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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Thomas Lord: Cloaked Chapter 4

Since they were alone in the taxi, Todd had an inkling Kim was studying him and wondered what was going on in her mind. "The name's Tom by the way, are you sure you're alright, it sounded like the guy got a piece of you," he carefully reached up to her face and tentatively felt around her mouth and felt the abrasion.

Her hand came up and stopped his. "It's nothing."

"Kym, it's 'not' nothing.  That guy hurt you. What kind of company do you work for that would let those guys manhandle a woman?"

"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 behind the watcher. The moon chose a perfect time to come out from behind the clouds and Todd had enough light to just make out a shadow in front of him. He raised his cane and moved till his cane was nestled in the man's back.

"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 hands free and had begun undoing C.J.'s belt.

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.

"Thank God!"

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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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Chasing the Monsters: 57

"It's right here, finally.  I've almost burned my eyes out of my head reading this stuff," Jack Ribsky said, handing the book to Timothy.

The Irishman took it, and read:

Tonight, I met a friend of Peter's, at last.  It has been strange never seeing him interact with anyone but me.  Anyway, the man's a policeman, and it seems he's a long time friend of Peter's and of the family.  (He may have been involved with getting Todd out of trouble, I'm betting).  Anyway, he came by the house to talk with Peter this evening, and I was there, so he introduced me.  A nice enough man, seems very into his work, rather quiet.  They had beer, I got it for them.  My wrist still hurts from when he grabbed it the other night, but I'm ignoring it.  I had trouble holding two beers with it, but I managed.
They started talking about things I am not sure I understand really, something about arrangements for something financial, they were talking softly, and of course, Peter made me leave the room, so I went and got you, diary.  Peter has a strong belief that women are more or less to be kept out of things, and he decides what I'm involved in and what I'm not.
"Sounds like a peach of a guy, eh?"

"Bastard.  She'd just been with him a short while, maybe a year, and he'd already started abusing and using her.  She was tough, though.  She knew how to read and control him to a point."


"Shall I read more?"


"Yeah, I guess you should.  I can't, my eyes are shot."


"All right then," he said.

All in all, it's been an interesting evening.  Peter's got a great deal of money coming in.  He knows how to invest it and make it grow, and he's been successful doing that.  Not sure where the money came from originally, but he did tell me he got a large amount from Todd's birth father, and has made that grow over and over.  If I can just get him to trust me, more than anyone else, then I will be in the clear and have access to anything I want at any price.  He's already promised that.  Not sure why he's chosen me; Todd says there was a line of women before me that he cast off, including Todd's adoptive mother, Barbara.  
But, I have staying power for some reason, and I guess that's what counts right now.  He bought me lots of beautiful things that I want, including a new car, just last week.  
I guess meeting Ben was the only thing new for me today, but it was of huge value; it made me see that he does have contacts outside of me and his son, and that they're respectable, upstanding citizens.  Well, at least this man Ben is. 
A cop.  How much more respectable can you get than that? 
By the time Timothy finished reading this, Ribsky was already perusing the list of policemen on file, but he did so with a frantic manner.

"What's the matter, Mate?"  Timothy said.


"Just hang on," Ribsky answered, and continued.  Timothy sat with the journal still open in his hands, and glanced down at the next entry.

Upsetting day today.  Peter and Todd got into a verbal altercation, and it was escalating.  I tried to step in and stop it from becoming violent, and Peter told me to leave the house.  He said the only one involved in disciplining his son would be him.  I'm not sure what's happening, but I am concerned, and hate to admit I am slightly worried about Todd.  I couldn't calm Peter at all, but he said he knew exactly what to do.  Not happy.  More later.
Timothy was interrupted by Ribsky's slamming his palm hard onto the table.  "Fucking unbelievable!"

"Can ya share this?" Timothy said, still recovering from what he had read.

"There's only one freaking Ben on the whole list of cops," he said and got up.  He began to pace, "Out of the hundreds of names, only one freaking Ben."


"Correct me if I'm wrong, Man, but that's a good thing.  No searching, nothing left to do."


"No searching.  Nothing left to do.  Heh."


Timothy was confused.  "I don't understand."


"Ben Miller, the only policeman named Ben on the force at that time.  It was him."


"Yes, that's what it seems to be unless the man was using an alias.  It will be simpler now to solve this, we can get the court to issue a warrant for his arrest.  Ya should be celebrating."


"I'd be celebrating if this cop were anyone BUT Ben Miller, my mentor and long-time partner."


***


Sam ran up the stairs to the kitchen and was frantically racing to get to Blair.  He stormed into the family room and was crying.  It was difficult at first to understand him.


"Sam, calm down, honey I can't understand what you're saying," Blair said.


He cried, and said, "Mom, something bad . . ."


"What Sam, what is it?"  she was alarmed, and as she and Bitsy got to her feet, she heard the copter starting on the helipad.


Bitsy said, "Sam, is it about your father?"


"Yes!  Mom it's bad!  Mom!"  he paced nervously, and Blair ran past him to the service stairs and up to the roof.  


She wasn't sure what it was, but it was bad enough to get Todd going, and that was enough.  She started screaming his name, knowing full well he might not even hear her.  "Todd, wait, stop!  Where are you . . . Todd!"


She couldn't hear anything but the copter engine, as he put the earphones on and lifted off. 


"Todd!"  she screamed as loud as she could, and then watched the copter rise to the clouds.


She was breathing heavily, and Sam appeared in their bedroom, at the glass panes.  She turned, defeated, and went to him, and opening the panes she entered the bedroom and took him by the hand.  "Sam, you have to calm down."


Her son was shaking, crying, and saying many things at once, and very little was recognizable.  When she tried to get him to sit down by her, he refused and pulled her by her hand, still having difficulty expressing himself, toward the stairs and back down to the first level.  She decided to give up the talking to him and follow his lead.


Bitsy met them in the foyer, and seeing Sam's expression, and worry, she said, "Sam, Daddy's a man.  He's strong, and he will be all right."


Sam lead them to the mudroom, where he pointed.  Bitsy immediately knew what he was pointing to, and said, "His trunk.  All his special things.  I packed it away and hid it myself, so Peter couldn't get to it and damage any of it."


Blair's heart was pounding.  She quietly said, "Sam, if you can take some deep breaths, maybe you can tell Grandma Bitsy and I why Daddy's so upset."


She saw her son try to gather himself, and he was slowing his own breathing.  Blair coaxed him, while Bitsy was at her knees, fingering a few of the items in the trunk, and starting to mist over with memory.


"He got mad, Mom.  He got really mad.  He was . . . I made him open the trunk."


"He was mad about the trunk?"  she asked her son.


"No, not really.  He was kind of sad about the trunk and was remembering.  He told me he was remembering.  But then, I told him I was remembering, too."


Of course, at this, Blair was almost panicking herself.  What did her husband have to hear, and what had happened to her son?  Sam was still crying, but more in control.  "What did you remember, Sam?"


"About my real Dad, Zeus, and his magic trunk."


"Okay," she was relieved.  At least it wasn't about Peter Manning.  "Go on."


"I told him about the time that Zeus got mad at me and locked me in."


"What?  Sam?" 


Blair hadn't heard it before and was losing her composure, so Bitsy stepped in.  "Sam, Mom's upset because she didn't know about this and she is worried for you and your father.  Can you tell me what happened?"


"Dad was looking at old stuff.  His face was weird.  Sometimes he looked like he was in his mind, or something.  I don't know.  I asked him about it, and he said he was remembering.  I said that I was remembering too, and told him about Zeus locking me in the trunk to teach me a lesson about touching his things . . ."


"Oh, Dear," Bitsy said in a whisper, looking to Blair.  "The shed.  He . . . it's too similar, Blair."


Blair was beside herself, her eyes were filled with a mixture of sadness, anger, and fear.  She said, "I've got to go to him," and headed for the stairs.


"Blair, where?  Where will you go?"


"He's going after Zeus, I know he is," she said and ran to the first level of the house.  As she called for Williams, Bitsy turned her attention back to Sam.


"You're such a sweet and good person, you were worried about your father and you did the right thing, Sam,"  Bitsy assured.


"I did?"


"Yes.  You did.  Now I don't want you to worry.  He's just upset because you were hurt."


"I wasn't hurt, I'm fine, see?"  He turned in a circle, to show her.


"I know, but he means hurt in here," she pointed to his chest, "in your heart."


"I'm okay, Grandma Bitsy, really.  I haven't had a nightmare in a while.  Dad said I don't have to talk to Zeus ever again if I don't want to."


"That's right.  You don't.  Your father's right, and he will protect you.  Don't worry about this, Sam, your mother will help."


Sam nodded.  He looked to the floor.  "Should we put his things away, so that when he comes home, he finds them right where he left them?"


Bitsy glanced at the contents of the trunk, and said, "Yes, that would be nice, Sam," and the two of them began to pick up the items and return them to the trunk.  


"Jack!  JACK!"  Blair shouted as she threw items into an overnight bag.


"Yeah?"  he came quickly to her door. "What's the matter, Mom?"


"Your father . . . he's had a moment, let's just say.  Off to make a mistake.  I'm going after him, as soon as I can get myself going."


"Okay, is he all right?"


"He's fine.  He's . . . fine, Jack," she said, sounding doubtful and shaken.


"Mom, if anyone can talk sense into Dad, it's you."


She stopped and looked at her son.  "Yes, I guess that's true.  The point is, can I?"


"Don't worry about us, Mom.  We've got everything here."


"Between you, your grandmother and Shaun, I'm hoping so."  She zipped the bag and threw it over her shoulder.  


Jack said, "Let me take it down for you.  Go see the kids," and he was gone.  She went quietly into her youngest children's bedroom and peeked in.   Ray was napping the way he always did; his hand was tucked under his chin.  Jewel was sprawled out, all twenty-some pounds of her, on her side, as if the last thing she looked at when falling asleep was her princess pillow.  Blair sighed, and a few tears came, but she was determined to stop her man from making a very big mistake that could cost them everything


As much as she didn't want him to go to Greece and kill Zeus in front of Tea and her children, she understood him.  She knew where his heart was about Sam, about both fathers' failings, about everything.  She knew he was broken and just mending and that any slight jarring in the early stages of healing could require resetting the shattered parts.  


"Todd," she said softly, running her hand over the crib he'd insisted on assembling himself for their babies.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Thomas Lord: Cloaked Chapter 3

Todd had been waiting for this talk ever since he had called Amos to meet him at the diner. He could try and spin a lie or he could tell Amos the truth, at least part of the truth. He knew Amos was too shrewd a reporter to try and lie to, so the truth would have to do. "Okay Amos, I'll cut right to the chase. You're wondering if the blindness is real or if I'm just an excellent actor. Let me hear what you think and then I'll give you my answer."

"Thomas, the other day you walked into my office and looked me right in the eye and told me you needed a story you could sink your teeth into. I thought there was something bothering you, but I could tell you didn't want to talk. You're a good reporter, so I told you about the happenings at the docks. I was under the impression I was working with a man who could use all his senses to find out the truth. Now I find myself wondering who I entrusted the story too. Thomas if you're faking this blindness, it's a fantastic disguise but what doesn't make sense is why you would keep the disguise going after you're no longer on the dock. I watched you. You didn't know it was me at first when I arrived and you didn't realize the waitress had come to our table until she kissed you. That tells me you're not faking this blindness. But if you're blind, it doesn't explain two weeks ago in my office. Help me out here Thomas?"

The taxi arrived at Thomas's hotel and he said. "Amos, perhaps you'd like to join me for a drink, what I have to tell you is a secret only a select few know about, and if word got out I'd be a dead man, I'm counting on your journalistic ethics to keep my answer a secret." Todd got out of the car and headed into the lounge at his hotel. He needed a drink.

Amos paid the taxi and followed Thomas. He watched Thomas maneuver his way through the lobby to the lounge and knew Thomas had been blind for longer than a couple of weeks. Amos caught up with Thomas at the entrance to the lounge and wondered why he had stopped at the door.

Todd had paused at the door. The lounge was dark and his blobs and colors had once again merged with the darkness. He waited to let his other senses adjust. From the volume of talk in the lounge, he knew a number of people sat around, it was going to be tricky to navigate without some help. "Amos if you wouldn't mind, I'll follow you to the bar, just give me your elbow. I don't want to stumble over anyone."

Well if he hadn't been sure before, he was sure now. Thomas was really blind. Amos gave Thomas his elbow and led the way to the bar sitting him down and taking the seat next to him. "What happened, Thomas?"

Todd looked over and said. "I had to have brain surgery to remove a foreign object and unfortunately it left me blind."

Amos frowned, he knew there was so much more to the story than that but obviously Thomas wasn't going to talk about it. "That's all you're going to give me huh. How long ago did all this happen? Because you handle yourself very well which means this has been going on for a while at least."

Todd didn't answer, instead, he said. "Are there any tables unoccupied in here, preferably one more private than this bar?"

"Yeah, there's one left in the corner." Amos offered his elbow again and they moved to the table. "Alright, now you've got me really intrigued. Why all this need for privacy."

"Let's just say I angered some people and if they were to find out my whereabouts there's no telling what havoc they would bring here. So the blindness is real, and here's where the story might seem bizarre, the sight is also real." Todd paused to let that information sink in.

Amos did a double take and said. "What?  Don't keep me in suspense. How is that possible?"

"The last six months have been a real roller coaster for me. One thing that happened was the discovery of the foreign object in my brain. It turned out to be an extremely complicated piece of machinery implanted in my brain some years past."

"You're telling me someone implanted something in your brain, my god Thomas whatever for."

"That's a story I don't wish to discuss right now Amos." Todd's voice choked as his thoughts went back to that night he got his revenge. He felt nothing but loathing for himself and his part in that night.

Amos heard something in Thomas's voice that spoke volumes. Whatever had occurred recently had something to do with the implant, and it didn't just concern his blindness. Amos knew Thomas well enough that if he didn't want to tell something there was no use pushing him, but Thomas had said he could see. How was that possible? " Very well Thomas, you had the surgery you said and in removing this so-called implant, you lost your sight. That's correct, right? If removing the item caused the blindness, which is certainly real, how were you able to see a couple of weeks ago?"

"I've come into possession of an experimental piece of machinery that enables me to see once again as long as I have physical contact with it. I'm not entirely sure how it works, but when I hold it my vision clears. There are some questions as to how long it will continue to work, so I give up my eyesight periodically and allow myself to be blinded like today.  That way I won't be blindsided if the machinery ceases to work. Besides, I figured no one on the dock would worry about a blind man. Amos, I found out a lot of information about our story. Tomorrow, I'll return to my job on the dock and see if I can't get a little more background into the locations of the warehouses involved in this story. Chase said they move the children nightly. I need to find out a name associated with these warehouses and then I'll get word to you."

"Are you telling me you've gotten a job on the Docks? You say you have to have this machinery with you to see, aren't you taking a big risk losing it working on the Dock?"

"I've taken a number of precautions so that doesn't happen, Amos. Believe me. I can't afford to waste this chance to find the warehouses but I'm not stupid, no one suspects that I'm anything other than one of the dockworkers I'm just one of many. Now, as Tom the blind man, I encountered a couple of shady characters down there this evening and I'm hoping after another couple sightings of Tom they'll begin to ignore me. I need to find out what they have planned for the young girls they've been taking, I'm getting this sick feeling we're talking white slavery. Chase's sister is only thirteen years old. I've got to stop these guys before they ship her out to who knows where, or worse before they hurt her, or any others like the young girl found on the dock this morning. I know you have some concern because you know my secret now, but even blind I'm not helpless. This is something I've got to complete Amos, it's important to my sanity."

He sounded a trifle desperate but Amos heard the resolve in his voice when he spoke about rescuing Chase's sister. If Thomas was right and they had a white slavery ring working out of Savannah, then the authorities needed to be alerted. Right now Thomas just had a feeling. Between Thomas's supposition and what his own gut was telling him, Amos knew Thomas was on the right track but could he get the answers before getting killed. People running white slavery rings had no scruples when it came murder.

"If you're right Thomas, then these guys need to be caught. They had no qualms beating a young girl, in your case they wouldn't stop at a beating, you could end up dead. Be careful out there. When this is over I want your whole story Thomas and I hope you'll trust me enough to share it."

Amos wasn't happy about Thomas's sight problem and thinking about him working down on the docks, but he was right in the thick of the disappearances working there and if Thomas was right, this white slavery ring had to be taken down. "Thomas are you sure about Chase's sister being a part of this?"

"Positive. Chase said they were taken together, then separated. Amos, would you tell Keely, thanks, for helping out with Chase. The poor little guy is really worried about his sister. I'm glad his dad is coming to get him, little kids like that shouldn't be away from their parents." Todd was remembering his own sense of loss when his mother Bitsy left, Peter had taken him away from her and then made his life miserable.

Amos looked at Thomas sharply, something in his voice indicated strong feelings on the issue. This guy was really a riddle and Amos wished he knew the whole story, it was probably a doozy. Amos saw Thomas to the elevator pushing the floor button for him. "Take care out there Thomas, whoever is running this operation is dangerous. Get the story, but give the information to the police, don't do anything foolish."

"Gotcha Boss, nothing stupid, I promise."

As the door closed on Thomas, Amos felt a chill for a moment. Thomas was in for some trouble and it almost sounded like he was looking forward to it.

With the elevator door closed and no one else on board. Todd reached inside his shirt and took out his ring. He slipped it on and waited as his vision cleared up. He had made a promise to Amos, but he wasn't sure he was going to be able to follow up on it. It had suddenly become very important to him to find Lily. He needed to save her and the others, then he might be able to forgive himself enough to return to Blair. Todd entered his room and sat down wearily on the bed. It was late and he had to find a way to get some sleep, but his mind was filled with thoughts of Chase and his sister. He kept hearing Chase when he said he missed his daddy and grandpa and sister. There had been such longing and fear in the little boy's voice. Todd hated it and everyone who would hurt a child like that.

With thoughts of Chase on his mind, he slowly drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

He found himself down on the docks, he was holding a little stuffed lion in his hand, he had lost his little boy and no one seemed to care about his loss. Blair was blaming him and he knew she was right, he had been so angry about Cord and what Addie had said, but he had never wanted Blair to be hurt. He loved her and hadn't been able to tell her because he was jealous of the feelings she still had for Cord. As he sat, deep in thought, he heard a whimper coming from behind him. He got up and tried to find out where the crying was coming from.

There was a fog rolling in and it was becoming impossible to see so he moved carefully listening for the crying until he found himself very close and barely made out the huddled form in front of him. He crouched down and saw a little boy materialize out of the fog. "What's the matter, little guy? What are you doing here all alone?"


The child looked up at him with big hazel eyes, "I'm lost, I can't find my mommy and I'm scared."

"When did you see her last? Was she around here somewhere? Maybe I could help you find her." he reached out and felt the little hand take his. His heart tingled at the touch of the little hand and he started walking with the child carefully moving through the fog. "What's your mommy look like?"


"Mommy is like an angel, she's real pretty. She loves me very much. she tells me every night that I'll be seeing my daddy soon and that he loves me very much. But today, I lost mommy if I can't find mommy than I don't get to see my daddy. I want my mommy and daddy."

His heart was breaking for the little fellow, and wishing this little guy was his. He wouldn't have let him get lost, he would have held on tight.

All the anguish of losing his own mother surfaced and his thoughts turned to Peter and what Peter had done to him. Suddenly the little hand was gone. and he found himself holding empty air. No! He had promised the little guy he would find his mother and now he had lost him. The fog was getting thicker and he was trying to see. " Little guy why did you let go, come back and I'll help you. "

"You didn't want me, I heard you tell mommy, you're a bad man go away."


Stunned he staggered and almost fell into the river. "No, that's not true. I did want you. I loved you, what happened was an accident." Then another voice is heard through the fog.


"Come back, please come back. I love you I don't want to lose you. I know you didn't do anything wrong even if you think you did. Where are you? Why won't you let me see you?"


He fell to his knees at her words, she still loved him and it was tearing at his soul. He couldn't go home till he could find a way to forgive himself, even his son blamed him. He began crying softly on his knees, his lost son, and his lost love. He was all wrong for her she didn't know who she had married, but he did. He was nothing but a Beast. He felt the oily substance as it covered him and formed him into the beast he had become. It was true he could deny it no longer. He had become what he hated most no one could save him now. Laughter filled the air and the fog turned to smoke choking him, then a soft light began coming towards him.


He wanted to hide from that light, but it came closer and then she appeared She was glowing, dressed all in white, her gown was a diaphanous lacework of dainty sparkling flowers that blinded him. "You shouldn't be here, I will only get you dirty. Please, you can't want me. The ugliness has won. Don't you see it was all a lie? You married a monster."


She wouldn't stop until she came directly up to him. He knew that she saw the blackness that surrounded him, but she didn't leave, instead she reached out to him. He shrunk from her touch afraid to soil her further than he closed his eyes as she reached for his cheek. She caressed it so gently it was like being kissed by a butterfly. He felt the substance that covered him begin to move and feared it was starting to cover her. He opened his eyes afraid for her and was surprised to find her standing there untouched. She was smiling the most beautiful smile. Without a word, she leaned in and found his lips and kissed him. He realized the substance was shrinking from her and leaving him. Suddenly the laughter became a high pitched scream as if something was in a lot of pain and he watched as the oily substance retreated shrinking away for both of them. Todd looked down at himself and he was whole, clean and face to face with the woman who had made it possible. He began to cry and she pulled him into her arms and held him as her love covered both of them in warmth.


Todd rolled over in bed, tears still streaming from his face, he reached across the bed and found his phone. Pressing the number he waited, his heart still uncertain but knowing he needed her, that she was his salvation and he should never have left.

Blair turned over reaching for the phone and noticing the time. Who was calling at this ungodly hour? "Hello"

"Blair, I need you. Come to me. I love you."

Blair almost fainted "Oh God where are you?" She prayed he wouldn't hang up He spoke one other word.

"Savannah"

"Todd, Todd talk to me. Don't hang up. Please! Where in Savannah? What are you doing there? Why don't you come home?" She clung to the phone.  He didn't hang up, but she didn't know how long he would stay on. Blair just wanted to hear his voice.

He lay back on his pillow absorbing the sound of her voice. God, he missed her and he finally realized he didn't want to complete the job alone. As much as he wanted to go home he knew he couldn't. He had made a promise to Chase to find his sister, and he had made a promise to himself that the people behind the disappearances would be caught. "I can't come home just yet. I'm working on something and it's important to me and a lot of other people. I have to go now, Blair. Find me. You know me, I know you can find me." he hung up before she could say anything else. She would come, of that he was certain.

Blair screamed in frustration. He had hung up. Why did he have to be so mysterious? Sometimes she just wanted to haul off and smack him one when he got that way. She felt a teardrop hit her hand and realized she was crying. Her heart was pounding, he wanted and needed her. She thanked God he had come to his senses about that. She was wide awake now and she had to figure out her next move. She started packing immediately and once she had her bag packed, she sat down to figure out where she was going to look for him in Savannah.

She had been wracking her brain for weeks trying to ascertain how he had managed to slip off the radar. That he was in Savannah came as a big surprise. That was a location she wouldn't have thought of because Cassie lived there. Whatever he was doing, he obviously wasn't worried about running into Cassie. She knew he wasn't going by any of his known names. The authorities were on the lookout for Samuel Toddman, and Todd, Tom, or Pete Manning and no one by those names or his appearance had shown up. She had also had private investigators looking into the location where his car had been found, but they had turned up nothing. " Okay, Todd so you're in Savannah and doing something that's obviously important to you. I'll find you Todd, but look out, you're going to get an earful from me when I do." She knew she was talking to herself, but it felt good to just say the words.

Several hours later Blair was on her way to Savannah. She had alerted Starr of her father's call and decided against bringing John into it until she knew Todd was safe and not involved in anything underhanded. Everyone was worried about him in Landview especially Vicki so before boarding her flight she had contacted Vicki and told her of the call also. Neither Vicki nor Starr had any idea what name he might be using. Blair was on her own figuring that out and she didn't call the Savannah Police for the same reason she didn't tell John, something told her that if the police got involved looking for him in Savannah, it might actually endanger him.

Todd had gotten out of bed surprisingly refreshed, even though, the night had been short. He couldn't believe how good he had felt calling Blair and hearing her voice. He couldn't have her come straight to him, he had to finish this story and he knew it was going to be dangerous enough for him, he wasn't going to endanger Blair like that. He got ready to go to work wrapping the ring up under a band-aid and putting on the armband to keep the watch secure. Hopefully, he'd be able to find out more about the owners of those suspicious warehouses.

He arrived down at the docks and noticed activity around the warehouse where the thugs had hung out the previous night. It was the police, but it looked like they had come up empty. Todd was disappointed, that meant they must have gotten spooked by the loss of Chase last night, had they moved everyone or just those that had been in that warehouse.

It looked like Tom was going to need to make another evening stroll, he might start at the other end of the dock and see if the thugs showed up again.

"Hey Tom, stop daydreaming and get your butt over here to help me."

For just a second Todd almost forgot he was using Thomas's name, he waved, letting Bernie know he had been heard and headed over to help him. It was hard work and by mid-afternoon, he found himself struggling to keep up the appearance, that he wasn't affected by the heat and everything else. Bernie offered to buy him a drink as the work day came to a close and Todd accepted. He was hoping to have a chance to talk to the big man away from the dock.

"What's it going to be Tom, " Bernie sat down at the bar and waited for Todd to sit.

Todd looked at the bartender and said: "Give me the tallest draft you have."

Todd downed the first beer and ordered a second and then asked his question."Bernie, just who are these new owners on the Dock. Are there any names being bandied about?"

"It's said they are foreign investors from Asia, but I did hear one name being bandied about and I'm not sure how it fits in with an Asian company. It appears to be a German company under the name Daimler. That's a real scary thought the Germans and the Asians, the last time they were allied together we had a world war."

Todd laughed even though he felt a chill run down his spine. Bernie was being facetious, but the name Daimler raised the hairs on his arm. It was just a coincidence, but Blair's maiden name was Daimler. He decided to do some digging into the German Company and he still needed to find a connection to any Asian companies out there. Finishing his second beer, he got up to leave. "Bernie, you keep your kid's off those docks, I think those companies might have something to do with the disappearances. See you in the morning."

Todd hailed a cab, it was a good time to pay a visit to the paper and hit the archives he wanted to see what he could bring up about the Daimler company. Getting out at the paper, he wandered in and looked to see if Amos might still be working. Yep, there he was, that grizzled old black man just never knew when to call it a day. "Hey Boss, Don't you have a life outside of here?"

Amos jumped, the newsroom had been quiet for a while, and Thomas surprised him. He looked up and noticed Tom looking directly at him again. It was disconcerting after the previous night. Even though he had heard Thomas's story he wondered at the truth of it but that truth was standing in front of him. A blind man that could see, that mechanism was some kind of miracle. Thomas could make a fortune if the mechanism could be used to help other blind people see. "What brings you here today Thomas, I thought you were working the docks."

"Done for the day Amos, at least the job part, but before I go back out I thought I'd see if the paper has anything on a German corporation, The Daimler Corporation. There was some talk on the docks that the Daimler Corporation had its hands possibly into one or two warehouses on the docks or that they're working with an Asian partner. The dockhands have been saying the workers for those warehouses were a real surly bunch. The guys I met last night could be part of that bunch. They were certainly surly enough."

"Tom, do you mean to tell me you're going back down there again tonight, without your sight? Are you crazy?"

"Amos, it's the only way I can get close to those warehouses. They've got to believe I'm harmless. By the way, did Chase get reunited with his dad?"

"Keely called and it was a tearjerker reunion, but she told me they were staying on in town until Lily was found. The police were urging Chase's dad to go home and let them handle things, but Keely said he was adamant. I hope he doesn't do something foolish and I'm talking to you too. Why can't you just pretend to be blind, why handicap yourself."

"Relax Amos, I know what I'm doing. They won't consider me a threat, and I've tried to play blind, I'm no good at it. Too many times, I find myself making mistakes and doing things the way a sighted person does. But I'm comfortable with the handicap and as such I might as well be myself. But I'm not going down there just yet, mind if I do some research?"

Amos reached for his key card and handed it to Thomas. "Here, that should get you into the archives and the morgue. If I were you I'd skip the dock tonight and just do your research. Give those scoundrels a day to think they're safe again before traveling the dock."

"Maybe I will Amos, it depends on what I might be able to turn up here."

Amos watched as Thomas headed for the archive room and made a decision. It wasn't long before he had the computer open and began searching for any info on Thomas Lord. An hour later Amos leaned back into his chair. His undercover reporter was a ghost. With the exception of the year he had worked for the Herald in 1999, Thomas Lord was an unknown. He appeared to have no past. Who was he really? Amos recalled the two rings Thomas had sported the first day he had arrived and both were valuable pieces of jewelry. So Thomas had some money somewhere. Was Thomas Lord his real name? Amos had seen the ID and it was all legit. If he was Thomas Lord how come he had no background. Amos had no pictures of Thomas so he couldn't cross reference his picture with other reporters across the country. He knew the man knew his craft. Thomas's Expose' in '99 had drawn rave reviews and it was obvious he wasn't trying to hide per se' but he sure wasn't giving anything away either. Amos knew Thomas Lord was a story in itself if he could only find out the correct angle and if it killed him, he was going to discover it.

Todd was in the archive for over an hour and was about ready to give up when he came across an obscure article about the Corporation. The article talked about how the Daimler corporation had expanded its reach by going into a partnership with an Asian based company working out of Hong Kong. Further investigations proved fruitful when he discovered the Asian company was suspected of having ties to the Yakuza, but no tangible proof had been found. The idea that the Japanese mob might be involved made Todd pause. If the Yakuza were behind this it was an international crime but he had been leaning that way since his first inklings of white slavery. Now the biggest question he had was how were the children being delivered and where were they being sent. He sat down at the computer in the room and brought up shipping companies that worked out of Savannah and saw that the Daimler Corporation had a ship due in near the end of the month. That was just a couple of weeks away. He would have to hurry if those kids were to be rescued.

While he was on the computer Todd search out any info on the owners of the Daimler Corp. The company had been around a long time, but it appeared that the current CEO had at one time attended several universities in the States and had been labeled a ladies man back in his day. Gregor Daimler had made the rounds when he was younger. Todd pulled up Daimler's picture and could only stare. Could this man be Blair's father? He was the right age. Todd printed out the picture and pocketed it. The only way he would know was to talk to Addie and he couldn't do that until he stopped the slavery ring. If Daimler knew what his company had a piece of, then he was as bad as the Yakuza. If that was the case, he would destroy the picture and turn his discoveries over to the authorities to take care of. Blair didn't even have to know anything about it.

Todd dropped Amos's key card on his desk and saw that Amos had an urgent email flagged on his computer. Still the snoop, he found himself opening the mail only to find a picture of Samuel staring out at him. After a quick read, he realized Vicki had started notifying editors around the country to keep an eye out for him. He wasn't ready to be found quite yet, so he hit the delete button. He knew Vicki probably had been told by Blair that he had called. If she told Vicki about Savannah, then he had only a matter of days before Vicki sent another email. Hopefully, he had enough time to find out what he needed, and he prayed he would find Lily and the children safe and sound before he had to come clean about his identity.

Todd headed back to his hotel for his evening excursion, Although Amos might be right about pushing his luck with these thugs, Todd knew he only had days left before the ship was due to arrive. Once again, he donned his thrift store clothes and placed the ring pouch around his neck. Time was running out for the girls and the other small children.

****

He exited the taxi and grabbed his cane, taking a moment to stow his ring away and adjust to the blindness once more. He had decided to walk the pier from the other direction, to see if one of the warehouses farther down from his job might be part of the ring. Thank goodness there was a little moonlight, at least he wouldn't walk himself off the dock. As he strolled he thought about all the times he had found himself down on the docks most of them had been sad occasions. But one had been an eye opener. He recalled his encounter with his sister Vicki and how she had tried to sabotage the Banner. He hadn't known her all that long, but her mood swings had really puzzled him. He had figured out that she was having personality problems and that one of her personalities had had a real hatred for the Paper their father had built. Tori, as he later found out, was Vicki's violent alter much like Pete was his. It wasn't until later that he found out what had brought out Vicki's alters. That night had been one of the most horrific nights of his life, as he realized just how much he was like his bastard father Victor. That night had bonded them together as brother and sister more so than the blood they shared. There had been times when he had tested the bond but in the end, Vicki had always been there for him.

Todd was brought out of his reverie by the sound of loud voices coming from ahead of him. He recognized one of the voices as belonging to the thug from the previous night, the one named Frank.

Raucous laughter was coming from several men. The Todd heard a female voice mixed in.

"Stop that, I've got my orders."

"Awww come on, baby. You can give us a little something. You know you want too." the guy was obviously drunk.

"Stop it! He'll be mad if I don't do my job. Leave me alone!"

The laughter got louder and Todd found his hand clenching his cane.  Images of Marty and the frat room flashed through his memory as he heard the girl pleading with the men to let her go.

"Come here baby, Frank knows what you want. ....Son of a bitch..you bit me!"

Todd flinched at the sound of the slap and heard the girl sob.

"You do what you're told Girlie, You ever bite me again and you won't be around to take care of your girls, you hear me."

"Hey Frank, ease off, she's got a job just like the rest of us. Let's go get a drink. Kym, you better go do what you were sent out for. Go on!"

Todd recognized Mario's voice and from the scuffling, his ears picked up. he guessed Mario must be holding Frank at bay.

"Frank, you and the guys need to let her be.  If he finds out, we're all in trouble."

Todd listened as Mario and the guys moved away from him. Which meant the warehouse must be close by. He started walking slowly in the direction of the altercation when he made out her sobs. He knew she was close but in her tears, she didn't see him and the next thing he knew she had walked right into him.

"Oh God, I'm sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going," her voice was thick with tears. As she gulped to get back in control. She looked at the man she had run into. He wasn't a bum that was for sure, in fact, he was holding her rather gently, then he released her. In the moonlight, she made out a man probably a foot taller than her. His face was stunning in the light, but she realized he wasn't really looking at her. Then she saw the cane he had dropped when she had run into him, he was blind. She brushed the tears from her eyes and bent to retrieve his cane.

"Are you alright? " Todd asked, "That conversation sounded a bit rough. Did the one called Frank hurt you?"

"Oh, it's alright, Frank was just drunk. I'm sorry you heard that.  It's a good thing you didn't try and interfere. Frank would have made mincemeat of you." She took his hand and laid his cane in it. "Don't let it bother you. I'm alright but if I don't hurry I might not be. Please, You should go the other way." She looked around afraid one of the men might come back and she didn't want this man hurt. He was concerned for her and he didn't even know her.

"I heard the other guy call you Kym. I'm not concerned for me, but I am for you. I'm blind but not deaf. That Frank guy hit you. Are you sure you're alright? You said you had a job to do. At least let me go with you so no one else will bother you tonight. Judging from your voice you're couldn't be more than in your early twenties. There are a lot of unsavory characters out at this time of night. Whoever sent you out on a job this late should be hung." Todd was hoping she would take him up on his offer. She wasn't much bigger than Starr, and although he seriously wanted to get his hands on Frank, it was more important to help this girl. There was someone who terrified her more than Frank and she was involved with this whole setup. He had to find out just how involved she was.

When he had talked about Frank, she had heard the anger in his voice than she heard the concern. It had been a long time since someone had been concerned for her welfare. She had worked for these people since she was nothing more than a child herself. She wasn't the young thing he thought she was because that had been beaten and abused out of her a long time ago, but for the first time in her existence, as she called it, the man in front of her made her feel like she was worth something. What would be so bad to take him up on his offer just for a few hours? What her Boss didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Besides, if she didn't let him help her she had a feeling he was going to go looking for Frank and she didn't want him on her conscience too.

Every night she wept for the girls she was in charge of. Right now, they were just scared and being trained, but soon they were going to be sent on that ship and they would never be the same again. She knew because she had made that trip years before. But she had been a good girl and been rewarded, then she had found favor with 'him' and when she had grown too old for his tastes he had put her in charge of the new girls, and as long as she did her job, he wouldn't get rid of her. This was the only life she knew and she wasn't sure if it was even possible to get out of it any longer. The other day one of the girls had tried to escape and they had beaten her nearly to death. Now the rest of the girls were struggling to please because they all thought they would be treated the same way if they misbehaved. The intimidation factor was a proven way to keep them in line.  If only she could find a way to free them all but she was as trapped as they were. That thought brought her back to earth and she knew she had wasted precious minutes. "Listen, I'm going to be in bigger trouble if I don't get my job done and I can't let you go start a fight with Frank, so I'll let you help me this one time," she grabbed his arm and started to drag him away from the warehouse.

"Kym, wait, You were worried earlier about this boss of yours. Will it be safe for you to leave with me?" Todd had felt the urgency in her grab and knew she was afraid for him and herself as well.

"I'll be alright, but I need to get back and soon. We need to go now!"

Todd broke free of her grasp and said, "I'll take your elbow and then you lead. There will be less chance of a fall that way."

She gave him her elbow and proceeded to lead them back to the street. She paused and hailed a cab, it was only after they got into the cab and headed for the address she gave the driver, that she relaxed back into the seat.



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