Her hand came up and stopped his. "It's nothing."
"Kym, it's 'not' nothing. That guy
"Tom, you don't understand, and you need to stay out of it? Promise me you won't attempt to get into it with Frank. I'm grateful you're concerned for me, but I can handle it. Right now, I've got to complete my chore and get back. Believe me, there's a lot riding on this." Kym tried to move a little farther away from Tom, his hand had been so gentle and it had been ages since a man had touched her that way. In reality, all she wanted to do was climb in his lap and see what his lips were like, but she knew it was her conditioning that was making her feel that way. She shivered because it had been so ingrained in her to please men, and Tom was the first man in a long time she wanted to touch.
Todd felt her move away and could tell something was bothering her. He reached for her hand and felt her quivering. "Kym, what is it?" What's the matter? " Suddenly he felt her lips on his and could hear her whimpering. He was surprised, but there was something both sexual and desperate about her kiss. Not wanting to hurt her, he carefully pulled his lips free and held her off. She was crying and still trying to get nearer. "Kym, don't do this. You don't really want this. You don't even know me."
She curled up next to him mortified that she hadn't pleased him. Gregor was right, she was too old. Even a blind man didn't want her. "He told me I was too old and he was right. I'm worthless now."
Todd's heart went out to her, The girl had been conditioned to respond to men, further verifying his concerns that they had a white slavery ring on the dock. "Kym, you are not worthless. I'm not offended. In fact, I'm flattered, but I'm currently very much in love with someone else. Who told you, you were worthless? Just what kind of company do you keep? Whoever said that to you was cruel. No one is worthless." Her words had hit very close to home as he thought about all those times Peter had made him feel the same way.
With his kind words Kym snuggled closer and once again tried to get him to respond, she couldn't stop herself and her hands started running up and down his legs. "Tom, let me make you feel better, someone has hurt you. I can hear it in your voice. Believe me, I know many ways to make you happy." Even as she said it, she straddled him once again capturing his lips.
Todd was totally taken aback. She was just a slip of a thing and couldn't have weighed much more than a feather. Her hips began gyrating on his lap, God, he was only a man and could feel himself beginning to respond, but then as she was kissing him, another face filled his mind, one with sparkling green eyes and a touch that stirred his soul. He stopped responding and stayed perfectly still, knowing the exact moment when she realized he wasn't interested.
Kym sat up no longer hurt, instead, she had a moment of clarity. "You really are in love with someone else. I thought you were being polite when you told me that, but you weren't, you were being honest. She's a lucky woman."
"No Kym, I'm a lucky man."
"Tom, what were you doing on the dock tonight? You're not what you seem."
"What do you mean by that, Kym?"
"You looked like someone down on their luck who had a handicap and was just taking a stroll by the ocean. It was my belief that if I just left you there, you would have gotten hurt. I believed you when you said you would take care of me and thought you might be trying to get a little tail while you were at it. But you really just wanted to help, didn't you? I don't know many men who would help just for the sake of helping. You're one unusual man Tom."
Todd had gotten a little alarmed when she had first started questioning him. He had been afraid that somehow he had given away his true purpose for being on the dock, but it turned out he had just surprised her. Everything that Kym had done from the moment they got into taxi convinced him that her boss was as much a pervert as his father.
"Kym, I don't know what you're involved in but if you need help getting out of it, you can tell me. I have connections and friends who can aid you, or I'll aid you myself, anyway I can, if the authorities scare you." Just then, the taxi arrived at their destination and Kym began to get out of the car.
"This is as far as you go, Tom, I won't let you get yourself killed for me and I'm grateful you can't see where we are. I know you want to help, but it's too late for me. Please stay away from the docks, Tom." She quickly handed the taxi driver some money and walked away.
The sounds and smells of the area filled the taxi and he had to know where they were. Todd reached quickly into his shirt and pulled the pouch free, dropping the ring into his hand. He caught a glimpse of a small brunette walking into a restaurant and realized they were in the Asian quarter of Savannah. Several unsavory characters stood outside the restaurant. Todd took off the ring after getting some landmarks and spotting a street name.
Then he instructed the taxi driver to take him to his hotel. He rested his head against the back seat of the car and thought about the strange ride. He recalled the desperation in Kym's first kiss and his grip tightened on his cane. Who could be so low to take young girls and turn them into sex slaves? Kym talked like she had been one for a long time and now had been put on the shelf because of her age. He would love to get his hands on her so called Boss. His stomach turned as he thought of Chase's sister being trapped with these people. Somehow he had to find a way to get Kym's help.
The taxi pulled up to his hotel and he climbed out and remembered he no longer needed to be blind. After the taxi pulled away, he put his ring back on and folded his cane, he needed a drink and so he headed for the bar. Downing his first drink quickly he ordered another and found himself thinking of Blair. He wished now he had told her exactly where he was. He really needed her input, but it would have to wait. He sensed her and knew she had landed in Savannah. It was only a matter of time before she figured out how to locate him. Did he dare speed up the process and call Cassie? Even as he reached for his phone something told him to stop. Blair didn't need to get mixed up in this. He could find that warehouse and the kids, get the authorities involved and write the story before Blair got sucked into it. Of course, if she found him before he was finished, she'd kill him probably. He chuckled just thinking about her when she got mad. Yep, She was definitely going to be pissed when she found him.
He watched the whole thing play out in front of him. He had almost stepped in when the girl Kym had cried out after being hit. It had been a bad situation, but there had been way too many men to take on at the time. He hated men like Frank; those who treated women like Kym was treated. Ever since talking to his son he had been down at the various docks trying to find someone with a connection to his daughter. The incident with Kym was sending up red flags all over the place. He had started to go to the girl after she had walked away from the men, but before he got there, she bumped into the blind man. CJ wondered if this was the man who had helped Chase. His son had described him and said he couldn't see but that he had been real nice. Looking at him, the blind man seemed vaguely familiar but he couldn't quite figure out why. CJ listened as Kym took the man up on his offer for some protection, strangely enough even CJ sensed the man might be good in a fight. There was something about the way he held himself that said, blind or not, he wasn't easily intimidated. They didn't see him standing in the shadows of the crates on the Dock, but as the Girl and the man walked past him, CJ got a better look at the man's face.
Years dropped away in that instant and CJ recalled the one man whose face he'd never forget. The man passing in front of him looked exactly like his best friend Ali. He was older and he had gotten another scar on his face, but CJ was almost positive his uncle rescued Chase. He had been little when his uncle had been presumed dead in Ireland and then his Mom had taken them away from Llanview. It was years later that he found out his uncle had disappeared again. By then, CJ was on his own and had eventually made his way to Georgia. His uncle Todd had saved him when he was around Chase's age and now it looked like 'Ali' might also have saved his son. Suddenly motivated to find out if he was right, CJ began following, but just missed them, as Kym and the man disappeared into a taxi.
CJ spent the next couple of hours watching the activity around the warehouse. He hadn't spotted any children but about an hour and a half after she had left with his uncle, Kym returned, this time carrying several bags. She was escorted by several Asian gentlemen and they entered the warehouse together. It was obvious the men were important, the thugs were scrambling to help them. What had Kym brought back and why were the men with her? CJ waited, but the men did not leave. Whatever they were doing inside was going to remain a mystery and he was no closer to finding out if the children or the girls were in that warehouse. As he prepared to leave the vicinity he heard something behind him.
Todd had changed his mind and headed back out to the docks about an hour after leaving Kym. He had been taking his time wandering the docks back toward the warehouse when he had heard the high heels walking behind him. He moved slowly to one side and heard her walk right past him. She didn't call attention to him, in fact, she ignored him and said something in a foreign language to her escorts. He sensed them hesitating as if they paused to make sure he was blind before they continued to follow her. He had then heard the other footsteps off to the side of him and had decided to see who else was watching. Whoever it was had been staying relatively quiet. Todd closed his eyes and just listened and then zeroed in on the area the person was watching from. It was somewhere around 2 o clock to his right. Todd carefully moved to his right and using his cane quietly moved around the crates till he was pretty sure he was
"I find it interesting that a man would be sitting on the dock looking away from the ocean. If I was one of the men you're watching, you would be in a world of hurt right now my friend."
CJ held his breath for a moment and then said."Ali, Ali, Out."
Todd stood there stunned. Had he just heard right? He lowered his cane, wishing he had the implant on. Only two other people used that phrase around him, "What did you say?"
C.J. turned around and looked into the face of his uncle. He studied the face of the man before him. His uncle hadn't changed much, except he was blind. That was a little hard to take. Todd had always seemed bigger than life. C.J.'s curiosity was peaked, why was his uncle down walking the docks if he was blind? For that matter, he had left with Kym but had come back alone and Kym had come back to with two unsavory-looking gentlemen. Why had they separated? Todd knew about the gentlemen watching the entrance to the warehouse, that was obvious, Chase had said the blind man had promised to find Lily. Which meant Todd was looking for the children too.
"I should have introduced myself earlier when I saw you, but I admit to being surprised. The last time I saw you was at the wedding and then you disappeared. I only saw you one other time after that. I heard you disappeared again. Even after I got Chase's description, it never entered my mind that my uncle was the man who saved him. Besides, Chase called his savior, Tom."
At his mention of Chase, Todd recalled the boy's last name. It had gone completely over his head. "My God, C.J., is that you?" Fate had a funny way of showing itself whenever Todd was around. Most people would say it was an unusual coincidence that he should run into his nephew down on a dock in Georgia, but that was the way life usually played out for him, always one coincidence after another.
"Thank you for helping my son, but knowing you I'm not surprised. What I am concerned about is you. What the heck are you doing getting into this in your condition?"
Todd smiled at that statement. "My condition? You make it sound like I'm pregnant, C.J., I'm visually challenged and it won't stop me from helping the missing kids. I thought you knew me, do you seriously think I would walk away after talking to Chase?"
C.J. shook his head, he remembered how his friend 'Ali' had picked up his cousin Jessica and carried her, plus him, up the mountainside. "Ali" had never let him down, and if he'd made a promise to Chase, then he would move heaven and earth to make it happen. "No, you wouldn't. So that means you're working on something and Chase just happened to need your help the other night. You took a chance on helping him if you're working on some undercover story. From what I heard at the police station, my daughter and son weren't the only ones that have disappeared. So you've been investigating the disappearances. After what I've seen just this afternoon, I'm convinced that warehouse has something to do with the children but I haven't heard or seen any children so I'm puzzled."
"We need to be careful C.J., they've already moved from one warehouse. A girl was badly beaten the other day and if you were here earlier you saw how they treated Kym. I'm afraid we're dealing with white slavers." C.J. started to brush past him, headed toward the Warehouse. Todd quickly grabbed him."Hold it, you can't go storming up there. I know you're worried about Lily, but we need to catch them all red-handed or they'll just relocate and start all over again." Todd held on tight as C.J. struggled to get free.
"Uncle Todd, she's my stepdaughter and I promised my wife I would take care of her. When they both went missing, I was beside myself and my father-in-law almost collapsed. Lily's mom was raped and you're telling me Lily might be facing a fate worse than that. I can't let that happen."
"C.J. stop fighting me, you're right, but we have to do this the right way." Todd's ears picked up a conversation headed their direction and he pushed C.J. down behind the crates and crouched next to him. "Quiet"
C.J. stopped fighting him and got still as they heard a foreign conversation drift in their direction. The men who had escorted Kym were leaving. They both seemed in pretty good moods and Todd felt his nephew stiffen under his hands. Todd knew C.J. was imagining the worse at that moment. After his encounter with Kym, Todd was also finding it hard not to think about what the men had been up too. He prayed they weren't already too late.
Inside the warehouse, Kym was gathering her girls and trying to get them settled for the night. Some of them were crying because of what they had been asked to do. When the escorts had entered the dormitory, several of the girls had gotten hysterical and they had been the ones the escorts picked for the night. Over the last couple of weeks, the escorts had come to put the girls through their training. At first, the girls been taught to fondle each other, they had been given small doses of drugs to loosen their inhibitions and soon most of the girls had begun to like the sensations they were feeling. Soon they were being taught the ways to heighten their enjoyment. Since most of the girls were just entering puberty, it was a new experience and they reacted the way most girls do when their bodies begin going through the changes, they were excited. Then the training moved into a new area.
The second stage of the training was harder for Kym to watch because it entailed putting the girls through pain. The psychology was to first make them comfortable with their bodies than they had to be taught that their bodies no longer belonged to them but whoever was in charge. Now the girls were instructed to fondle but if they expressed any pleasure they received a shock from a collar each had to wear. Several girls suffered immensely because they had already become addicted to the pleasure. Soon most of the girls learned to control themselves for fear of the pain. Kym was in charge of picking out the next group of girls that would be sent out on the boat. The girls who were the most docile and had already resigned themselves to pleasing those sent to them were moved into the final training session.
The third part of the training involved Kym's escort. When the girls saw the men enter the room the electricity in the room could be felt. The escorts walked around the girls pausing now and then and instructing the girls in front of them to perform a particular stroke or movement. Then they began to get more intense with their instructions and soon some of the girls were crawling after them begging them to be allowed to please them. Kym's eyes had filled with tears for those girls, for they would be the next ones to go. The escorts had picked about eight of the girls and herded them into the back room behind the dormitory. Several minutes later Frank and some of the other men had walked into the back room.
A short time later Frank and his men sauntered out looking very pleased with themselves. Then the escorts had exited the room. They had walked up to Kym, leaving her with her instructions and departing. Kym had instructed the remainder of the girls to settle in for the night and she went to prepare the eight for their departure. When she entered the room several of the girls were crying and surrounding one particular girl. When they saw Kym, they backed away and revealed the one young girl they had been hovering around. Kym was shocked, never before had one of the girls been treated so roughly. Usually, the escorts would keep an iron fist on the men so that they wouldn't damage the goods, but they had obviously decided to let one of the men show the girls that no matter what the master did to you, you had to take it. The only place on the girl that wasn't bruised or bleeding was her face.
Kym and the girls carefully picked her up and took her into the shower area to clean her up. Kym was crying for her as much as the other girls were. The child hadn't uttered a sound and when Kym began cleaning her wounds the child actually got excited and turned on. No wonder the escorts had said they wanted all eight girls. The poor little thing was so fully indoctrinated that she still had wanted to please even though the man had hurt her. After putting the girl to bed, Kym made a decision. She had seen Tom back on the dock when she had arrived with the escort. She had deliberately ignored him and in some way had been relieved that he had come back. She couldn't do this anymore. Tom had offered to help. Was it possible he might still be somewhere on the Dock? There was only one way to find out. Checking once more on her charges, Kym turned out the lights and headed out of the warehouse to get some air.
She had only gone a few paces outside the warehouse door when she heard him.
"Hey, Girly, where are you going?" Frank said.
"None of your business, Frank. Are you the one who mangled that girl tonight?" she asked knowing he wouldn't admit it if he did.
"That girl better not have said anything, I thought they were supposed to please us no matter what." Frank was on the defensive.
"She didn't say anything, but you just spilled everything. You're a bastard, Frank. What's the matter, you couldn't get it up so you took it out on her? The escorts might have been okay with you manhandling her but if you touch one more of my girls that way, I'll be sure and let him know how you're treating the merchandise, They're worth more than you mister." Kym held her ground as Frank had started toward her, but the moment she mentioned 'him', Frank backed off. She laughed and walked down toward the last place she had seen Tom on the dock. When she was out of sight of the warehouse, she slowed down and whispered. "Tom are you still around?"
Todd stepped out toward the sound of Kym's voice. He reached for her and pulled her down behind the crate, holding a hand over her mouth as she started to scream. Putting a hand to his lips, he prayed there was enough light for her to make out his gesture. She quieted down just in time, as they heard footsteps move past them. Todd removed his hand and they waited until the footsteps faded.
"You scared the living daylights out of me. Why did you come back?" asked Kym.
"Perhaps the real question should be, why did you come looking for me?" Todd got up and extended his hand helping her back up.
Kym could only stare. She still felt an overwhelming need to be with this man even though he had made it plain he loved someone else. Why was she so drawn to him? Was she so starved for affection these days, that the first man who had shown her sympathy became the man she couldn't live without? She turned away from him and moaned softly to herself trying to get her feelings under control. She had turned into the child she had pitied only minutes before. She realized she needed as much help as those children.
"Kym, what is it? Don't be afraid. I won't hurt you." Todd couldn't understand what had scared her so much that she was almost crying.
"Tom, I know you don't understand. There is something so deeply ingrained in me after all these years that I find it hard to fight. All I want to do is wrap myself around you, giving you every pleasure in my arsenal, I want you so badly it hurts." she hugged herself holding on desperately. If he touched her she was lost.
Todd started to reach for her but found his hand stopped by C.J. "Don't Tom, she can't take your comfort right now."
Kym stared around wildly, seeing the younger man standing next to Tom for the first time. She could feel her temperature rising and she took an involuntary step toward him. She needed release so bad, if she couldn't have Tom, his friend would do.
Before C.J. could stop her she had captured his lips and was eagerly raining kisses on him. It was a heady experience and the next thing he knew she was beginning to unbutton his shirt. C.J. quickly found some control and caught her hands. "Uncle, what do I do? She doesn't realize what she's doing." As proof of that Kym had gotten one of her
Todd knew he had to do something. The last time he had knocked a woman out she had called him a rapist, this time, he did it to save Kym from herself.
C.J. caught her as she slumped in his arms. He held her and said. "Okay, I didn't see that coming. What do we do now? We can't stay here and we don't know how long she can be gone before they search for her."
"We need to move to the other side of the docks, well away from here. You're right about them looking for her if she's gone too long. We need her help. So she has to stay connected to them. With any luck, she'll wake back up soon and be more under control." Todd swung his cane around and began making his way back up the dock away from the warehouse. C.J. cradled Kym in his arms and followed his uncle.
They finally arrive at the opposite end of the dock. C.J. sat down amongst some crates and nestled Kym into his lap. Holding her gently he looked across at his uncle. "She couldn't be out of her mid-twenties, but by their standards, she's washed up. What are they doing to my daughter? My God, this girl's so mixed up she doesn't even know what love is. All she knows is what's been drummed into her for years. They're in there doing the same thing to Lily and the other young girls. We've got to find a way to get the girls to safety and get enough evidence to capture those in charge."
"I know, we have to be careful, though, the ship is due to arrive in just a couple more days. We can't afford for anything else to spook them. I'm hoping Kym came out looking for me because she made the decision to accept my offer to help. We have to find the second warehouse too. " Todd stopped talking as he heard a moan come from Kym.
"Hey, it's alright. Are you okay?" asked C.J.
Kym woke up dazed but no longer driven by her sexual urges. She looked up at the man holding her and carefully sat up. She vaguely remembered attempting to kiss him and then something knocked her out. Kym looked around and was relieved to see Tom sitting not too far away. She eased off of the second man's lap and sat down on her own crate. "I'm sorry, I lost control. I know this isn't the time for that. You offered to help Tom, is that offer still on the table?"
Todd nodded and he heard a sigh of relief issue from Kym's lips. "I can help Kym, but we need your help also. C.J.'s daughter is trapped in that warehouse. Will you help get her and those girls free?" She didn't say anything and then he heard C.J.'s exclamation.
Todd had been holding his breath but at C.J.'s remark, he let it out. Kym must have nodded yes. "Okay, we're going to need some information, I know you need to get back but this is important. Kym, how many girls are in that warehouse? Will they all be going on that ship which is due to arrive in a couple days?" he waited for her answer.
Kym looked at both men and said. "I have forty girls there, but only eight will be in the shipment leaving in two days the rest aren't ready."
C.J.'s heart sank, eight girls were ready to be shipped, that could only mean those girls had already been so indoctrinated they were like Kym and, therefore, they probably had already been forced to do whatever they were asked. God, don't let Lily be among those eight. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. "I have to ask, this is my daughter, tell me if she's one of the eight," he handed the picture to Kym.
Kym studied the picture and looked across at C.J., she knew the little girl and she was one of the stubborn ones. As a result, she had been punished more but she had still managed to keep herself aloof from the training to the point Kym was afraid they might take her by force soon. She admired the girl. "No, She's not one of the eight, but you have a right to be concerned. My boss and his partners only allow so much time for training. If she continues to resist training, they'll force her into submission."
Todd's hand tightened on his cane when Kym said the words forced into submission. That could only mean rape, his heart started beating a little erratically and he reached out to get support from a nearby crate. His mind tumbled backward into a scene from his past, as he saw himself taking Marty by force. He heard her sobs and his laughter. He remembered her final look of resignation as she stared into space, tears running down her face when Powell had finished with her. Todd felt his legs give way as darkness overtook him.
C.J.had been looking at Kym and had experienced a moment of relief when Kym said Lily wasn't going to be shipped out just yet but as the rest of her words had filtered in he realized the bigger implication. Neither he nor Kym was ready for what occurred next. He saw his uncle collapse against a crate and immediately jumped to his side. He knew his uncle's history. Although he hadn't understood the story when he was just a little boy, he now fully grasped what his uncle had done in his youth. One thing he knew for sure was that his uncle had regretted his actions and had tried for a long time to make up for them. C.J. felt his uncle's pulse, it was strong but incredibly fast.
Kym had rushed to Tom's side the same moment C.J. had, she reached for his handkerchief and rushed over to the dock's edge, laying down on the pier. Reaching over the edge, she wet the cloth and then returned to Tom's side. Kneeling down she put the cloth on his forehead and sat back as the cool water brought him around. Even in the moonlight as he lay unconscious Kym felt something stirring inside her. He was very vulnerable at that moment and she worked hard to squelch the feelings beginning to churn in her again. Kym got up and put some distance between them, letting the younger man help him.
Kym's quick thinking worked wonders and Todd was beginning to come to. C.J. felt his pulse again and was relieved that the rate was slowing down. He helped his uncle up to a sitting position "Easy, you passed out and your heart was going a mile a minute, just relax."
Todd reached a shaky hand up to his forehead as the last vestiges of his memories about Marty faded away. Damn, things had been going so smoothly he had forgotten about his ticking time bomb of a heart. Trust it to give him a wake-up call. "I'm okay, just give me a minute. Kym, we need to know the layout of that warehouse. We also need the shift changes of all the guys guarding the place. Is there ever a moment when they relax their coverage of the entrance?"
Kym began describing the setup and C.J. took out his phone and began emailing the information to his computer. After getting the information from Kym, Todd asked one more question. "Kym, do you know the whereabouts of the smaller children?"
Kym's head came up in surprise. Few people knew about the smaller children and yet Tom was aware of them. She was a little alarmed, she was not privy to the future of the smaller children, but she did know where they were being stashed. She knew with 100% certainty that all of the smaller children were slated to be put on the transport. If her bosses were to lose that shipment there would be hell to pay. She hesitated for a moment debating just how much on a limb she had just put herself. Then she decided she was already screwed. If Tom couldn't deliver and get them all safe, she was a dead woman anyway. "The warehouse holding the smaller children is down about three warehouses but if you think this warehouse is guarded that one is literally a fortress. I have to ask, how did you find out about the small ones?"
"C.J.'s son was part of the group until yesterday. I get the impression you haven't told us everything you know. Are you leaving out something to do with the children?"
Kym nodded one last time. "There are over a hundred small children and all are slated to be shipped out. There isn't a lot of time left if you intend to save everyone."
Todd's heart sank, He had never imagined there were so many missing children. This was huge, he had to find the other warehouse and alert the authorities. "Okay that settles it, you need to return before they come looking for you. We're going to need your help tomorrow night. You need to find a way to distract the guards so we can get inside. I'm not leaving Lily in there any longer. One last question. Does your boss have a name?"
Kym stared at Tom wide-eyed, she was terrified, she was being asked to betray the one man she feared the most. " I can't tell you, please don't ask that of me."
Todd could tell from her voice she was scared about something so he backed off. "Very well, we'll leave that tidbit for now, Kym. Thank you for helping, I made you a promise and I'll get you out of this. This is one enterprise that's going to encounter a snag and if possible, I'll manage to do some serious damage in the process."
Kym got up to leave, she turned and looked back at the two men she had just gotten involved in her life. They had all started down a very dangerous path and it could turn deadly if they weren't very, very careful. She stopped and walked back to Tom. Placing one hand on his chest and the other on his cheek she said, "Today you showed me respect and concern, I'm more grateful than you could possibly understand, so I need your promise that if it's a choice between saving me or the children, you'll choose the children. You've already saved me just remember that." She turned and walked back down the dock headed for her own destiny and secure in her heart that she had made the correct decision.
Todd reached up and touched his cheek, Kym's hand had been so cold. He wasn't going to let her sacrifice herself, he'd get them all out one way or another. He was so distracted by her final words that he was startled when C.J. touched his shoulder.
"She's gone, for now, I think she'll be alright as long as they don't find out she was with us. I didn't like the way you collapsed. I think it's time we had a heart to heart. We should leave." C.J. led the way and flagged a taxi and they returned to Todd's hotel. They entered and after purchasing a couple of beers, CJ and Todd settled in Todd's room to talk.
Todd walked over to his bed and stretched out, he had overdone it and he could feel his heart still protesting. When he had left Dragonheart, his mind had been so confused he hadn't dwelt on all the possible scenarios that might occur. This evening's incident brought all his problems back into focus.
"Okay Uncle Todd, spill. What the hell happened out there tonight." C.J. had watched his uncle come in and drop on the bed and knew he was missing a large part of the story, now he wanted answers.
Todd turned his gaze toward C.J.'s voice and said: "It's a long story."
"Hey I've got all night, and we've still got to plan out tomorrow but only after I find out what you're hiding from me." C.J. sat down and waited.
Todd smiled, C.J. had always been precocious and stubborn, it looked like that hadn't changed. "I'm not sure where to start but just for old times sake, watch as I perform some magic." Todd sat up on the edge of his bed with his back to C.J. and pulled the pouch out from under his shirt, removed the ring and placed it on his finger waiting for the moment when his vision cleared. He replaced the pouch and grabbed his cane, folded it up, then he walked to the dresser and put the cane on top and turned to face his nephew. "God, you look a lot like your mother did when I first met her. Do you remember that day? You and Sarah had come to my room over Rodi's to tell me how glad you were that I was out of prison. I remember feeling such joy at seeing you guys and then I panicked because you were with me, a convict, in an apartment above a bar." he paused as he remembered how unconcerned the kids had been about their ride over to the bar, nothing could stop them when they made up their minds to do something.
CJ was still wrapping his head around Todd's first statement, "Whoa, let's go back just a bit. What do you mean, I look like my mother? How would you know?" he looked over at his uncle and Todd grinned. CJ realized Todd"s eyes were focused and alert. "You can see!"
"Magic." said Todd as he did a flourish with his hand.
"But that's not possible, Chase told me you were blind, and everything I saw today told me he was right. You couldn't see out there on the dock tonight, but now you can. What's going on?"
"It quite simple really. I can see right now because of a device that enables me to see. Earlier on the Docks, I wanted anyone I came in contact with to believe I was blind. I'm not a threat when I'm blind and I can get closer to the story if they continue to believe I'm not a threat. The device is experimental and I have no idea how long it will continue to work so I let myself be blind for a while so I don't forget the skills I learned when I was blinded." Even as he said it, Todd admitted the truth to himself. He looked forward to seeing every time he wore the ring, but he had no idea how long he had before the device stopped working. He knew that sooner or later the power source that ran the device could die and he would be permanently blind once more. Todd rubbed his eyes briefly trying not to think of that eventuality. He looked at C.J. once more and said. "Now that that's been cleared up let me go back to your original question. What happened on the dock? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure, but my heart may have had something to do with my collapse. I worked on the docks earlier today trying to find out more information about the slave ring. I guess I overdid it between the job this morning and the stress hearing Lily might be in danger of rape. My heart isn't a good as it used to be and it decided to act up a little bit." Todd shrugged and walked to get his beer.
"Wait a minute, you have a bad heart? Are you nuts?"
"Not at the moment, no."
"Oh, then you just decided you wanted an interesting way to kill yourself then I guess. You're still not telling me the whole story. Why are you here calling yourself Tom? Why did you come here? Just how bad is your heart? What about Aunt Vicki and your wife Blair? Why are you hell bent on stopping this ring without any help? You must have a death wish since you been doing this by yourself. Only someone bent on dying would attempt to take down a slavery ring by themselves."
Todd sat there unsure what to answer first. C.J.'s mention of Blair had come out of left field and Todd was reeling a little bit. "Why did you bring up Blair?
C.J. shook his head, out of all the questions he had just asked, Uncle Todd was asking about Blair. "Well, you married her all those years ago and you're still wearing the ring, I figured she was probably still in the mix."
Todd looked down at his ring finger and realized CJ was remembering the gold balloon wedding. It was funny how things sometimes came full circle. "Your Aunt Vicki knows me and although I'm sure she's worried, she'll give me the space I need right now. As for Blair, she's probably giving her cousin Cassie an earful right now and I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing her soon. My heart is bad, I've had a number of heart attacks and the doctor's keep saying the next one will do it. I've chosen not to believe it. Thomas Lord is my current name and I would prefer you keep my real name quiet. I don't have a death wish C.J., but I need to stop this ring. I did something a few weeks ago that crippled me inside for awhile. I left Blair and came here and found out about the disappearances. I have to to redeem myself in my eyes before I can return to Blair. Years ago I hurt Marty, then with your help, I found a way to redeem myself. Saving you and Jess and Marty that night turned things around for me and then your faith in me did the rest. Heart or no heart, I've got to see this through. I promised Chase and I won't let him down."
As Todd downed the last of his beer, C.J. mulled over what he had heard. He finished his beer and said. "Okay, I think you're nuts, but you're my best friend and I know my best friend never let me down years ago and I don't think he'll let me down now." He looked at his uncle and gave him a wink and a thumbs up.
Todd smiled and returned the wink. "Excellent. Then my best bud, it's time we figured out how to free Lily."
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