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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thomas Lord: Cloaked Chapter 17

      The marshal had been a good shot and the assassin was still alive. Brody stayed with the doctors to keep an eye on him. Michael left Todd in Larry's hands while he went and made arrangements to gather his surgical team.

      John and the marshal met Bo at the ER door and John took them out to the assassin's rental, where a long range rifle and scope were found in the trunk. Bo collected the evidence and sent it back to the lab to check and see if the rifle was the same gun used in killing Jake Boudreau. Then Bo went and checked on Todd and Blair, Larry was just finishing putting a bandage on Todd's upper arm. "Todd you might like to know we think this could be the man who shot Jake. If he is, we hope he'll talk and bargain, giving us a few more names. Interpol intercepted another group of men that had been following the decoys around Europe. Carlo's partners have to be getting concerned about the manpower they're losing, as they continue to try and get you. They should realize Hesser and Kipling have a lot more witnesses against them now than just you. Quite a few people witnessed the shooting this afternoon. I hope the capture of this man puts a stop to the attempts on your life."

      Todd slipped his shirt back on. "You and me both, Bo. Did you hear any more from Nora, on the Judge's rulings, concerning the trial going forward?"

      "The trial had been postponed indefinitely until a new lawyer can be retained for Hesser and Kipling. Nora is also filing new charges, of first-degree murder, kidnapping, assault, unlawful escape and other minor infractions. Everything is on hold until Hesser recovers. I talked to his surgeon. Hesser's going to live, but he has lost the use of his voice, for now, seems his vocal chords were damaged." Bo gave Todd a look that said a lot of things unmentioned between them. "I hear you're going ahead with the surgery. I'll inform Nora. Good luck Manning. We're keeping the protection on you until we know for certain this is over."

      After Bo departed, Larry made arrangements for Todd's admittance to the hospital. He then promised to call Vicki and alert her to the latest happenings.

      The press was all over the place from both the Banner and the Sun trying to determine who had been shot at. John and the police were able to keep them in the dark, saying it was an unbalanced man who had attacked an employee of the hospital and then attempted to shoot an officer in the hope of being killed himself. The man had been successfully taken down and no one had been killed. When asked about the attempted escape of Carlo Hesser and Ivan Kipling; the press was given the story that the attempt was aborted, and Hesser and Kipling were back in custody, although the death of their attorney was a regrettable loss. Vicki waited until the reporters headed out to write their stories before going to the side entrance of the hospital and making her way to Larry's office.

       Todd looked up when Larry's door opened. She stood there looking great, and when she smiled it filled his heart. It always amazed him how close they were. "Hi, Sis."

       She saw him and noticed the torn shirt and the lines around his eyes and could only think how relieved she was that he was alive. "Todd, Thank God, you're okay. You had us all so worried."

       Todd knew he owed her an apology, but all he could do was grin at her a little ruefully. He wanted to come back with one of his one-liners but couldn't. Instead, he walked to his sister and gave her a gentle kiss on her cheek.

      Vicki looked into his eyes and saw some residual pain behind them and knew he was once again putting on a brave front. Her eyes fell on his shoulder and she started to reach for it when he grabbed her hand.

      "It's nothing Vicki, just a scratch."

        "Larry called and said Michael was going back in. Why?"

        "You know me, I just can't seem to get enough of him." this time he grinned full out.

        Vicki couldn't help but give a little laugh. He was incorrigible. She turned to Blair and although smiling she asked. "He won't tell me,  Is it the implant?"

       Blair nodded, "He's experiencing more problems."

       "Hey, I'm right here. Really, it's going to be alright."

      The surgery was scheduled to take place that evening and Blair and Todd caught Vicki up on the events of the day. Todd came clean about the effects of the piece of the implant still inside him and the necessity for the surgery. He told his sister about Hesser's actions, that had almost resulted in him killing Carlo.

        As he recited the story, Vicki watched the feelings of fear, hatred and horror play across her brother's expressive face. She had felt those same feelings long ago when she had attacked her father. Her instincts told her that Todd had disappeared because he thought his monster had reawakened, and he had felt the need to take his monster away before he hurt the ones he loved. Luckily for Todd, Blair's love for him was his saving grace.

      "Todd, when are you going to believe that you'll never be like Father or Peter Manning. You have more love in your little finger than the two of them combined," the nurse came in to get Todd ready for surgery. Vicki walked over to Todd and looked down at him on the bed. "I'm quite proud of my little brother these days, Amos has been sending me your articles. They're excellent and I've requested permission to reprint them in the Banner. You be strong, I know you have many more such articles in you." she squeezed his hand and stood out of the way as they wheeled him from the room. As Blair got ready to follow him, Vicki said, "Get him home to us Blair. He needs you most of all." Blair smiled and followed Todd. Larry took Vicki to the observation room where they sat and watched Michael begin his work.

      Over an hour into surgery and Michael was becoming concerned. They had gone to the site the CAT scan had indicated the remainder of the implant was supposed to be, but it wasn't there. Todd's vitals were beginning to deteriorate the longer they worked inside his head. There had to be some way to bring it to the surface without causing injury to Todd. Then it hit Michael. Maybe it would come to the surface if the other implant was close." He turned to where Blair was standing in the room. "Blair, you have Todd's ring. Right?" Blair nodded. "Good. Bring it here. It might help us locate the missing piece. " She handed the ring to the nurse, who swab it with a sterilizing cloth and handed it to Michael.

       Michael attached the ring to a pair of delicate pincers, and held the ring as close to the brain as he could get it; then he maneuvered his camera inside Todd's skull, to scan the brain, shedding a minute light on the crevasses, in the area of the brain, where the implant might be hiding.
As he looked, a tiny electrical spark leapt from the ring to an area just to the left of Michael's light. Michael carefully moved the light to that spot and watched another spark leap from the ring. The second spark caused Todd's body to spasm. Michael and his team watched fascinated, as not just one, but several foreign objects, half the size of a bb, seemed to find their way to the surface. He carefully inserted a vacuum tube and captured the objects.

      Michael thought they had all been found when another electrical spark occurred in the area where the second implant had affected Todd's eyesight. Michael, keeping a watch on Todd's vitals, inserted a thin but magnetic probe into Todd's brain at the site. He began to carefully draw it back into the tube and watched as it cleared the brain. At its tip was an octagonally shaped ball bigger than the miniature bee bees but obviously part of something else. As Michael removed the ball he paused to go look at both the octagonal item and the even tinier balls under a microscope. The octagonal item showed an edge that appeared to indicate it had broken off from something bigger, but what was all the more intriguing, was that it held a number of the little balls. Further magnification informed Michael that he was looking at a state of the art nanobot, designed to receive and transmit information. They were truly amazing pieces of engineering on such a minute scale.

       Michael passed the ring carefully over Todd's skull but no further items came up and the ring had ceased to spark. Michael set the ring down on the tray with the items he had removed and went about his business closing up Todd's head. Todd's stats started to climb and Michael breathed a sigh of relief. He nodded to Blair that she could come and stand by Todd as he finished up. "I think we got everything this time Blair. His stats are improving, now we wait and see the outcome of this surgery. We won't know if any more problems will occur because of the surgery until he wakes up."

       Blair took Todd's hand into hers and squeezed it, "It's all over Todd, you rest now." the nurse brought her a chair. Blair went to sit down and looked over at the ring and shuddered. The pieces Michael had removed from Todd's brain had gravitated to the ring and covered it. Michael, could you please remove those things from Todd's ring." she said in revulsion.

       Michael glanced over to see what was bothering Blair and found it equally disturbing. He picked up the offending tray and took it to the side where he carefully removed the balls and the broken implant. Those he put into another specimen bottle and returned the ring to Blair, who gingerly put it away. Putting his hand on her shoulder he said. "We're going to take him to recovery. You and Vicki can stay with him there." She got up and followed her husband out. Michael took a last look around and pocketed the jar with the remaining implant parts. He prayed that was the last time he would see Todd in his operating room.

      Todd came awake slowly. His eyelids felt so heavy, but he forced himself to open them. It didn't do much good, everything was dark. He closed them and prayed the darkness was because no lights were on, but he had a sinking feeling that wasn't the case. There was a movement to his right and he opened his eyes again, still darkness. "Who's there?"

     "Todd, good you're awake, how do you feel?" Blair asked.

      "I feel like someone's been poking around in my head. Blair, I can't see you, not even a little bit, do you have the ring?" Todd didn't want to panic, but the total darkness was alarming.

      "Todd, Michael said that you might not have any vision for a couple of days, your brain needs time to heal from all the poking around, there was some swelling. He found the piece of the implant that broke off and discovered that it was filled with minute nanobots, some of which had fallen from the container and migrated to several areas in your brain. The retrieving of those took some doing, but Michael is pretty sure everything is now out." Blair took his hand, "Todd, you'll just need to let things heal naturally. I have your ring, but Michael wants you to heal first. He's not sure it's going to work any longer and he doesn't want to hamper your recovery. I want you to wait before trying to use the ring again."

      It wouldn't do to get upset, at least not yet and he had to admit to himself the vision problem was something he could handle. It had just been a bit of a shock to wake up in total darkness after he had gotten used to some light and shadows. "What time is it Blair?"

      "It's mid-morning Todd, the surgery was just last night. Vicki stayed until you came out of recovery. She said she'll be back. Bo stopped by. The forensics came back on the rifle found in the assassin's car. It's the same gun that killed Jake."

      Todd absorbed the news with a grain of salt, he wasn't ready to let down his guard as far as Hesser's partners went, and he needed to get back to Savannah to find out if Kym was still okay. He had never intended to still be in Llanview, especially in the hospital. Thinking about Savannah reminded him of Vicki's words, just before he was taken into surgery. He remembered the warmth that filled him at her words. She was proud of him, it was amazing. He had to admit he really felt he was making a difference with his articles, but that just made him want to get back to the kids. "Blair have you talked to the kids and explained why we haven't returned."

      "I talked to Starr, everyone is fine and there have been no sightings of any strangers in town. Momma got the boys off to school for their first day. I simply let them know the trial was delayed because I didn't want to scare them about the surgery." Blair reached up to move his hair off his forehead taking a moment to caress his cheek before leaning in to taste his lips.

      Todd reached around her waist and pulled her closer taking his time kissing her back. He couldn't see her, but she smelled like sunshine and flowers, her hair tumbled over his face and it was fragrant with the scent of a mountain meadow. Todd released her when he heard footsteps entering the room, it was a man from the sound of it. He waited for some hint or words that would tell him who the latest visitor was.

       Blair smiled at the man entering. Michael had proven to be a good friend and an excellent doctor. Michael reached the side of Todd's bed and looked at his patient. "Todd, How are you doing, any significant pain?"

       "Just a dull throb which wouldn't be so bad, but it's awfully dark in here. I don't suppose you could turn on a light or two. Surely the hospital can afford a light bulb." Todd turned his head to "look" at Michael.

      Michael had to smile at the man's bravado. Todd was a unique man and his strength of will was incredible. "You know I'll speak to the janitor about it. In the meantime, hold your hands out for me," he watched as Todd stretched out his hands. "Now make a fist and release," he noticed only a slight tremor in Todd's hands and the fingers responded without delay. His motor skills appeared to be working correctly. Michael nodded at Blair. "It looks like the problems you were experiencing yesterday are diminishing, but Blair informed me of the other day when you had chills and dizziness. I'm concerned about those symptoms so I asking you to refrain from using the implants for a couple of days, I have a theory and I want to see if it comes to fruition. Please bear with me."

       Todd didn't know what to make of Michael's request, "I'll do it if you can give me a reason Michael."

       "Very well Todd, your symptoms are indicative of certain withdrawal symptoms. I'm afraid your body was getting high from the implants. I want to make sure you are free of that."

       "You've got to be kidding me right? That would mean I was addicted to the implants. How is that even possible when they were only being worn externally."

       "The electrical energy produced by the implants in your brain was probably causing excessive amounts of endorphins to be released into your system and your body was on a high all the time. When you stopped using the ring and watch, and removed them from proximity to the parts still in your brain, your body crashed and you felt ill. I just want to make sure the effects are no longer going to be a problem."

        Todd wasn't sure he liked the idea he had become addicted to anything. He hoped Michael was wrong, but only time would tell.

       Blair and Todd were taking a walk around the room when Vicki arrived with Tea and Dani. Dani didn't say anything, she just stood there watching her real father maneuver around the room. She hadn't seen him since the night he collapsed and was brought to the hospital, the night following their one and only meeting. Everything had gone haywire after that encounter. The man she thought was her father had turned out to be another man entirely, and just when things were getting squared away with Jake, someone killed him.

       It had been a rough two weeks getting over his death and trying to help her mom cope with Jake's loss. Dani took a good look at her father. According to her Aunt Vicki, he had just had his third operation to remove implants similar to the ones Jake had removed. Unfortunately, Todd had been blinded by his implants but he was making the best of it, it looked like.

      Vicki spoke, "Well it looks like you're recovering pretty quickly." They all watched as Todd turned toward the sound of Vicki's voice.

       He grinned "What, this? Naw, I'm just practicing my fencing moves." to emphasize, he used his cane like a sword and whipped it around in the air. "Hi, Sis, what's new?" Vicki moved into the room followed by Tea and Dani. "Who did you bring with you?" Todd heard the sound of extra footsteps.

       "It's me, Todd, and Dani." Tea answered.

       Todd didn't know what to say, He hadn't had a chance to talk to Tea in the courthouse. He had known for quite a while that Tea had been deeply in love with Jake so he was sorry for her. Dani, too, had experienced yet another loss and needed to adjust to the fact that she still had a real father just waiting for her to give him a chance. "Tea, I'm sorry about Jake. He didn't deserve any of this."

      Tea walked forward and hugged Todd. She had watched him in the trial and had found out just how traumatic everything he and Jake had been through. She remembered how terrified for Samuel she had been when he had relived his story for the defense attorney and almost killed himself to tell it. Hesser and Kipling had tried to escape because they saw the writing on the wall after Todd's and Samuel's testimony. Because of Todd, they had been unsuccessful and now were facing murder charges too. "Thank you, Todd, it means a lot to me that you said that. I glad you survived what those men did to you. Blair's lucky to have you back and you need to get to know Dani."

      Todd was never really comfortable with hugs unless it was Blair's but Tea had needed the bit of comfort and he cared for her in his way. He hoped Tea's last words meant that maybe Dani was going to give him a chance after all. Then he felt a gentle touch on his arm.
   
      "Todd, I just wanted to say, I'm sorry for the way things got left the last time we met, and I would like a chance to get to know you after all the dust settles. Mom says you're leaving again for a short time, but I hope when you return we can get that chance."

      He grabbed her hand as she started to pull away and said."Daniella, more than anything I want to get to know you. I'll only stay away until we're sure no more hired help will be gunning for me. You and your mom are pretty safe since the killers believe they got Todd Manning. Even if word gets to them about my real identity, I don't think they'll bother you. Blair and I will keep the rest of the family safe until we get an all clear from the Feds and John. When the threat has been defused we'll be home." he would have given anything for a hug from her but she wasn't quite ready for that so he let go of her hand. "You two should hang in there, this will be over and maybe all our lives will be able to return to some type of normalcy."

      Tea chuckled, "For us maybe, but that word will never be in your future, Todd."

       He grinned but at the same time felt some sorrow because Delgado knew him well and normalcy and Todd Manning did not go hand in hand.

      Vicki came back into the conversation. "Tea and Dani could you give me a moment with Todd." Tea and Dani walked over to talk to Blair while Todd turned his attention to his sister.

      "What's up Vicki?"

      "Todd I got a call from Amos Caulfield. He said I should let Thomas Lord know that several of the men taken to jail the night of the raid have been freed. He also said his source in the precinct overheard those same men vowing to find the man that put them in jail in the first place. Todd, do you know that man? Is he an informant of yours?"

      "I guess you could say that Vicki, I don't want to go into it, but thank you for giving me the information. Damn it, of all the times to be totally blind." Todd cursed his fate. He knew exactly who had just gotten freed from jail. They were after him, but they might try and go through Kym to find him. He was helpless to give her aid right now. If they hurt her trying to find him... He didn't even want to think about it. CRACK!

       All eyes turned to Todd as they watched him drop the two pieces of his cane to the ground. Todd stared straight ahead, everyone in the room knew he was livid. They just didn't know the cause. Blair moved first. "Todd? she walked and put a hand on his arm. "What is it?" She looked at Vicki "What happened?"

       "I brought him some news from Amos Caulfield. I guess it's worse news than I thought. Todd, I know I upset you, but there is nothing you can do about it right now. I'm sorry."

        "Todd talk to me. What got you so upset?"

         "Blair, I'm afraid for Kym. I think she's in danger now more than ever." Todd turned and reached for the bed that was close by. "I shouldn't be here. We were supposed to be back there by now, she needs protection," he pounded his fist down on the mattress in frustration.

        "Todd, I'll call John maybe he can help. In the meantime Michael said you shouldn't get excited, you need to find a way to calm down."

        Dani had a sudden idea, a way she could help that might calm Todd down. "Todd I know you're upset about something, I'm kind of thirsty, maybe you could walk with me and tell me about Starr when she was little. I'll tell you a little about me too."

        Todd had whipped around at Dani's voice. Damn, he had forgotten she was there. Then her words sunk in. He actually brightened up, she wasn't scared of him and she wanted to talk. Blair was right, there was nothing he could do that minute for Kym, but he could spend some time with his daughter. "Are you serious Dani?"

       "Yeah, if you would like to, that is."

        "Let's go. Help me get my mind off my troubles." Todd held out his hand and Dani saw the approval of her mom, Aunt Vicki, and Blair. She gave him her elbow and they exited the room.

        Todd held onto Dani's arm and as soon as they cleared the room he said, "Dani, I know this is a little awkward for you. We don't really have to talk if you don't want to. I appreciate that you were just trying to change my mood and I'll admit you did a good job of that. I can tell you have a lot of your mother in you. She always was good at reading me."

         Dani looked at her father, it felt weird to be walking with him like they were old friends, when, in fact, they were strangers. She knew all about his sordid past and she knew what had happened to him the eight years he had been gone. Starr had given her the full story and she admitted to herself it would be fair to give him a chance. But how do you get started? He was right about her mom, he had known her for some time and at one time they had loved one another. If they hadn't, she wouldn't be standing here walking him down a hallway. "It's okay Todd, I figure if we never spend any time together, then we're never going to get to know one another. You were pretty angry in there. Do you want to talk about it?"

       "I'm sorry about my anger, I'd just heard something that has me very worried about a friend and I'm not in any position to help right now. It's not your problem. I need to think about something else. Tell me about the things you did when you were little. I want to try and picture you in my mind."

       Dani found herself blushing and she was grateful he couldn't see her face. "I was a normal kid I guess, Ross my dad..." she paused she hadn't thought about Ross again until they found out Jake wasn't her father.

       "It's okay Dani I know Ross raised you. So he was your dad during all that time. I never cared for the guy, but that was just me. I did know he would look out for your mom when I left the island to come home to Blair. Your mom didn't tell me about you. I can't say it would have made a difference or not at that time, all I could think about was getting home to Starr and Jack. Now all I can do is apologize for not being there when you were born. My kids mean the world to me and you're my daughter. That means you have a place in my heart right alongside Starr and Jack. Hey, I've got to get to know Jack, just as much as you, and it's been a struggle for us too. I know you came to love Jake when you thought he was me, so I know you're feeling his loss and Ross'. For now, just think of me as someone who would like to get to know you from the beginning, and there's no pressure for this to be any more than that. How about just telling me how you grew up?"

        They had reached the vending area, and Todd reached into his pocket for some cash, handing it to Dani to get something. After getting something for both of them, Dani led him into the sunroom and they sat down to continue the conversation. "When I first found out my dad was a rapist, I wanted to puke. Then I met Starr and she had an entirely different view of you. She only knew a father who loved her and did things with her, as she was growing up. That was Ross for me. I had no idea he wasn't my dad. He was there when I hurt myself tumbling off a surfboard for the first time. He would tell me these outrageous stories of when he was a bodyguard and when his father took him out and taught him survival training. Then when I got older he taught me how to conquer my fear of heights by teaching me to cliff dive. He was amazing to me. "

         "Yeah, he was a regular Robinson Crusoe when we were on that island together. That's why I knew your mom would be okay. I'm glad he was good to you. If you don't mind me asking, what happened between your mom and Ross? "

        "I don't think I'm the one who can answer that. I just know Mom and Ross split, and Mom put me in a boarding school to keep me away from him. Then I found out about you. Although at that time, Jake was you. I hated you, Mom wanted to get back together with you, and all I saw, was the man who raped someone, trying to get back with my mom. I couldn't believe she wanted you over Ross." Dani had been watching his face and she knew it bothered him when she talked about hating him. She didn't really want to hurt him. "Then Mom got real sick and we were told she was dying of cancer. After her death, I had no one, but Jake to lean on, although Blair and Starr helped me a lot. I found myself leaning on Jake and being glad I still had him. Then we found out Mom was alive. Jake and my mom loved each other very much. I loved Jake too, he was good to me and loved me. I don't hate you any longer for your past, but I don't know you. So I guess we'll have to just take this one day at a time and see where it goes."

       Todd had been taking it all in. He had heard the love for Ross in her voice immediately and a part of him was jealous. He knew he didn't have a right to feel that way, and he wondered if he had stayed on the island how things might have been different. The problem with that thought, there were no do-overs. He had made his decision to come home to his family and Tea had understood. Of course, like always he messed it up, but none of that was Tea's fault. He still hadn't caught up on the whole Tea had died story, but eventually, he'd get it from Blair. He had found it intriguing that Blair and Tea were friends when they used to be such enemies. He still had issues with Jake, but they would never be played out. The man was dead and as much as Todd hated it, Jake had held a place in the hearts of all of Todd's family, and he would just have to get past it. "Dani, I'm glad you don't hate me for my past any longer. I wish I could forgive myself so easily. I've made a whole lot of mistakes and I'm really trying hard to not make them again."

        "I think you're very brave to take on someone like Mr. Hesser and his partners. Jake said they were terrible men and I know he was having a tough time coping with the things he did under the influence of those guys. If he had survived he would have testified against them too. Mom said they got the guy that killed Jake. If he's been captured, why can't you come home right now?"

       "Dani it's not necessarily safe yet. The men who work with Carlo are dangerous and they wouldn't just send one man. I have to go on the theory that there might still be another person or persons out there gunning for Samuel Toddman. It is important that I don't make you, your mother, or my sister and nieces potential targets, so I have to leave again. But I'm sure there will come a time when they'll stop hunting and that's when we'll come home. You need to think sooner than later. I think Mr. Hesser might have burnt his bridges with his partners when he murdered his lawyer in front of so many witnesses. I'm hoping the partners will sever ties with Hesser and cut their losses before they get caught too." Todd finished his drink and turned toward his daughter. "Dani, I have to go back where I've been this last month. I left something unfinished there, that has to be tied up. It concerns that friend I told you about earlier. She helped me and I owe her."

       "I understand, I'm glad you're helping someone, Starr told me about that side of you. I think I like it. Todd, I'm sorry about your sight. I was kind of hoping for a picture like the one you made of Jack. And I think it would be interesting to meet Tom. Mom said he's very sweet. Well, there's still plenty of time."

       "I agree, Dani, the guys would like to get to know you too. There will come a good time for that, I'm sure. I believe we've been out in the open long enough. You need to take me back to my room." Todd realized he had been careless, what if Hesser still had people in the hospital, he might have just added Dani as a potential target to get to him.

       "Relax Todd, you and Dani have been under guard since you left the room. No one but my people saw you enter here and no one will see you leave either," said John coming up beside Todd. " Dani, to be on the safe side, my officer will see you back to your mom. I've got you, Todd, we've been called to the courthouse. The judge decided to call a special session. Hesser's new lawyers are trying to call for a mistrial and the judge isn't having it. Here comes Blair, we need to go."

        Before Todd could say anything, he heard Dani's goodbye and felt John's elbow in front of him. "I guess we're off then. Blair?" he asked.

       "I'm right here Todd, " and she took his free hand.


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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Thomas Lord: Cloaked Chapter 16

The jurors were led from the room and Michael insisted that he be allowed to examine Todd thoroughly. He was trying desperately to just get out. He wanted to see Blair, but both John and the marshal were adamant he should remain until he had been checked out. Todd had gotten his ring out and was in the process of putting the ring on when a shot rang out in the hallway. The next sound he heard chilled him to the bone. Blair screamed. Todd jammed the ring on his finger and wasted no time getting out to the hall. In a stand-off sat Hesser, Blair on his lap with a gun to her temple, and Kipling at his back. On the floor to the side, laid the defense attorney, very obviously dead. Kipling began carefully walking towards the service platform exit. He motioned the guard away from the door. From around the corner, another man joined Kipling and leveled his gun at the guard Kipling had been keeping at bay. With the exit cleared Kipling moved to Carlo's back.

"We need to go." stated Kipling," The ride is just outside."

The hallway had cleared with just Kipling, Hesser and Blair at one end and John and the marshal at the other. Blair sat quietly, she knew how deadly Carlo could be and she didn't want to end up the same way as the man on the floor. It had all happened so fast. Word had come down to the room that the court was in recess. She had been exiting the room when she had suddenly been dragged onto Hesser's lap. When his lawyer had started to protest, Hesser had shot him in cold blood. Blair had screamed in horror, only to quickly shut up when the hot metal of his gun touched her forehead. For one brief moment she thought she had seen Todd, then the hallway had emptied except for John and the marshal.

"Hesser you don't seriously expect to get out of here." said John

"McBain, what you and Nora and the rest never understood, was that this trial was never going to be completed. I have to admit, the best ending would have been if both Mannings had died, but I have my prize right here." He looked at Blair.

"My dear, you don't realize what a delight it was to see you exit that room. I thought I was going to have to come looking for you in Europe. Now McBain, if you and the marshal would lower your weapons. You don't want to harm Mrs. Toddman, and I assure you, I will if you come any closer." Kipling began rolling Carlo and Blair back towards the exit platform.

John had lowered his gun, but when Kipling had started moving Carlo, he had tried to go for it again. Suddenly he felt a gun in his side. "You don't want to do that, Lieutenant." John realized the guard who had been waved off by Kipling was, in fact, helping them. The marshal also had encountered a similar problem, because the bailiff had his gun on the marshal. Hesser wasn't kidding when he said the trial was never going to be completed. John and the marshal were directed into a room. The last thing John saw before the door closed, was Blair's terrified face. The bailiff had locked them in and they had no phone to call out. Closed sessions meant no phones of any type, but obviously, that didn't apply to the bad guys. As he was trying to think of how to get out, John realized he hadn't seen Manning since they run out into the hallway.

Todd had taken in the scene and knew he had to find another avenue to get to Carlo. It was obvious that the recess had been a planned event to get Kipling and Hesser out of the courtroom. Todd knew the courthouse like the back of his hand and he knew Hesser and Kipling were headed for the service platform. He had been taken out that way more times than he could remember. Todd slipped back into the courtroom and made his way to the Judge's chambers. The judge was gone and Todd wondered how many people had been removed from the courthouse after the shot was fired. There was something seriously wrong, there should have been police all over the place, but there appeared to be none in the vicinity. Just where were the judge and Nora?

Todd exited the building and walked around to the service entrance. No one had called the police after the shot. That meant Hesser had inside help. If all was going as planned, no one was going to find out about the escape until after Hesser and Kipling were long gone. Todd noticed that the driver of the van wasn't too worried about things, and it was easy to move up alongside the van without the driver seeing him. Todd tossed a rock he had picked up and waited for the driver to exit to check on the sound. It took only a moment to incapacitate the driver, hide him and take his place. Now Todd had to wait on Carlo and Kipling. It didn't take long for them to reach the van. Kipling rolled Carlo and Blair onto the van and sat down on the bench exhausted.

 Blair's eyes connected with two hazel eyes in the mirror and her heart beat a little faster. Securely in the van, Carlo lowered the gun from Blair's temple and set it on her lap holding around her waist with his other hand. The Bailiff closed the back door of the van and went to secure the rest of the building with the guard and the third man before clearing out. Carlo ordered the driver to drive off normally, as not to raise suspicion. Todd had two choices; he could make his play now while they were complacent, or he could take them someplace and handle the situation without the extra help around. Todd made the decision to wait. They both had guns, but they both were also injured.  Blair was more than capable of helping him if he gave her the signal. She had seen him, they could do this together.

Todd decided to drive out toward the airport. It was secluded to accommodate the residents of Llanview. He kept an eye on the back and began to get angry.  Carlo seemed to be trying to get comfortable and he kept manhandling Blair.

"My dear Blair, I know you're anxious to get things started between us, but you really should stop squirming. You're getting me quite excited, and I think if we did it in front of Ivan, he'd have a heart attack."  Carlo gripped her waist harder and Blair stilled her movements

"Carlo if you were the last man on earth, you still wouldn't have me!"  Blair again tried to move out of his grip.  She would never have guessed how much arm strength Carlo had, till now, it was like being caught in a vise, and the bad part about it was that she was off balance. It was an effort to lean away from his body. Gravity made her body want to lean back into his chest, and she knew Todd was watching from the front. She squirmed some more and realized Carlo was indeed getting excited, that panicked her all the more.

Before she could say anything else, Carlo had laid the gun down beside him in the chair and had started fondling her. That was more than she could take, she tried to turn in his arms, intent on doing some damage when the van came to a screeching halt. The gun slipped from its perch and slid on the floor up toward the driver. Blair, too, had slipped forward, then was pulled roughly back into Carlo's arms. With the gun out of the equation, Blair began to fight Carlo.

"Let me go you pervert. I'm not now, nor will I ever be yours," she was pushing and hitting at him to no avail. She couldn't break the grip around her waist.

Carlo was using all his strength to keep Blair from escaping, and he was trying to find out about the abrupt stop. Looking around, he saw that Ivan had been knocked to the floor of the van. He used his free arm to grab one of Blair's and wrenched it behind her, causing her to cry out in pain. The driver had disappeared, and so had Carlo's gun. "My dear it looks like you have a rescuer somewhere around," Carlo growled in Blair's ear. " Kipling get off the floor." Carlo looked out the front window and saw only trees beside the road ahead. They were outside the city.

Kipling was moaning because the tumble had landed him on his bad hand, and he was struggling to regain his feet. He had to use his artificial hand, but he managed to once again right himself. He reached for the gun with his artificial hand and looked around, realizing they had been stopped out in the middle of nowhere. "What the hell happened, Carlo, where's the driver?"

"My question exactly, Blair, if you don't stop fighting me, I'm afraid I'll have to break this lovely arm. Ivan, you'll have to check things out. Give me the gun and I'll keep an eye on my passenger."

"Not a chance Carlo. I'll hang onto the gun. You're safe in here, and you already have leverage. Just don't let her get away." Ivan went to the back door of the van. He opened it to a view of a deserted road behind them, with more trees on either side. He carefully exited the van, and with his gun primed to shoot, began to go around the van. He saw no one and started to open the door to the front seat. Then he felt the tip of a gun at the back of his head. He looked into the rearview mirror in front of him, and his eyes widened. The man holding a gun to his head was Todd Manning, and he was looking back at him with the coldest pair of eyes Ivan had seen in a long time.

Pete put his finger to his lips and directed Kipling quietly away from the van door. To emphasize he meant business, Pete cocked the gun and said in a whisper "One word and you're dead." When they were far enough from the van, Pete coldcocked Kipling and grabbed his gun, leaving Kipling knocked out cold on the ground. He moved back to the van and shut the front door.

"Ivan what are you doing? Get in the car and let's get going." Carlo was beginning to tire, he had been wrestling with Blair the entire time after Kipling left the van. "Blair, enough, you leave me no choice, If you won't cease your struggling, I'll have to stop you my way."

"You touch one more hair on her head and you're a dead man Hesser." Pete leaped into the van.

Carlo turned his chair, still controlling Blair this time with his hand around her throat. "Mr. Manning, you surprise me I thought you were blind."

"You thought wrong and I'm not Mr. Manning, that was my bastard of a father. We've met before you and me, let me give you a hint. 'Now don't worry Mr.Hesser, I'll take good care of you, we're just on our way to your treatment session', the name is Pete. " Pete's eyes were hard and he watched the memory return to Carlo and saw his eyes widen in alarm. "If you want to live to see another day, you'll take your hand off my wife's throat."

Carlo controlled the terror he felt the minute he heard that voice from his nightmare, his fingers tightened around Blair's neck and he smiled cruelly at Pete. "I think not Pete, so I'm in the presence of another alter how fascinating. So you are the reason all this happened to me. Well, it looks like I can get a little more payback if I just take her away from you permanently. I don't think you can kill me before I can snap her neck."

Pete looked at Blair and saw that she trusted him. "Blair we need you, Todd will never be able to stand his ground without you. I'll have to let him go, do you understand?" Pete prayed she had gotten the message.

"How touching my dear - big, tough Pete is really a softy at heart."

Blair had only one thing to say to that. She brought her remaining hand sharply down on Hesser's knee and kicked her foot down into his broken leg at the same time. Hesser screamed and his hand involuntarily reached for his leg, freeing her. Pete pulled her off and took her place, his hands around Hesser's throat. It all happened so quickly, it was a minute before Blair realized the gurgling sound coming from behind her was Hesser. She turned around and saw Pete literally crushing his neck. She grabbed his arms trying to pull him off, Hesser. "Pete stop, you're killing him!"

"He deserves it, he had the nerve to touch you and then threaten you. He's a dead man." Pete continued watching the life drain from Hesser's eyes as his hands tightened around his neck.

Blair stopped pulling and said "Todd, you have to stop him, this is what you're fighting. Don't let him make you a cold blooded killer. Please, Todd, I love you." She watched hoping to see some sign that Todd had heard her.

"God No!" He flung Hesser free of him, stumbling out of the van.

Blair watched it unfold as if in slow motion; Hesser falling back in his chair, limp as a rag; Todd stumbling out the van and falling to his knees at the side of the road.  She shook her head to clear it, and went straight to Hesser to see if Todd had allowed him to live. She found a faint pulse. His windpipe was crushed but he was alive. She jumped from the van and ran to her husband. "Todd , he's alive. You did it, you stopped Pete. It's okay. He's alive." she wrapped her arms around him and held him.

Blair's words finally penetrated, he hadn't killed Hesser. She didn't realize how close he had come. It had taken Blair and the combined efforts of Samuel and Tom to make him stop seeing red. Now he understood what Blair had felt like when she shot Max. He looked down at his hands and knew exactly what he was capable of. "Blair, it wasn't Pete." he looked into her eyes, she needed to know the truth. "It was me. I snapped when I thought he would kill you."

Blair looked into his eyes, she knew what he was telling her, and she knew deep inside what can push someone over the edge.  "It's okay, I understand. Todd, you need to understand. You were finally pushed over your limit, but you didn't complete the act. You stopped for me. Don't you see, your love for me was stronger, then your hatred for Hesser?  I love you and you love me and we keep each other strong," she kissed him, sealing their love.

They stood up together and went to check on Kipling. They found him beginning to stir and between them, they took him to the van and laid him on the floor. Blair found some restraints in a box behind the driver's seat and tied him up. They also laid Hesser down on the floor boards too and immobilized him, Blair sat down to make sure he kept breathing until they could get him to the hospital. Because it was a prison van, it was enabled with sirens.  Todd turned them on; he wasn't going to lose his freedom because of the likes of Carlo Hesser. He picked up the radio and called dispatch letting them know he was bringing in Hesser and Kipling and they could meet them at the hospital. Todd looked back at Blair and she gave him a thumbs up. "Alright, this is going to be quick. Hang on Blair." Todd gunned it, and the van headed back to civilization.

Halfway back to the hospital, the radio went off and it was Bo asking for an explanation. "Look Bo, Hesser and Kipling killed their attorney and took Blair hostage. I managed to take out the driver of their vehicle and when I had the chance I was able to knock out Kipling and took his gun. No, I didn't kill either one of them. They do need medical help, though." Todd left it at that. If they tried to charge him with attempted murder he'd claim temporary insanity, and he'd probably win after everything they did to him.
Todd turned the corner and found police and an ambulance waiting up ahead. Todd pulled to a stop, he exited the vehicle and walked to the back of the van and opened the door. Then he looked at Blair and prepared for the arrest.

Bo walked around the van and looked inside. "What happened to them?"

"Kipling is just dazed, I had to give him a pretty good rap to get him out of the way, so I could rescue Blair from Hesser. Hesser is a different story. I'm afraid I went a little crazy on him Bo. I'll go quietly, just so long as Blair can come with me. "

Blair had gotten out the van and Bo turned to her. "Tell me your story?

Blair recounted the entire story to Bo in vivid detail, stopping along the way to gather herself since the memory of it all was worse than she first remembered.  Having to relive it brought on emotions that she didn't have time to recognize when it happened.  She had almost been killed.  Bo found the compassion to place an arm around her shoulder while she reported to him the events, holding Todd's hand throughout.  When she finished, she caught eyes with Todd, both of them feeling that another separation was going to be unbearable.

Bo turned to Todd and gave a look he long remembered.  "Well, Manning, it sounds like self-defense to me."

Todd wasn't sure he had heard right.  He said, "Yeah right Bo, When are you going to drop the other shoe?"

Bo smiled. "No seriously, Todd, you're free to go, but you'll have to make an official statement."

 Blair threw her arms around Bo. "Oh Thank You, Thank you."   then she turned around hugging Todd as he stared incredulously at Bo.  Todd looked at Blair,  holding her smiling face in his hands.  " I thought I was going to lose you again."  She laughed and kissed him.

  Bo gave them a moment and checked on the condition of Hesser and Kipling.  The EMTs performed an emergency trach on Hesser and his breathing improved and he was transferred to a stretcher.  Kipling had come around but he was strapped to a stretcher and with a police officer, the two were put into the ambulance and taken away.   Bo turned back to Todd.  " I understand you've been through the ringer today Todd.   Michael McBain was very worried about you.  I need to get you out of the open. That assassin is still at large.  Come with me and we'll head back to the courthouse."   On the way back, Bo received a call from Nora telling him to steer clear of the courthouse.  It was a media circus there since the news of the shooting had leaked out.  John had everything under control and was returning to the police station with his brother Michael.  Bo changed directions and headed for the stations back entrance.  He, Blair, and Todd made it to his office without running into anyone.  Todd noticed the bruises starting to emerge on Blair's neck and he asked Bo if he had any cold packs around.  Bo frowned when he saw the marks and reached into his desk, tossing a pack to Todd.  "Michael's on his way in Blair, he can take a look at you when he arrives."

 The cold was a shock, but Blair had to admit her neck felt better as Todd held the pack in place.  With all the adrenaline flowing through her at the time she hadn't realized how tightly Carlo had been gripping her.  She looked into Todd's eyes and saw Pete looking at her.  He was angry and just beneath the surface. She raised her hand to his face. "I'm alright." Pete blinked and Todd returned. "Hesser's lucky you were there Blair."

"Easy Todd, don't forget where you are." Bo cautioned.   Then he asked, "Do you want to tell me how a blind man was able to drive a van and capture two felons?"  Nora had said that Samuel and Todd both had been blind in the courtroom, but no one had been able to figure out how Todd had disappeared without a trace from the building.  Bo had been even more shocked when the call came in to dispatch, and it was Todd Manning bringing in Hesser and Kipling.  Bo thought that Todd must have been putting on some kind of act to appear blind, especially when Todd stepped out of the van.  He waited for his answer.

Todd didn't answer, he figured a picture was worth more than words right then.  He removed his ring and turned toward the place where Bo had last been standing.  "The answer is in here," he held out his hand toward Bo.

Bo looked and realized Todd wasn't looking at him any longer, in fact, his eyes weren't focused on anything.  He moved to see if Todd's eyes would move with him and although Todd's head moved in the same general direction as Bo, he wasn't really seeing him.  Todd was blind, where a moment before he could see.  "What the hell?"

Todd's head turned once more in the direction of Bo's voice. "Like I said, the answer is here," he again held out his hand and showed the ring to Bo.

Bo took the ring and felt it move in his hand. "My God, what is this?'

"That is one-half of the implant that was removed from my brain, the other half resides in my watch.  The two of them allow me to see.  I have no real explanation,  except that I have a connection to them and somehow they clear my sight." Todd felt for the chair next to Blair and sat down.  He was starting to feel queasy, it was probably nothing but the day had been rather rough.

Bo took his time examining the ring, it was beautiful workmanship, and if he had to venture a guess, it was designed by Blair.  He had seen the implants that had been removed from Hesser's hands the morning he was arrested, but it hadn't moved.  "Why did this move?"

"If the two parts are separated, there appears to be a strong magnetic pull between them that brings them back together.  They actually continue to function as long as they are within twenty-five feet of each other. Bo, could I have it back, please?" Todd raised a rather unsteady hand, his head was starting to pound.

"Todd, what's the matter?" Blair looked over at him.

"Nothing, I'm just getting a migraine I guess.  Bo, the ring please?" Todd's hand was beginning to shake.

Before Bo could drop it back into his hand, Michael and John walked in.

Todd looked around at the sound of other people entering, but the movement of his head sent sharp pains stabbing at the back. "God! " Todd reached for his head.

Michael grabbed the ring and put it in Todd's hand.  Then he dropped down to check him out.  "Todd how bad is it?"  Michael had seen the shaking and had a feeling the piece of the implant must be on the move.  It was now beginning to affect Todd's motor skills.

"It's easing up Michael." Todd's hand was clenched tightly around the implant and Todd was finding it hard to unclench it, the hand didn't want to respond.

"Todd, open your hand."

Todd stared at Michael unfocused, "I can't."

"Michael, what's going on?" Blair was concerned she could see Todd trying to get his hand to open up, but the fingers weren't cooperating.

"Todd, I know you don't want to hear this, but something got left behind when I removed the implants, and that piece is now migrating to a different part of your brain.  It's beginning to affect your muscles.  It's sending incorrect signals and that's why your fingers won't open." even as Michael gave his explanation, Todd's hand finally relaxed and opened.  "These attacks are going to get more numerous and more dangerous.  I have to go back in, Todd."

Todd shakily put the ring back on his finger.  As his vision cleared he looked at the group of people surrounding him.  "Michael, if you remove the piece, will I lose my sight forever"

"I don't know Todd.  I don't really understand the connection between your implants and your sight, but if I don't take out the piece that got left behind, it won't matter, you'll be dead."

Todd looked over at Blair, The last thing he had wanted was another operation. Was this year ever going to turn around? He reached across and took her hands grateful that everything was working normally again.

Michael put his hand on Todd's shoulder and stood back up. "Todd, don't worry about it right this moment, let's give your mind and body a chance to rest. Whatever you do, don't lose that ring." Michael looked at Bo, "How much longer do you need him. I really need to get him someplace for a full examination."

Bo nodded and turned to Todd. "We need those official statements from both of you and then you should go with Michael. Michael, Hesser tried to strangle Blair, so she should be checked out too. I'll have someone go with you to protect you."

"Bo, I'll stick with them, this whole thing has put the trial on hold. I'm not sure when or if it will be resumed. Sorry, Todd, you might have to testify all over again and this time so might you Blair." John looked at both of them. He frowned at the marks appearing around Blair's neck and after listening to Michael, he wondered if Todd could take another trial. He had been in the courtroom and seen the hell Todd had been going through. If the judge hadn't put a stop to the defense attorney's questions, Samuel would have collapsed.

"Okay, John get their statements and then you're in charge of keeping them safe." Bo watched as the four of them slipped into John's office. He returned to his desk and called Nora to apprise her about everything that had happened after the escape.

John efficiently took their statements, raising his eyebrows in surprise when he heard of the throttling Todd had given Hesser after Hesser had almost strangled Blair. Bo had neglected to mention the severity of Hesser's wounds, but John had a feeling he had left that out on purpose. John wrote on the statement that Todd had incapacitated Hesser and then had made every effort to get Hesser and Kipling back to town for medical aid. He had Michael, Blair and Todd remain in his office, and went and located the marshal and Brody to help provide protection. They then delivered them to Llanview Hospital where Larry Wolek was standing by to take Todd for yet another CAT scan.

While the doctors took control of Todd and Blair, John put in a call to the station and had a plate run on a vehicle that had been following them from the police station. He stood at the emergency room exit and watched the vehicle pull in and park. Could the assassin be that sure of himself that he didn't think he had been spotted? John's phone rang and he was informed that the car was an out of state rental. John caught the marshal's eye and they stood out of sight, as the man entered the hospital. He was on the phone and they watched as he headed toward the labs. Someone in the hospital was still on Hesser's payroll. Using his phone John took a picture of the man and emailed it back to the station for ID, then he and the marshal moved to intercept him.

At the last minute, the man realized his mistake and pulled his gun, grabbing a nearby orderly. With a gun to the man's head, the assassin motioned John and the marshal to move away from his escape route out.

"You made a mistake my friend, your boss is now going down for murder and you've just been outed. You should have stuck with the long distant kills." John talked calmly. The police were on their way, and if John had to, he could let the man walk out, right into their waiting arms. But he was curious why the change of MO.

The assassin grimaced. His bosses had wanted a picture of Toddman's death as proof the right man was killed. "I don't know what you're talking about mister. I'm just here visiting."

"Do you always come visiting with a Glock?"

"What can I say, I'm a cautious guy. Look, you guys back off, and this man can continue to do his job. I'll leave and you can go about your business."

John looked at the man, "You became our business when you pulled the gun, besides I have a boss eager to talk to you. I don't want to disappoint him. So let's say you drop the gun, and this will end peacefully."

"I'm a dead man if you take me in, they'll never let me talk."

"I'm sure the marshal's service might be able to help you out but not if you force our hand." John had his back to the door where Todd had been taking the scan and failed to see Todd exit the room.

The assassin saw his man and realized he had one shot. "Sure whatever you say." He pushed the orderly away and shot at his target.

Someone screamed as John felt the bullet pass him. He whipped around to see Todd go down. A second shot had rung out immediately following the first and the assassin also slumped to the ground. John ran to Todd.

Todd was slowly sitting up grabbing his shoulder. Blair had screamed
and was down beside him, as well as Michael "I'm okay. God, Blair, when I heard you scream I thought the bullet had gotten you." he looked at her to make sure she was okay, then he let Michael help him up.

Michael checked Todd's shoulder and turned to Blair, "Blair he's right, it's just a scratch."

"Thank God." Blair rounded on John "Why the hell did you let him get a shot off at Todd, you're supposed to be protecting him?"

John had no good answer for Blair he had gotten careless. "Glad he missed Todd, Blair I'm sorry."

"I don't want your apologies I want you to do your job." Blair turned to Todd "Is it over?  Will we finally get some peace?"

Todd looked at the man on the floor, then at John, who shrugged. "I don't know Blair, when have we ever had any peace?" he looked over at Michael. "According to John, the trial's on hold. How soon can we set up that surgery? Blair's right, we need this over, all of it. Let's finish it."


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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Thomas Lord: Cloaked Chapter 15

The flight arrived in Pine Valley without any fuss and John picked them up. He was using an unmarked car and had an additional passenger, who turned out to be from the federal marshal's office. He had been assigned to protect Todd while he was in the courthouse. John and the marshal escorted them to Nora's office where she was waiting.

"Blair" she nodded and turned to Todd, "Todd, I'm glad you're still in one piece. I'm not happy that you felt the need to disappear right when we captured Hesser and Kipling, but given the current circumstances, it's a good thing you weren't here. Jake Boudreau's death was a tragedy and is going to make my work a little harder, but with the testimonies of the doctors and Tea, we can tell Jake's part in this. Now I need both, your testimony, Todd, and Samuel's. Ray Martino will be testifying along with Dr. Levin to the validity of your alters. But both you and Samuel experienced the treatment under Dr.Kipling and Carlo. I feel it will help our case if both of you testify, will you agree."

Todd nodded, he had hoped to keep his alters out of it. But Samuel had lived the last eight years following the treatments hampered by what Kipling had done. Samuel's story needed to be heard also.

"Excellent, I'll start with Samuel, then I'll hear your story. The trial is ready to start. They'll bring you in after we hear from Tea and the doctors. This is a closed session and no unessential people will be allowed in the courtroom. Blair, you can stay in the room with the doctors and Tea. Samuel are you ready?"

Samuel had taken control and nodded "Whenever you are, Nora."

Nora did a double take, it always amazed her when Samuel came to the front. He was so like Sam Rappaport it was a little scary. The trial got underway and Nora introduced the confessions both men had signed the night they were arrested. Then she had the doctors speak to the question whether both men were aware of what they were signing. The defense was unable to debunk the doctors or the gambit of tests that had been run that night to determine if Hesser or Kipling were under the influence of some drug when they gave their confessions. Those tests showed both men to be very aware of what they were doing at the time. Tea testified to the attempts made against her husband and the drugs he had been given by Dr. Kipling to keep him under their influence. Michael McBain and Dr. Wolek testified to the presence and removal of the implants from Todd Manning, Samuel Toddman, and Christian Vega.

Carlo and Kipling sat in shock when Christian Vega made an appearance and testified to the actions he had performed while under the influence of the implants. They had been under the assumption that Vega had been taken care of, but obviously, they had been misinformed.

The defense attorney had only been informed five minutes before trial that Samuel Toddman had been found and when he had told his clients they had both exploded. It had taken all his persuasion to calm them down. He, himself, was worried especially after the Vega testimony and Manning's widow.  Given the fact she was also an attorney, she had been very successful at countering his questions.

He prepared himself as the prosecutor called Samuel Toddman to the stand. He heard a gasp and looked around to see Toddman walking in with his cane and being guided in by John McBain. Great, he was going to have to browbeat a blind man. He quickly looked through his paperwork and realized he hadn't read that one crucial point. Toddman had been blinded recently. He was screwed. The jurors were already leaning in the prosecution's favor and now he was facing yet another subject of the experiments.

Samuel was sworn in and Nora began her questioning.

"Mr. Toddman, you are here today to give testimony against whom."

"Two gentlemen, one man's name is Carlo Hesser and the other gentleman's name is Dr. Ivan Kipling.

"Can you tell me how you know these gentlemen."

"Eight years ago I was held captive by these men and experimented on. I had been severely injured previous to the experiments, but they did nothing more than stabilize my condition and then they began their experimentation."

"Are you telling me they took an injured man and ran experiments on him regardless of his injuries."

"That is precisely what I'm telling you."

"What did they want from you?"

"They wanted my memories, my entire life."

"Why would they want that?"

"The experiment was two-fold, they stole my memories and my life and gave them to another subject."

"That's pretty far-fetched, how do you know they even had another subject."

"I know because up until a week ago he resided here and was living my life."

"Can you tell me the name of this man?"

"His name was Todd Manning."

At Samuel's statement gasps went through the jurors. Nora turned and looked at Carlo and Kipling. Both men were staring at Samuel and if he had been able to see their faces he would have seen what she saw. They were furious and if looks could kill Samuel would now be dead.

"I object," the defense attorney jumped to his feet. "Todd Manning is dead. How can Mr. Toddman claim to be Todd Manning."

Nora quickly turned to the judge. "If the defense will let me continue all answers will be provided."

" Objection overruled. the prosecution may continue," ruled the judge.

"The defense brought up a reasonable point. You're claiming that you are Todd Manning, but Todd Manning died just a few days ago. Can you explain?"

Samuel sat for a moment and closed his eyes."Todd, should I continue the story or do you want to make your presence known..."

"Samuel stay in charge and tell your side of the story. If the defense begins to try and cast doubt I'll reveal myself," Todd said and went back to listening to the trial.

"If I may, can I just tell my story and then I'll answer any other questions," Samuel asked.

"By all means Samuel, let us hear your story."

Samuel told his story, of waking and seeing the knife from Mitch Lawrence descending to carve his cheek. Then he recalled waking up on a stretcher and being wheeled down a hallway covered in bandages.  He was taken into a room and hooked up to a machine, where he saw Dr. Kipling and his black hand pull a lever. Samuel paused, as the back of his head began to throb.  He began describing what the machine was doing and the agony he experienced. Suddenly the pain exploded through his head and he cried out clutching his head dropping to his knees in pain.

The judge called a halt and Nora looked and saw Michael McBain making his way to the front of the courtroom. Nora glanced over at Carlo and Kipling and saw the look that passed between them and their smiles. They knew what had just happened she'd bet her life on it.

Michael got to Samuel, knowing exactly what was going on. He had chatted with Blair earlier and he was now convinced Todd still had part of the implant inside him. "Samuel what can I do?" He flashed a light in Samuel"s eyes and saw his pupils react sluggishly.

Samuel grabbed at his chest and Michael at first thought it was Todd's heart but then he watched Samuel pull out a pouch. Samuel's hand was shaking from the pain. "Michael, get the ring." he croaked.

Michael shook the ring out into his hand and put it on Samuel's hand and watched as Samuel reached to the back of his head. To Michael's amazement, a blue spark suddenly flashed between the ring and Todd's head. Michael watched as the shaking stopped and Samuel steadied.

Samuel removed the ring and dropped it back into the pouch and turned his sightless eyes toward Michael. "It's gone for now. I've got to get through this testimony, stay close."

Michael helped Samuel back into the chair and asked for some water. He had Samuel drink it and checked his heart and pupils again.

"Doctor is he going to be alright?" asked the judge "We can postpone if you believe it to be necessary."

"Michael, I've got to do this now. It's important," begged Samuel.

"I believe he's capable of continuing, but I ask permission to stay close."

"Very well, then this trial will proceed. Ms. Prosecutor, he's your witness, please continue."

"Samuel, can you tell the court what just occurred?" asked Nora.

Samuel grimaced a little as he got his thoughts together. "Dr. Kipling and Carlo Hesser installed a little insurance policy into my brain. It was an implant designed to keep me from remembering. Every time I attempted to remember my past I would be knocked senseless by pain. The implant was wired in my brain to not only affect my memories, but also my heart. The doctors in Philadelphia discovered that as long as I didn't try and remember, I could live a relatively healthy life.  So I moved to Paris and lived there for eight years. Unknown by Hesser and Kipling, my memories began to leak through the mechanism's defenses and when my wife came looking for me the floodgates opened."

"Samuel, you say Blair came looking for you. What did you mean?'

"Blair came looking for the artist of a painting she had received from her deceased husband, but she was unprepared for what she found," Samuel told how when they first met, he only knew Blair as a subject he had been painting from memory for eight years, but Blair recognized him as her husband Todd Manning. It was only later that he regained the memory of being Todd Manning.  It was after that, that he began making arrangements to return to the States, but there was a problem, as there was already a Todd Manning living in Llanview.  It became necessary to return to the States as Samuel Toddman.

" So you're telling us you really are Todd Manning?" asked Nora

"Yes, and No, I'm legally and in reality, Samuel Toddman, and I am an alter of Todd Manning, my host." You could have heard a pin drop in the courtroom at Samuel's statement.

Carlo and Kipling straightened in their chairs, utterly flabbergasted by Samuel's statement.

"You see, Hesser and Kipling's plan probably would have worked if they had known Todd had alters.  They could have trapped the alters the same way they did his memories, but Todd had us all too well hidden and protected."

"Let me get this straight, you claim you're an alter. How do I know you're telling us the truth? I'm sure the defense would like to know too."

"Nora, judge and all of you folks in the jury, I swear that I am indeed a separate personality from Todd Manning. When I awoke in that Philadelphia hospital, Hesser and Kipling assumed I was a made up identity Todd was using because he couldn't remember his own. They have since done everything based on that. They kept an eye on me waiting to see when I would remember I was Todd, but what they didn't know, was that I didn't know about Todd or any of the alters, until after I met Blair. I was just me. I'm an artist. Todd is the newspaper man. I exist to protect Todd and I was born the night Mitch Lawrence attempted to kill Todd."

"I know you think I might be attacking you, but Todd Manning used his alters as a defense many years ago and it was later discovered that he was faking. You now expect me to believe you're real and all of his other alters are too."

"I know I'm merely a part of Todd, I was told about the incident that happened years ago and Todd let the lie about his alters stand because he didn't want them to come out in the first place. Todd's family and doctors will swear under oath that we are real. I know I'm real and you can believe me or not. Whether I'm an alter or not has nothing to do with this case. I personally was treated and experimented on by Dr. Kipling and I saw Carlo Hesser there on several occasions ordering the treatments."

"So Mr. Toddman, you say you saw both of these men in Dr. Kipling's lab."

"Todd and I both took turns during the treatment sessions at Kipling's lab and both of us have vivid memories of the torture we endured at Dr. Kipling's and Hesser's hands."

"Your Honor, I have no further questions for Mr. Toddman."

"Does the defense have any questions for this witness?"

"Yes sir, I have." He looked at his clients. He didn't know if he would be able to shake Samuel Toddman. For one he liked to be able to intimidate the witnesses, but it was hard to intimidate a blind man. He would have to be careful or he would appear to be bullying the man. Secondly, he wasn't sure if he could attack the man's veracity or not. Toddman appeared unperturbed by the prosecution's questions concerning his statement about being an alter. He obviously was prepared for an attack on that front. He stepped around the table and crossed to the witness. It was now or never.

As he approached Samuel he recalled what had happened earlier when Toddman had been describing his time in the lab. Perhaps he could find a way to use that to his advantage.

"Mr. Toddman, you claim that you were experimented on by Dr. Kipling in some weird laboratory. How do we know this isn't some crazy idea you formed in that fractured mind you've been telling us about?"

Samuel didn't like the man as soon as he spoke, there was an oiliness to his voice that grated on Samuel's nerves. "I'm guessing that the police found the laboratory or this trial wouldn't be happening." Samuel could feel Pete watching and knew that Todd was keeping him in check. "I can only tell the court what happened to me while I was in charge. The implants are very real, the pain was very real and the resulting loss of years was very real."

"Yes, the pain, but we've been told by several doctors today that all the implants were removed. Yet you were in some serious pain earlier. You said it was because of the implants, but if they were removed, perhaps you have some other ailment that has nothing at all to do with these implants? Perhaps this other ailment is causing you to remember something that never really happened."

Samuel could feel his own anger coming to the front. He didn't get mad often, but this man was getting under his skin. He struggled to keep it together. If he lost control, Pete would gain the upper hand and take over before Todd could stop him.

"That's a very interesting theory but one that would be dispelled by my Doctors. In fact, I'm very much in control of my faculties and I know I was taken to a lab, not once but numerous times. I can describe the lab in detail."

The defense attorney looked over at his clients and noticed them motioning him back. "One moment, Your Honor."

"Get him to describe the treatment again. If he still has an implant that wasn't removed, it might induce a seizure, then you could call for a postponement. If he gets a chance to describe us, we're lost." said Carlo, he had to try and bring Manning down.  If his men couldn't get the job done, maybe the implant would. His real hope was to bring on a heart attack, but he couldn't let his attorney know that.

"Very well Mr. Toddman, please tell us again about the lab and perhaps you could give us a better idea what actually happened to you there."

Samuel felt sick, he should never have taken the ring off. Pain or no pain he would have to suck it up and tell the whole story. He again described the hallway and the elevator ride down to the lab. He described Ivan to a tee and then began telling the jury what the treatment had been like. He gritted his teeth as the memory of the pictures being sliced slowly and painfully away. The jurors were mesmerized by the tale unfolding. Even the defense attorney could tell the man in front of him was once again reliving that pain.

Michael had moved closer noting Samuel's breathing and realized he was starting to hyperventilate. "Your Honor, he has to stop."

Samuel reached out and grabbed Michael's arm. "No! This has to be told," he continued to tell his story, holding on to Michael's arm for support.

"Samuel, you're going to kill yourself." Michael looked over at Nora.

"Your Honor how much more do you need to hear." Nora didn't like the way Samuel was looking either and the defense attorney was too much of an idiot to realize his clients wanted Todd to die. "Your Honor, please, he's killing himself."

Her words permeated the courtroom and everyone suddenly realized the truth. The judge spoke quickly. "Enough, Dr. McBain see to Mr. Toddman."

The jurors looked at one another shamefully recognizing they had almost watched a man kill himself to tell his tale. It was obvious the man was telling the truth.

The defense attorney had to shake himself as he too came to the realization that his clients had wanted the man on the stand to die. He looked into their faces and saw the disappointment that their plan hadn't worked. He was an attorney, not an assassin. "Your honor, I have no more questions for this man." He walked back to his table and sat down not looking at either of his clients.

The judge looked at Samuel and saw him regaining some color, but the doctor was still checking him out. "Doctor, do we need to get further assistance?"

Samuel and Michael conversed and Michael answered, "He's refusing anything further at this time."

The judge looked at Nora. "Do you wish to redirect?"

"No, Your Honor. But may I have a moment to talk to Mr. Toddman"

"He's your witness."

The courtroom watched as Nora joined Michael and Samuel. All were curious what was being said, it was clear to all watching, that there was a difference of opinion going on between the parties involved. Nora stepped away and said. "I would like to call my next witness, Todd Manning."

The judge looked at his prosecutor, he knew what she wanted to do, but before he could say anything the defense spoke.

"I object, Mr. Manning is dead, he can no longer be considered a witness to this court."

"Your Honor, I believe the defense was given a list of all witnesses for this trial and I believe if he looks at his list he will see both Todd Manning's name and another man's name on that list. For the jurors' sake will the defense read them off." Nora looked at the defense attorney.

The defense attorney looked at the list and saw that two people still hadn't testified. One was indeed Todd Manning and the other was a man he had never heard of a Jake Boudreau. "One moment your honor, I need to confer with my clients." He turned to Carlo and Kipling. "Who the hell is Jake Boudreau?" They were as puzzled as him. "Your Honor according to the list I received, Todd Manning, and a Jake Boudreau are the only two witnesses yet to be heard from so far. My question still stands how can Todd Manning appear if he's dead?"

"If I may answer that one, Your Honor," Nora said looking at the judge.

"By all means," replied the judge. He, too, was curious how Nora was going to handle this.

"To do that I need to change my witness request and ask that Tea Manning return briefly to the stand."

The judge nodded and Michael helped Samuel from the stand as Tea took his place.

"Mrs. Manning, you're still under oath is that correct?" Tea nodded, "Would you please tell this court the name of your husband."

Tea cleared her throat and calmly answered. "My husband was Jake Boudreau, formerly known as Todd Manning."

"Thank you, Mrs. Manning. Why is it you say formerly known as Todd Manning?"

"Shortly before his death, my husband legally changed his name back to his original name, Jake Boudreau. It was his intention to relinquish all rights to the name Todd Manning and everything it entailed. Unfortunately, he was unable to complete that task."

"Mrs. Manning, for the court's benefit, do you know where the real Todd Manning is."

"Yes, I do."

"Could you please tell us where he is?"

"Well I would venture a guess he's listening to this trial through his alter. Samuel. All you need to do is ask him to appear."

The defense was back on his feet instantly. " I object, this is getting ridiculous. Does the prosecution really expect us to believe this preposterous story that Mr. Toddman has told us? It's unbelievable. Now the widow of Todd Manning is telling us she wasn't married to Todd Manning, but to a man by the name of Jake Boudreau and to top that off she's telling us that Samuel Toddman's story is also true. What's next Your Honor, Aliens?"

The judge called the attorneys up in front of him. Looking at Nora he said."This is getting hard to swallow do you have proof to back up this incredible story." Nora nodded. The judge turned his eyes to the defense and said "I want to see the proof. Return to your seats." he watched as the attorneys returned to their places and said, "Objection denied, but we will hear the proof for these outlandish claims."

"Your honor, I have the certified DNA tests of one Jake Boudreau formerly known as Todd Manning, as well as affidavits from his doctors stating that Jake Boudreau was not Todd Manning. As to the veracity of Samuel Toddman's claim that he is an alter and not just a figment of Todd Manning's mind, I have sworn statements from his current doctors as well as his past doctors who will testify, if need be, to the validity of the alters. I, myself, have seen adequate proof that Samuel is a complete personality with traits totally different from Todd Manning. I invite the defense and the court to look at these affidavits and statements."

Nora handed her proof to the Judge and the defense. Turning back to the court she said." May I proceed."

The judge took but a moment looking at the paperwork handed him and then he said. "Continue."

"I call Todd Manning to the stand."

Samuel stood up and carefully made his way back to the stand. Before entering the stand, he paused. The judge and jury watched as Samuel appeared to reel for just a moment, then he straightened up and entered the stand. Nora turned to the bailiff and said: "Please swear him in."

The bailiff looked over at the judge who nodded in assent. The bailiff once again stood in front of the man he had sworn in earlier. "Do you swear, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help you, God."

Todd replied, "I do."

"State your name for the record."

"Thomas Todd Manning" Todd sat down and relaxed in the chair.

The judge was fascinated and the jurors likewise. Todd Manning was nothing like the man who had just been in that chair, his whole demeanor had changed. This man was very assured of himself and almost arrogant. The judge wondered what else his court was in store for.

Nora approached Todd, "Mr. Manning, how long have you been back in Llanview."

"A couple of hours," he grinned at Nora. "Oh, you mean since I got my memory back. I've been back in Llanview since March of this year."

Nora glared at Todd but continued her line of questioning."Why didn't you come forward when you arrived back in town?"

Todd got serious. "I chose to remain in hiding because I knew someone was trying to keep me from regaining my identity. I didn't feel I could step forward until I could prove who had taken my identity away in the first place. I also feared, if I came forward, my family might be in danger. Shortly after I got the memory of my final night in town eight years ago, someone attempted to kill my impostor."

"So you're saying you remained as Samuel Toddman because someone was trying to keep the truth from coming out."

"Yes, Samuel and I decided it was best if, for the time being, everyone believed Samuel was a long lost relative of my sister Vicki. I was also trying to reconnect with my family during that time. With the help of my doctors I was able to pull more memories of the events that took place on the night of the 14th of March, 2003; until Samuel woke up in the hospital in Philadelphia in June of 2003. Those memories gave me clues to the identities of the men behind the whole impostor switch."

"Can you tell me who you believe was responsible for your memory loss and subsequent exile from your family?"

"Yes, the men responsible for what happened to me are none other than Carlo Hesser and Ivan Kipling."

"Do you believe this simply because you remember the details of those lost months?"

"The memories just helped me cement my beliefs. I believe those men are responsible because of the evidence I uncovered in the last eight months."

"Could you please explain your evidence."

"Samuel first suspected Mr. Hesser of having some involvement in my predicament because of his unusual interest in Samuel's paintings. I wouldn't have thought much about it, but he had his old paramour Alex Olanov playing up to Samuel in Paris. It just struck Samuel as suspicious. Further inquiries into Samuel's recovery at Philadelphia General brought the Kipling research facility into the picture. I later discovered that the Samaritan that found me on the road after Mitch Lawrence had dumped me was none other than my good pal Carlo Hesser; who later had me "his brother Mortimer" shipped to,...yes you guessed it, the Kipling research facility." Todd paused and wished he had his ring on. He would have loved to have seen Carlo's face at that moment.

The jurors were listening to every word and every so often they would glance toward the defendants. The defendants were also listening, but they were finding it hard to keep their faces from showing any emotion. Carlo could feel his anger getting the better of him. He had to hand it to Todd, he had never imagined that Todd had figured it all out so quickly. It also was disturbing that Kipling's device hadn't found out about the alters. It was a little unfair that he had actually been up against two men when he thought he only had one man to contend with. Samuel and Todd were indeed a formidable pair. Carlo struggled to keep his face impassive when Todd continued his story.

Todd told of the two attempts against Samuel's life as Carlo had tried to figure out if Samuel had gotten his memory back. Then Todd told of discovering the root of his headaches and the removal of the implants.
"When I made the decision to have the implants removed. Carlo almost got his wish for my death. I died on the operating table and if my wife hadn't brought me back, this trial probably wouldn't have happened. Unfortunately, I didn't escape unscathed. I lost my sight."

"Why didn't you come forward with all your evidence after you got it together."

"I was missing the location of the lab and I needed to discover that before giving everything to Bo. With Jake Boudreau's help and our combined memories, we figured out that Kipling's lab wasn't in the research facility but underneath his personal home. Before I could send the information to Bo, Carlo made one more attempt on my life and sent Christian Vega to kill me. Luck was with me and although I was injured, I was able to get the upper hand on Vega and keep him distracted until John McBain arrived at my home. Vega was captured. I left town because I feared my presence put my family in jeopardy."

"One last question. An anonymous call was made to the police station telling the police where Carlo Hesser's hideout was and the whereabouts of the Kipling Laboratory. Did you make that call?" Nora waited, she wondered if Todd would admit to the call. They hadn't figured out who made the call and Jake had insisted he hadn't been the one. Todd had just told them under oath he knew the lab's location. She needed to know if he had indeed made that call.

"I did not make any calls the morning I left," Todd told the truth because it was Pete who had placed the call after finishing with Carlo and Kipling. Todd found himself fingering the pouch beneath his shirt.
He wished Blair could have been in the courtroom, after everything Samuel had been through, Todd was feeling a little vulnerable. He recalled that morning like it was yesterday and it still made him a little sick to his stomach. Todd closed his eyes for a moment feeling a little nauseous.

Nora hadn't really expected Todd to incriminate himself, but she hadn't expected to see him lose his color so drastically. "Mr. Manning are you alright?"

Todd had been lost in that dreadful moment when he had realized what he had done. Nora's voice broke through his reminiscing, and he opened his eyes disoriented for just a moment because he forgot he wasn't wearing the ring. Nausea threatened to come to the fore and he worked hard to control it and get his thoughts away from his monster. "I'm sorry, I'm still feeling shaky. Did you have another question for me?"

Nora was relieved he appeared to be getting his color back again. "For the court, who was responsible for experimenting on you and replacing you with the impostor Jake Boudreau?"

Todd replied calmly" The persons responsible for everything that happened to me are Carlo Hesser and Ivan Kipling."

"Thank you, Mr. Manning. I have no more question for this witness but I reserve the right to recall." Nora sat down and now knew it was in the hands of the defense attorney. She prayed Todd was up to it. He had never been one of her favorite people, but Todd had changed a lot in his eight-year exile, and after everything he had been through, she felt he deserved a break.

"Mr. Manning, You drew a pretty complete picture of my clients. But everything still comes back to one crucial point, we just have your word that you are Todd Manning. The prosecutor has given us evidence that you are a man with alters. We supposedly met one Samuel Toddman. Do you have proof you are the Todd Manning who disappeared in March of '03? Sure, we know from proof that the Todd Manning who recently died was an impostor, but how do we know you aren't one too."

Todd had been waiting for this. He had known Nora wouldn't ask for his proof because she had already seen it. For her, the proof of the alters was more important than the proof he was Todd Manning. It wasn't surprising for Hesser's attorney to try and disprove his claim to all things Manning. If he had no proof of that, then the attorney could claim the whole story was a falsehood and make it appear like he had it in for Hesser and Kipling. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his copy of the DNA results. "I wouldn't expect the court to accept just my word that I'm Todd Manning. These are the DNA results that show I'm am related to Victoria Lord Banks."

The attorney took the results and studied them and then said. "These merely tell us you're related to Mrs. Banks.  How do we know you're not just the distant cousin that arrived in town months ago and decided to take over your cousin Todd's life?"

Todd could feel Pete wanting out and knew if he let him explode he would only make the case for the defense seem plausible. He was trying to come up with an answer when Nora spoke.

"Your Honor, if I may. I have a notarized statement from a reputable lab the compared Samuel Toddman's current DNA with a sample of Todd Manning's DNA that has been on file since Mr. Manning was convicted of the rape of Marty Saybrook. It states with 99% certainty that Samuel Toddman and Todd Manning are one and the same. I assure you, the man on the stand is the real Todd Manning."

If he had been standing next to her just then, Todd would have kissed Nora Buchanan. Of course, she probably would have floored him for touching her, but he had to give her a thumbs up. It had never occurred to him that the DNA test matching his genes with Vicki's wouldn't have been enough to prove he was Todd. Nora had made sure she had the real Todd before putting him on the stand.

Carlo had been sitting quietly, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the jury was leaning strongly toward guilty. It had been an almost certainty when Nora had introduced his and Kipling's confessions, but Samuel and Todd were nailing the coffin shut. There was still a chance he could make their play to escape when the judge called a recess. He had seen his lawyer's face and it had been a last ditch effort to disprove Manning. Nora had effectively stopped that effort. Carlo listened as his attorney threw in the towel.

"I have no more questions Your Honor." the attorney turned toward his clients. He saw their disapproval but he had nothing.

Nora stood and said. "The prosecution rests."

"Is the defense ready to proceed" asked the judge.

The attorney for the defense had been talking to his clients and he turned to the judge. "The defense requests a fifteen-minute recess so my clients can get some aid for their injuries."

"Request granted.  We'll take a fifteen-minute recess after which the defense will present its case."


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