injured and not to believe the newspaper account. Now she wondered what her mother had left out.

"Enough of all this serious talk, I have my family here and I want a real family night. I say we have another movie night. Jack and Sam's common room is more than a high-tech computer room it also is equipped to be a Movie viewing room. You and Hope can stay tonight too, Starr. Your suite is stocked with extra clothes for both you and Hope. What do you say? We'll call for pizza and for one night we'll forget about Hesser." Todd was almost pleading and didn't even realize it.

Blair reached over and took his hands in hers gently rubbing them giving him comfort. She knew something had been troubling him when she got home with the boys but he shook it off when he played with the boys. The talk about Christian had brought him back down to earth. She knew he was planning something, Pete had been out for a reason last night. Whatever he was plotting was dangerous.

Todd had been watching Starr and was startled when Blair had taken his hands but he found it strangely comforting and didn't pull them free instead he intertwined his fingers with hers and waited for Starr's reply.

"Sure Dad, why not. James is working and we haven't seen you and spent time here since you got home from your honeymoon. Besides, to reporters, it will look like we gathered here out of comfort. But Mom, what about Capricorn?" Starr asked.

"Capricorn is closed due to a family emergency. It was the easiest way to cope with the loss of Christian and the fact that your dad is supposed to be so injured. Go find out what kind of Pizza everyone wants and let's get this night started." Blair said. Starr got up and went looking for the boys and Hope. Blair turned to Todd. "It's going to be alright. Let's enjoy the night," she leaned in and gently kissed him, feeling him respond and pulling her close for a much deeper and satisfying one.

Blair was asleep, as Pete rolled out of bed again. He had about a half an hour before he was meeting Jake. He walked downstairs gathering up the duffel bag Todd had packed. He had everything he needed to get Hesser and Kipling both. He turned around and looked back up the stairs where Blair was sleeping only to find her staring down at him.

"You be careful, Pete, and come home, all of you," Blair said down to him.

He was stunned, no one had ever expressed concern for his welfare, she was a vision. Only one thought came to mind at that moment. Dropping the bag, he took the stairs two at a time until he reached her, swept her into his arms and kissed her with a savagery that took her breath away. He smiled sardonically and said "That, sweetheart, will definitely give me a reason to return." he left abruptly, as she stared after him.

Pete roared out of the driveway heading for his rendezvous with Jake. "Damn Todd, she's quite a woman. How much did you tell her?"

"I didn't tell her anything, Pete, she just knows me. We've got a mission to think about, get your thoughts off my wife and back onto the matter at hand." Todd knew what Pete meant and his heart swelled with pride that Blair had let him go tonight. It reminded him of the early days when she had helped him without question.

Pete pulled off the road about a quarter of a mile from Hesser's hideout. He hid the car so no one could see it from the road. Sitting on the hood he waited for Jake to arrive, then jumped off as Jake got there. "You ready?"

"What do you think? What's the plan?" Jake was dressed in black the same as Pete, what they were going to attempt required stealth. Pete pulled out Samuel's drawing of the property. The perimeter was marked, along with the distance between air vents around the cabin and the cabin itself. Pete also had another set of pictures and a blueprint for Ivan Kipling's house. He packed those away till it was time for their use.

Gathering up the needed equipment for this raid, he and Jake went the quarter of a mile to the entrance to Carlo's property. Pulling out a can of hairspray Pete sprayed in front of him until the laser beams appeared before them, then together he and Jake placed the mirrors so they could get through without alerting Carlo. He pointed out the two cameras Carlo had placed at the front of the cabin and pulled out a couple of cassette tapes. On the count of three, he and Jake replaced the recording tapes with tapes that played a constant loop back to those watching inside. That completed, Pete gave Jake several canisters of sleeping gas and directed Jake how to set them off and then they began dropping them into the air vents around the cabin. Pete tossed the last canister into the entrance of the cabin and waited the appropriate minutes required for the gas to take effect. He donned a mask in case of any lingering fumes, passing one to Jake, and entered the cabin heading for the fireplace. Pulling out the badge he had taken a couple of nights before, he scanned it and watched the fireplace move revealing the elevator. Using it one more time, the elevator opened and he and Jake descended into Carlo's hideout. Exiting the elevator he and Jake moved passed the sleeping bodies of Carlo's men as they lay in various positions on the floor.

They began a methodical check of rooms until they found him. Pete pulled out the duct tape and began binding him up especially his eyes and mouth and then threw a hood over his head and tightened it. Pete put a tape on with Carlo's voice saying he didn't want to be disturbed on his desk. It would go off when one of his guards came and asked him if he was alright. He locked the door and pulled it shut behind him. Then because of his injured side, Pete helped Jake hoist Carlo on his shoulders in a fireman's hold and they departed the cabin. Changing out the tapes in the cameras with the original ones they headed back to the road where they set Carlo down and removed the mirrors allowing the perimeter to return to normal with one exception. They had Carlo. The next phase was underway.


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