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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Todd Manning, Enigma Chapter 4

      She looked beautiful standing there above him. He never got tired of looking at her. “Hi. We’ve got to stop meeting like this. My wife can be jealous at times.” He reached up and moved a stray hair to the side of her face.

      Blair leaned over and kissed him, but pushed him back down on the bed when he tried to get up. “Hold it right there, Mister. You’ve run yourself into the ground since you got out of the hospital. This is the result. We need to talk. Why didn’t you tell me about the dream?”

      Todd closed his eyes, all happy thoughts out the window with that one comment. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Everything that had happened the previous day came flooding back and Todd fought the urge to curl up and disappear. He was in the hospital, and according to Blair’s comment when he woke up, he had collapsed in the parking lot. That meant Larry had had plenty of time to run his test. “Give it to me straight, the reason you’re not letting me out of this bed is that I need another operation for the damn implants, right?  When is Michael coming?”

      Blair was taken aback, Todd sounded so angry and the scary thing was he had hit the nail on the head. He knew, without Larry telling him, that the implants were inside him and he was resigned to the surgery, no questions asked. “Todd, I’m sorry. Don’t be angry, I want to help you. Michael will be in shortly, I’m still having trouble understanding how you knew before everyone else.”

     “It’s simple Blair, I knew because of the dream. I can’t stand this. There are things happening I have no explanation for but one, and I’m scared Blair. “

     Todd had always held his emotions very close to the vest and rarely allowed anyone to see his vulnerabilities. For him to admit he was scared meant that something bad was going on. “Whatever has you so spooked can be dealt with. I think you just need to get your mind back on matters in front of you. Yes, you need another operation, so we’ll get it over and you can start recovering properly. Bo called. They caught Hesser and Kipling. We’ll get you well so you can testify against them for everything they did to you, and then you can get back to your life.”

      “Damn. Blair, you need to call Tea and Jake. Warn them that Hesser’s partners have put out a hit on both of us. He should be extra careful from now, until the trial.” Todd kept hearing John tell both of them of Jake’s death by sniper fire. “I’ve got to let John know, maybe he can find a way to stop it.”

     “Todd, what are you talking about? What do you think John can stop?” Now she really was confused. Why on earth did Todd think there were hits on him and Jake? Christian had been taken care of. He wasn’t making any sense. No wonder Larry and Ray were worried.

      “Jake’s death,” Todd answered.

       Blair was stunned.  Where the hell had that come from? She looked at Todd. Was she hearing correctly? “Okay, are you sure you’re feeling alright? What did you mean Jake’s death? Why would you even say that?” Todd just looked at her and Blair felt a chill run through her. He was dead serious. Oh God, had Jake died in the dream? Todd had dropped his eyes and was fingering the ring, it was like he had forgotten she was there. “Todd, explain what you meant. Todd?” Blair waved her hand in front of his face and got no reaction. This wasn’t good.

      Todd was lost in his daymare.  He was back at the hotel with John and Blair following the raid on the warehouse. He sat there as if a ghost watching it play out again.

     “John, what’s going on? Todd gets off the phone with you and all of a sudden he’s dropping me at Cassie’s and telling me to pack. What happened?”

     Todd held out his hand.”Blair, come here. Jake was killed”


      “Oh my God, how,” Blair asked John?


     “Hesser’s partners succeeded this time. He was killed at the Sun. Bo knows I came looking for Todd. He asked me today If I found him and I let him think I hadn’t. That’s when he informed me of Jake’s death.”


      “The children, we need to get home to the children. They’ll be devastated. Todd, you should rest, I’ll pack for you.”


      “Whoa Blair, I’m sending you home with John.”


      Todd shivered in reaction as the scene changed and the vision blurred to a solid gray as he heard:

       “Todd!... Let go of me you Monster!...Todd, they broke in shortly after you and John left, they brought us all here.”

       “Leave them out of this Gregor, this is between you and me.”


       “Todd, don’t worry about us, you need to get out of here he intends to kill you. I love you. Always remember that.”


         “Manning get down!”


         Todd’s whole body suddenly seized, as his body felt the bullets impact and he fell into darkness.

         Blair had hit the call button, when she couldn’t get a response, then screamed as she saw Todd jerk suddenly and collapse back on the pillow.

        Larry had been at the nurse's station when the call light lit up. He entered the room just in time to see Todd convulse and pass out. Immediately he felt for a pulse. It wasn’t Todd’s heart, the pulse was high but not dangerously so. His examination of Todd”s eyes showed little to no response to light, even though he was wearing the ring. “Tell me what happened Blair.”

       “I’m not sure. Todd, can you hear me? I need you to give me a sign you can hear us.”

         There was nothing to indicate that Todd was aware of the things going on around him. Larry wondered if he was caught in his dream. “Blair, this is very similar to sleepwalking, are you sure he was awake.” Larry had heard of people having waking dreams, but usually, it was in the context of their actual life. Todd, on the other hand, was experiencing a life that for all purposes wasn’t real except to him. The problem was, parts of that unreal dream or life were manifesting themselves into his real life.

       Todd began to moan and then they heard him say, “I shouldn’t have let her stay but sent her home with John? This is my fault. You hear me, God? Don’t let him harm her. I can’t do this anymore. Go ahead and take me. I’m half dead now, just finish the job.”

       He fell silent and Blair looked over at Larry. “I think I know what’s going on. Ray told me that Todd’s irrational fear is losing me. He said something about Todd’s last thoughts in the dream are of someone taking me and shooting him.“ She reached over and took Todd’s hand. “I think he might be reliving that again, but that’s impossible. How can one relive a dream? Memories I understand, they really happened, but he didn’t actually live what he’s been dreaming. How can things, that he saw in a dream, be happening? It’s uncanny. Is there some way to wake him from this?”

       “Blair, talk to him. I think he might be close to waking up. If he hears your voice he might snap out of it on his own. I really don’t want to give him any more drugs.” Larry again checked Todd’s eyes and noticed a little reaction to the light. “Come on Todd, Blair’s here and safe, come back to her.”

       Blair put her hand on his cheek, stroking his beard, “Hey you, this is getting old. You need to wake up, I hate talking to myself.”

       “Yes but I love hearing your southern accent,” Todd said, his eyes focusing on her. “Sorry didn’t mean to scare you about Jake, I’m just worried.” she flung her arms around him and hugged him like she was afraid to let him go. Todd patted her shoulder awkwardly, he knew something had happened but he couldn’t quite remember what. Then it came rushing back in a flash. “Oh God, I was there! John was telling me about Jake’s death and you were refusing to come back home. Why did I ever let you talk me into staying?” he pushed her off of him so he could really look at her. “Thank God you’re alright. I was sure Gregor had taken you from me permanently.” Even as he said the words to her, he realized his mistake. He wasn’t in Savannah, he was in Llanview, and Blair had no idea what he was talking about. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Why had the whole scene seemed so real? It wasn’t just his imagination. He opened his eyes looking for Larry. “Why is this happening to me?”

       Larry dropped his eyes, he wasn’t sure how to answer Todd. There were possibly two causes for this and neither was good. One was that Todd was headed for a major breakdown and the other was the manifestations were caused by the brain damage from Christian’s bullet. “Todd, we’ll talk to Michael, he’s the one with the expertise regarding brain injuries. If it’s something physical, well, hopefully, it can be rectified.”

      “But if it’s mental, then I’m screwed.” Todd wanted to hit something. He realized he was still holding on tightly to Blair and released her. “I’m right aren’t I, you and Ray both think this is mental? I’m finally losing it for real. Well, you better figure out a way to stop this, because I’ll die before anyone puts me in St. Ann’s. I didn’t fight my way back here to end up a blithering idiot.”

      “Todd I didn’t say it was hopeless, we’re all working very hard trying to figure out how to attack this problem and all I can tell you to do, is be patient and work with us.”

      Todd looked at Blair and said, “Find Michael, I want to go home, and get John, because whether you believe me or not Jake is in danger”

      Blair looked at Larry and he nodded so she left to try and find Michael.

     When Blair left the room, Todd looked at Larry “I can’t stop it and it’s taking over my life, but it’s not just taking over my resting moments, it’s starting to intrude on this reality. Can you tell me how a dream is doing that?”

     “Todd, I wish I knew. I think whatever is happening will become clearer but we need you to stay positive. I want you to start dwelling on the good things around you. Your state of mind is part of the key to breaking this dream cycle. You also need to sleep, so I’m going to prescribe something that will put you into a deeper sleep and hopefully keep you from dreaming at all.” Larry could see Todd getting ready to protest. “ I know you’re afraid the dream won’t stop, but if you don’t take care of yourself it won’t matter, your body will shut you down anyway.”

      Todd knew Larry was right but the thought of taking sleeping pills that might bring on the dream was frightening. The whole point was to get free of the dream, not have it hang over his head like a pendulum blade ready to take him out. “I’ll consider the pills Larry, but unless you can reassure me that I’ll have dreamless nights, the answer will most likely be no.”

        Blair arrived back and said Michael was currently in surgery, but that John would be by shortly. She could tell that Todd was still upset and whatever Larry had said hadn’t dispelled his fears. She started to say something and saw Todd shake his head at her. For the time being, the topic was tabled.


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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Todd Manning, Enigma Chapter 3

Larry walked into the room taking in the scene. Todd looked ready to collapse and Larry found himself fit to be tied. Todd had to be the most stubborn man alive. When he had released him, it had been on the condition that he take it easy and get plenty of rest. From the looks of Todd, he had been doing the exact opposite. “So what part of, go home and take it easy, did you ‘not’ understand. You look like hell, Todd.”

“Thanks, Larry. That really makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.” Todd said, then gasped suddenly when Larry began examining his hand.

“What happened?”

Todd looked over at Ray and back to Larry, “Nothing, just don’t know my own strength. I gripped the bottle too tightly and it broke. Must have been a faulty bottle.” He prayed Ray would keep quiet about the hand not cooperating earlier.

“Well, it doesn’t look like you cut it deep enough to damage it permanently. Todd, try and move your fingers.”

Todd watched as his fingers flexed and moved without any of the stiffening and lack of control from earlier. He breathed a little easier.

“Movement appears unaffected, I’ll numb it, then stitch it up. Seriously, Todd, you’re supposed to be resting. The brain injury was nothing to scoff at, and it, on top of your previous surgeries wreaked havoc on your system. I know you’re not going to like this but humor me. Let me check you out while you’re here.” Larry had noted the looks passing between Todd and Ray and it had hit him that Todd could see. “When were you going to tell me your sight had returned.”

Todd was uncomfortable, he hadn’t intended to keep it a secret. “It’s not quite what you think. In fact, I guess you could say it’s some type of miracle.”  Todd blinked and tried to block the light as Larry went to check his eyes. It was too bright and his head still felt like it had imploded.

Larry frowned at Todd’s reaction, “What else aren’t you telling me?”  Larry looked over at Ray.

Before Ray could say anything, Todd spoke up. “It’s nothing I’ve just got a migraine, it flared up shortly before we got here.”

“You should have told me that first thing. I’ll turn the light level down, but I need to look in your eyes, Todd. “ Larry dimmed his light and again looked into Todd’s eyes. Even at the lower level, Todd stilled winced when the light hit his eyes. Larry noticed that Todd’s pupils were slow to respond. Larry wrote a few things down on Todd’s paperwork. “If these headaches get worse Todd, we’re going to have to get you in for another scan. Now tell me about this miracle.” Larry sat down with Todd’s hand on a tray and went to work stitching the wound closed.

“It’s the implants, Larry. I still have some sort of connection to them. I accidentally handled one not long after getting home from Seattle and my vision cleared up.” Todd looked at Larry trying to see if he believed him. “Through some experimentation, I discovered that if I had contact with the smaller of the two implants and the bigger one remained close by, I could see.”

Todd saw skepticism on both faces so he took off the ring. Immediately his vision became a blur of blobs and colors. “Larry, as of right now, all I can see is a blob of white sitting in front of me and a blue and gray blob in the vicinity Ray was standing a moment ago. Ray if you would like to examine the ring, you’ll see the implant embedded in it.” Todd held out his hand in Ray’s direction.

Ray moved forward to take the ring from Todd’s hand, but as he started to pick it up, a tiny burst of electricity between Todd’s palm and the ring almost caused him to drop it. “What the hell was that?”

“I wish I knew.” Todd looked over trying to figure out where Ray had gone, he hadn’t realized that Larry had told the nurse to dim the lights. The darker room made finding Ray harder.

Larry had been finishing his final stitches and listening. In the darker room, he too had seen the small burst of electricity. Now he watched as Todd struggled to find out where Ray had walked to. “Todd look at me.” Todd’s eyes swung in the general direction where Larry was sitting, but it was clear that Todd could no longer focus. Larry again pulled out his flashlight and looked into Todd’s eyes but this time there was no reaction. The pupils failed to respond to the light at all. “I’ll be damned. Ray let me see the ring.” Ray proceeded to bring the ring and together, he and Larry looked it over.

There it was, a small delicate piece of machinery in the ring. Larry recognized it as the implant that Michael had taken out during the second surgery because he had seen the video of the procedures. It was the implant that had almost killed Todd. “This is fascinating, but I still don’t understand the connection. There’s nothing in you that could be connected to it any longer.”

Larry waited for some sort of response, but the silence was deafening. Then it hit him. “Todd, do you think there might still be something left inside your head?”

Todd flexed his fingers on the hand that Larry had just stitched up. No sense keeping it from Larry, he already knew the outcome. “I don’t think it, I know it.”

“I don’t understand, how could you know something like that? Nothing was found when we went in to repair the damage the bullet made. Why do you believe there are more pieces?"

Todd was still flexing his fingers when they started trembling. Todd reached with his good hand to stop the trembling, but Larry had already seen the movement. Before Todd could pull the hand away from any inspection. Larry had grabbed it.

“Hold it, Todd, how long has this been happening?” Larry began to study the trembling when the hand clenched suddenly. “Todd open your hand.”

“I can’t. I know what you’re going to say next. You think the damage from the bullet is causing this, but I can tell you it’s not from the bullet.” Todd’s hand unexpectedly opened and the trembling ceased.

“You should let me be the judge of that. Any kind of unusual muscle contractions should be checked into. This is what happened earlier that caused the broken bottle, isn’t it?” Before Larry could ask any more Todd had grabbed his hand away.

Todd had had enough of Larry’s probing. He wanted to get home to Blair, this was all beginning to come at him too fast. Holding out his hand, he said,”Could I have my ring back?" Ray handed him the ring and Todd put it on.

His vision cleared and he looked at Larry. “You believe this spasm was caused by brain damage, but I can tell you with a certainty that it was caused by the remaining implants. I know this because I already lived through a third surgery to remove them. It happened right here in this hospital. Right after I testified against Carlo and Kipling.” Todd saw Larry’s eyes widen in shock. “That’s crazy, isn’t it? Maybe, but several things have already come true. You’ll get your scan Larry, then maybe you’ll believe me. I’ve got to get out of here. Ray, let’s go.” Todd didn’t wait for any answer from Ray or Larry, instead, he walked deliberately out of the ER and headed for Ray’s car.

Once there, he leaned wearily against it. How much more of this was he supposed to endure? Why were certain things from his dream beginning to come true? Were they really parts of a dream? He looked up as he heard Ray’s footsteps. “I have to find a way to stop this Ray. It’s too unsettling. Something isn’t right, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“Todd, get in.” Ray unlocked the door and when they were both sitting he turned to Todd. “I understand your concern and I agree there’s something going on, but it’s way too early to jump to conclusions. One thing is certain. You need to get some sleep.”

“That’s just it, I can’t.  Ray, I used to be able to sleep as long as I was with Blair, but now even that’s been taken away.”  Todd closed his eyes, leaning back in the seat and pushing his hair back. With his palms pushing at his temples trying to keep the pain from becoming too intense he continued. “I can’t get those last minutes out of my head. I had gone there to negotiate with him, thinking I could get him to just leave town and not bother his daughters any longer.”

“Had gone to see who, Todd?”

“Blair’s father.  It was scary how similar our fathers were.  The man had raped Blair’s mom in a mental hospital.  I just wanted to keep him away from Blair and her sister.   But he outsmarted me.   He had them and he took them away.  I remember getting free and trying to get away to go find them when John told me to look out but it was too late.  My last thought was knowing I wouldn’t see her again as the bullets tore into me and I fell.” Todd could see it all unfolding again. The scene never changed.

Ray listened quietly. Todd really believed the events he was recounting. “Todd, why do you think the dream is real.”

“Because it doesn’t feel like a dream, it feels like memories. If it isn’t real, how do you explain the ring and the implants? In that so called dream, Jake dies. Do you think I want that to happen but I’m afraid it’s going to? I’m not sure if I should try and warn him and Tea. How can I? I don’t know the exact day it’s going to take place, but I know how he’s going to get it.” Todd looked over at Ray, he had known that little piece of information was a doozy and Ray ‘s expression said it all. “You don’t have to say anything. I can see your face. You do think I’ve lost it.” he started to laugh it was all so absurd. Heck, he was sure he had lost it.

Todd didn’t even feel the sting in his arm. He was so distraught he never even realized Ray had given him the shot. Ray waited as it quickly took effect and Todd slumped unconscious in the seat. Larry and the orderlies had a gurney waiting and they transferred Todd to it, wheeling him back into emergency. Ray took out his phone and called Blair.

After making sure she was on her way, Ray went in to check on his friend. Right after Todd had left the ER, he and Larry had agreed they had to find a way to get Todd to sleep and the easiest was to sedate him. Ray had been waiting for the right moment when Todd had begun his tale. He hadn’t wanted to do it that way, but if he or Larry had suggested it, Todd would have balked. Todd’s health was the bigger concern and Ray would face Todd’s anger after they had him on more secure ground.

Larry came toward him and he watched Todd being wheeled down the hall. “Where’s he going?” asked Ray.

“I’ve sent him down to get scanned. We need to see what’s going on in his head. There are any number of things that could cause the tremors and muscle spasms. I’m concerned for his health but his mental state is even more alarming. We’ll keep him sedated and give his body and mind a chance to recuperate. Did he tell you how long he had been without sleep?”

“I’m guessing he hasn’t gotten more than a few hours sleep since you sent him home from the hospital,” replied Ray. “He’s convinced if he sleeps, he’ll wake back up in his dream. Just what did he say when he awoke from the coma?”

“He kept wondering about a man named Gregor and I remember he thought he was in Savannah. It took us quite a while to convince him he was here in Llanview. So you think he’s been avoiding sleep because of the dream.”

“He pretty much told me that. Larry, he’s not sure if this reality is real. The ring we just saw, was in his dream first, and you were right there when he told you there are still implants in his brain. Just before I gave him the shot, he told me that Jake Boudreau was going to die, because he died in the dream. Can you tell me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there aren’t any more implants.”

Larry frowned, “I can’t say for sure. But it’s more likely that there is a correlation between Todd’s tremors and spasms and the damage done to his brain by the bullet. The brain damage could also be affecting his perceptions right now. The scan will probably bear me out. You don’t honestly believe Todd’s seeing the future. I mean Jake’s been doing fine since his operation.”

“I guess we’ll just have to wait. Todd’s pretty convinced, and if anything else happens that matches with his dream, I’m not sure we’ll be able to find an explanation.” Ray noticed Blair hurrying towards him. He quickly spoke to ease her fears. “Blair, he’s fine but both Larry and I felt he needed to get some rest. You should have told me he wasn’t sleeping.”

“Ray, I know I should have said something but he’s done this before. When he’s anxious about something he won’t sleep. How did you get him to agree to the rest?”

“We didn’t, I sedated him but he was unaware I did it. Blair, has he talked to you about this dream of his? It appears to be paramount to anything else.”

“We talked about it when he first woke up but not since. I remember he was upset when he awoke and said something about a man named Gregor and about losing me. But he’s said nothing since then. I told you on the phone how he’s been shutting himself away in his office at home and he hasn’t told me what that’s about. Larry, where is he? You said you just sedated him. How long did you plan to keep him asleep?”

"Blair, I ordered another cat scan because he’s experiencing some problems and I want to make sure nothing new has shown up since his surgery. He’s down there now. I want him to sleep out the night so we’ll keep him under long enough for his body to recover some. I’m going to go check out those scans, perhaps you and Ray would like to come along.” Larry headed down the hall followed by Blair and Ray.

Once outside the room, Larry entered and Blair went to sit down. Ray sat down next to her. Blair was fidgeting with her purse and glancing constantly at the door. “He needed this sleep, Blair.”

She looked at Ray and pushed her hair out of her face. “I know Ray, but he’s going to be so mad. He always looks at things from a strange perspective. I know you were trying to help but he’s going to feel you betrayed his trust. Trust doesn’t come easy for him. I hope you’ll be able to make him understand why you did it.”

“I’m very aware of his trust issues, but I have to believe that he’ll be able to see the rationality behind my action when he wakes up more refreshed and able to cope with this world.” Even as he said the words to reassure Blair, Ray began doubting them himself. All he had managed to do was stave off a physical crisis. Todd’s mental state was another thing altogether. Todd’s belief in his sanity relied on Ray being able to prove to him that the dream was just a dream. Yet every time something from that dream appeared in this reality, Todd’s belief was further shaken. Ray was worried because he had a feeling deep down that other parts of Todd’s dream were going to come true. Larry came out with the scans and by the look on his face, it wasn’t good. “How bad is it Larry?”

“It’s not good. He was right Ray, there are fragments from the implant still inside. The part of his brain injured from the bullet is healing, but you can make out foreign objects scattered in a section of his brain that affects motor function. I’m about to go call Michael, Blair you can go with Todd to his room, but I’m going to order an EEG to see what’s happening while he’s sleeping.” Larry looked over at Ray, “That sedative should have put him completely out, but it’s not working. I think he’s dreaming.

Blair and Ray sat with Todd while they hooked up the EEG machine. One of the EEG technicians came in and began taking readings. After several minutes he gathered his papers and took them to be read by the sleep doctor. Ray noticed Larry outside the door talking to the sleep doctor so he excused himself and went to chat with them. While they were discussing their findings, Michael arrived. After a few words, Michael joined Blair by Todd’s bed. He explained the need for more surgery and assured Blair that it wasn’t a life threatening situation so they would hold off until Todd was made aware of it.

Larry turned to Ray, “Todd definitely has a problem. He shouldn’t be dreaming, but his beta waves are off the chart and the alpha waves are registering like he’s awake. If what you said was true, he could be reliving that dream of his as we speak. “

Ray paled at what that could mean for Todd. He had wanted a dreamless sleep for Todd and he might have just dropped Todd into his worse nightmare. He had to find a way to circumvent the dream. Blair might be his only hope since she was the one Todd was so fearful of losing. He walked back into Todd‘s room and sat down next to Blair. “I need you to talk to him. Larry and I just wanted to get him some sleep, it was supposed to be dream free but his mind has other ideas. He’s dreaming and it more than likely the very dream he‘s been trying to avoid. In that dream, he loses you. Blair you‘ve got to bring him out of that dream. “

“Ray, if you knew he was afraid of dreaming, how did you let this happen?” Blair stood up and went to Todd she grabbed his hand. “Todd, it’s alright I’ve not gone anywhere. Listen to me. I’m real, baby.” she whispered in his ear but he seemed oblivious to her.

Todd was beginning to get clearly agitated by what was happening in his dream, and the readings were all over the chart. Larry came back into the room and ordered a second dose of sedative. and the EEG readings finally leveled out, indicating he had been truly knocked out. Blair saw a tear drop down his cheek and she prayed he would wake up alright. Angry she turned to Larry and Ray. “What were you thinking.” Directing her anger at Ray, “You know why he wasn’t sleeping. Didn’t you tell Larry? When you decided to knock him out, didn’t it occur to you, he might dream. What does all this mean for Todd? What is it about that dream that has both of you worried.” Blair was furious, Todd had trusted Ray to help him. She knew she was a little over the top but Ray was truly worried about the dream and they both were keeping her in the dark.

Larry spoke up first. “Blair we didn’t expect him to dream, he shouldn’t have been able to. I can’t explain how Todd managed it, his mind just refused to shut down. The extra medication seems to have done the trick and he should now sleep without any more dreams.” Larry checked the EEG once more to keep tabs on his brain activity. “Blair, we chose to put him under because he wasn’t being rational. The lack of sleep was clearly affecting his perceptions of what was going on around him and honestly I’ll admit I thought the things he was telling us were off the wall.”

“Things he was telling you? What are you talking about?” Blair looked at them waiting for an explanation.

“Blair, Todd claimed he knew what the ring and watch looked like before you gave it to him today.” said Ray.

“But that’s impossible, I never even showed him my designs. Did he say where he had seen them? “ asked Blair.

“Yes he saw them when you gave them to him a couple days after Christian shot him.” replied Ray.

Blair looked confused, “But he was in a coma for almost two months. I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me.”

“Blair, he saw your ring and watch in his dream. Not only that but he told us about the implants too. He knew they were there because he said he already had them removed once. We were worried he was becoming delusional because of the lack of sleep. Now we’re not sure what to make of it. I can tell you this much, he’s not delusional but he’s still close to losing it. Every time something else comes true from his dream, Todd slips deeper into his irrational fear that this reality is a fake reality.”

Blair looked over at Todd sleeping. “Will getting the sleep help him Ray, or just delay what’s going on.”

“I don’t know Blair but I can assure you, I’m going to do everything I can to stop him from falling apart.”

She had spent the night at his bedside, afraid of leaving him for fear he would wake up alone. Ray had informed her about the ending of Todd’s dream and she was determined to be the first thing he saw when he awoke. She had heard from Bo that the raids against Hesser and Kipling had gone as planned and both men were now in custody. Kipling’s Lab had been quite a find, numerous other implants and case files were located, including files on Todd, Jake, and Christian. They were still going to need testimony from both Jake and Todd to tie up the case, but Bo was certain Hesser and Kipling were going away for a long time. Blair prayed Todd would be able to testify. He deserved his chance to see Hesser go down.

Todd began to stir and Blair moved closer looking down on him. She had insisted he keep his ring so that when he awoke he would be able to see her. “Hey sleepyhead, it’s about time you woke up. You just dropped out on Ray in the middle of a conversation. Ray told me to apologize for him. He never realized how boring he was until you fell asleep on him.” She looked into his eyes and saw recognition and breathed a sigh of relief.


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Friday, July 7, 2017

OLD HABITS DIE HARD Part 4

Todd stayed hidden in that closet for what seemed like forever. He hated confined spaces. He remembered how crazy he got when he got put in solitary confinement at Statesville. However, the floral scent of Blair enveloped him as he was surrounded by her coats and he felt more relaxed. He couldn’t count the number of times when just the smell of Blair’s hair put him at peace. She had that effect on him.

He could barely hear the muffled voices in his position so he pressed his ear firmly against the door to get a better listen.

John was bad-mouthing him. No surprise there. The gall of this guy to think he knew anything about his relationship with Blair. John didn’t know him. John didn’t even know Blair. He just couldn’t keep his big nose out of their business.

Shit! John just told Blair about his part in the baby swap. He could practically heart Blair’s heart breaking. He knew exactly what she was thinking. Mexico. He had thought a lot about it too. It broke his heart to think that Blair was thinking he hadn’t changed. He had! These situations were entirely different. He wanted to barge through the door right now and beg Blair to listen to him. He dealt with so much disappointment in his life. From Viki. From Sam. From Tea. But nothing was more heartbreaking to him more than Blair’s disappointment. She knew him. She knew him better than anybody.

He had to get through to her.

As soon as he heard the door close, he peeked his head out of the closet to make sure John was gone.

Blair was staring into space with her eyes red.

“Let me explain,” she said as he moved toward her.

Blair turned her eyes to him. “You got what you wanted, Todd. Now, just go.”

Blair was about to walk to the living room when Todd stopped her. He grabbed both her arms and pulled her to him.

“I’m not going anywhere. Not until you listen to me.”

“Fine. Explain.” Blair figured the quicker he “explained” himself, the quicker he would leave. Let’s just get this over with.

“I know what you’re thinking. I know…” It was hard for him to even say. “I know you’re thinking about what I did in Mexico, Blair.”

Blair really didn’t want to talk about this. She just wanted Todd to leave her alone. She tried to pull herself out of Todd’s grasp but he remained firm.

“Listen to me.” He looked her in the eyes. “I am not that person anymore. Blair, I swear… I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Isn’t it always that way, Todd? It’s never really your fault, is it?” She’s rather be anywhere but here. She didn’t want to listen to another one of his excuses.

“You really think I would have willingly done this again?” Todd pleaded with her.

Blair wavered at that. “So what? Heather put a gun to your head?”

“No…” Todd felt backed into a corner. “I just… Blair, I was lost. This whole past year… I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just…”

Blair hated herself for it but she felt for Todd. Again. She reached out and touched his face.
Todd grabbed her hand and held it to his face. He closed his eyes and just took in her touched. She was so soft. So gentle with him. No one was ever as gentle with him as she was. Why would anyone be? He was a monster. He hurt Blair more than he hurt anyone in his life but here she was trying to calm him down. Only she could calm him down…

Todd moved her hand to his lips and softly kissed her fingers.

“Todd…” Blair tingled all over. Those lips…

“I love you.” It just came out. Blair had the ability to make him spit out his feelings even when it wasn’t his strongest quality. He looked her deeply in her eyes and refused to let go of her hand. “Oh God, Blair… I love you so much.”

Blair just looked at him wide-eyed. She loved him too. Deep down, she knew she did but she wasn’t going to say. She wouldn’t dare.

This was his chance. He touched her cheek and pulled her in to kiss her. She didn’t pull back. As soon as he felt her relax against him, he opened his mouth wider and pulled her body tighter against him. He could hear her moaning in his mouth. That was a good sign.

Blair knew she should’ve pushed him away. She was planning to but… he just felt so good. She never could resist a taste. Even last summer when she was engaged to another man. Todd just dove in and she was a goner. Now, here they were, making out in the foyer of Dorian’s. Instinctively, her arms went around his head as their kisses intensified. They never had a problem when it came to this stuff. This was the easy part. It was everything else that was hard.

Speaking of hard…

Blair just felt him start to grow through his pants against her hip. She had to stop this. She pulled back and caught her breath. “This is not happening,” she murmured as she wiped her mouth.
Todd followed Blair into the living room. There was no way he was going to let her run from this.

“Blair…” What was he going to say? Blair was a tactile creature. He had to play it right. One wrong word and he’d be on his ass outside of Dorian’s again. One right word and he’d be back in her arms again. He just said what he was feeling, something he rarely did.

“Run away with me.”

Blair whipped around to him. Of all the things she was expecting him to say, that was not it. “What?”
“Run away with me,” Todd’s confidence infinitely grew with Blair’s reaction. She wasn’t yelling at him. She wasn’t pounding on his chest. She wasn’t throwing him out. She just stood there, waiting for him to explain. “I need to go. Blair, I… I need to go now.”

Blair furrowed her brow and tried to take everything in from the last 2 minutes.

Todd stepped forward and lowered his voice. “I need you. I need you with me.”

“I…” Blair was stunned. “Todd… where?”

Todd couldn’t contain his smile from that. She wanted to go with him!

“Doesn’t matter.” It really didn’t. Todd learned years ago that home was wherever Blair was.
When Blair started to shake her head, Todd grabbed her face with both hands. “I just… I need to figure things out. I need to fix this. I need you to be there with me.”

Blair realized her mouth was dry. “What about the kids?”

“Addie can watch them. Look, it’s not forever. It’s just for enough time for us to figure something out.”

“Us?” Blair said in the slightest hope.

Todd smirked. “It’s always been you and me Blair. You know that.” He said that to her the last time they were together. Really together. And he meant it as much then as he did now. There’s been no one else in his heart. “I can’t do this without you.”

Blair’s heart always betrayed her. Even after John’s warning and months of her own head’s assertions to never let Todd back into her heart, all she wanted to do in this moment was jump into his arms and go. Maybe she was weak. She was weak for him.

“I don’t want to be hurt again.” Her eyes were begging him to say what she wanted to hear even though she wasn’t sure she would believe him.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Blair. Never. I just want you.” Todd walked over to the other side of the living room and opened the patio doors. “I have a car. I have money. I have a jet. We could go 
anywhere, Blair. Just you and me.”

Todd lifted his hand and extended it to Blair. “What do you say?”

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Todd Manning, Enigma Chapter 2

Chapter 2


Todd walked into the Rodi’s and saw Ray sitting a few tables away from the front door. He had never been more relieved to see his friend.

Ray was shocked to see Todd walking toward him without a cane. He had been told Todd was blind, but he had obviously been misinformed. “Well Todd, this is a surprise.”

“What do you mean Ray? I thought we had agreed to meet?“ Had he imagined calling Ray? Was this just a chance meeting? Todd ran his fingers through his hair, unsure how much more he could take.

Ray pulled back from the table a bit and folded his arms. He took a longer look at his friend. Todd’s skin was paler than he had remembered, and black semicircles were under his eyes. “Whoa Todd, I simply meant I didn’t realize your blindness was gone. Calm down, we did arrange to meet.”

“Sorry, just a little bit on edge.” Todd’s hands were visibly shaking.

“You’d better sit. You look like you’re ready to fall down. Something’s wrong, this isn’t just a ‘let’s have a drink type meeting,’ is it?” Ray watched as Todd hastily took a seat. “Todd, look at me.” Todd’s eyes met his, then immediately shifted looking elsewhere. He couldn’t sit still. Sweat formed on his brow, and his breathing was more audible. “Todd, you need to take some deep breaths and tell me what’s got you so disturbed.”

"Ray, I’m not sure where to start. I feel like my life is out of my control. I thought I had everything going my way. Sure the blindness threw me for a loop, but I was coping. Then Christian came after me. My life got turned upside down that day.” Todd gripped his hands because he couldn’t stop them from shaking.

Ray turned to the bartender and ordered two beers and looked at his friend. “That’s a strange thing to say. I know that Christian’s attack put you in a coma, but I would think you’d be glad to be back among the living.”

"You would think,” Todd said cryptically.

The conversation was just getting weirder. Ray watched as Todd began to take a ring on and off his finger. He seemed to be a million miles away. “That’s a stunning ring. I don’t remember seeing it before.”

“Blair just gave it to me. It’s the reason I can see you right now Ray.” Then he began to chuckle and said. “That’s funny you know. You don’t remember seeing it before, but I sure have. Even before Blair gave it to me.”

There was something a little forced about Todd’s chuckle and Ray couldn’t help wondering why the ring had him so upset. “You say you saw it before. Did you spot it at a jeweler or something?”

“No, it was nothing as common as that. I saw this little beauty two days after I was shot. It was the first time Blair gave it to me. Only you see, supposedly that was all part of a dream.” Todd frowned and took a huge gulp of his beer, almost choking as some went down the wrong way.

“What do you mean part of a dream? You saw Blair give you that ring in a dream. When was this?” Ray was curious.

“There’s the rub. It happened while I was in the coma. Funny thing about that coma. When I woke up, I believe I had just been shot and was in the hospital in Savannah, Georgia. Imagine my surprise when they informed me, I was in the Llanview hospital and Christian had just shot me.” Todd quickly finished his drink and ordered another. “The last couple of months that I had lived, gone in a blink of an eye.”

Ray ordered a second drink and studied his friend again. Whatever happened during the coma was the culprit behind Todd’s state of mind. Blair was right, something was happening and Ray didn’t like where it seemed to be taking Todd. “Todd, you were unconscious. Why does this dream bother you?”

“It won’t go away, Ray. I remember it as vividly now, as I did when it happened. If it was a dream, it should be fading, but it’s not. It’s worse than my nightmare about Peter.” Todd’s voice cracked and the hand holding the bottle started trembling. Todd stared at it in horror, a memory coming back. He could see Michael talking to him in Bo’s office about an extra piece of the implant still in his brain. “God no!” Just then, the glass shattered in his hand, but Todd was lost inside another moment.

Ray reacted quickly grabbing some napkins to staunch the blood. Todd was unaware that it had even happened. “Todd! Todd, snap out of it. Todd, we need to get this cleaned properly, it’s bad and going to need stitches.” Ray breathed a sigh of relief when Todd’s eyes finally focused on him. Ray took the clean towel, the bartender handed him and wrapped the hand up. “Come on Todd. Let’s get this taken care of.

Todd cradled his injured hand with the good one. He followed Ray to his car and took a seat. After Ray pulled out of the parking lot, he said, “I think I’m losing it.”

"When did you sleep last, Todd?”

“Huh,” Todd replied sluggishly. “Sleep is a highly overrated commodity.”

“Todd this is serious. How long ago did you get some sleep?” Ray looked briefly at his friend. Todd was clearly exhausted but fighting to stay awake.

“I don’t know, I’m afraid to sleep. The dream won’t go away. Everything in it is like it happened yesterday. But that isn’t what terrifies me.” Todd paused, unsure if he can even tell Ray what he did.

“Todd, you can trust me. Why does this dream terrify you?”

“Because in the dream, things happened that changed me. I’m scared of that ‘me’. The one from the dream. Things occurred in that reality, things I don’t want to relive, but they won’t go away. What if they are going to happen just like this ring.” Todd looked down at his hand. If the dream was correct, he still wasn’t free of the implants. The implants, the ring they were tangible evidence the dream was more than a fantasy.

The coincidence surrounding the ring was a little disconcerting, but it wasn’t unheard of for people to get little DejaVu moments. “Todd, just because you saw the ring in your dream before Blair gave it to you, doesn’t mean other things from the dream are going to come true.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Ray. You remember those implants that have been removed, I think I still have some pieces left inside me.”

“What makes you think so?” Ray felt a small shiver run down his spine. He was a little afraid of the answer Todd was going to give him.

“In my dream, we discovered that pieces of the implant were still inside my brain and beginning to shift. They began affecting my movements. Ray, I had no control over my hand back there in the bar.” Todd stared bleakly ahead. “Ray, here’s another thought. What if all this is a dream? How do I know I’m not lying in a bed in Savannah?”

Ray glanced sharply at his friend, where the hell had that thought come from. Well, that put a new spin on things. “Todd, I think that’s going to the extreme. I know this dream has you worried, but you don’t seriously believe it could be real. Pal, you’re not dreaming. Look at your hand. That’s real blood. I think you need some sleep. You’re making things worse by avoiding it.”

“Aren’t you listening, Ray? I can’t go to sleep! I know if I go to sleep, I’m going to wake up in Savannah and Blair will be gone. If I lose her, it’s over for me.” Todd slammed his fist down on the dashboard. His hand was killing him, but all he could hear in his head was Blair’s scream as Daimler’s men took her away.

Ray pulled into the emergency parking lot and brought the car to a halt. There it was, the truth behind Todd’s mental state. Blair. Todd was afraid of losing her, and from the sound of it, he had done just that in the dream. Ray knew now wasn’t the time to delve into it, it was clearly a subject that was going to require something more than a drink and a talk. “Todd, take it easy. I can see you’re upset, but let’s get the hand taken care of.”

Todd’s head had begun pounding and he didn’t respond to Ray. Larry had said he would experience headaches for awhile, but this was no ordinary migraine. His whole head felt like it was in a vise. Suddenly a sharp pain ripped through the back of his head and Todd instinctively reached for his head. He felt a shock run through his hand as the ring sparked. The pains eased up instantly and Todd looked at his ring as another ripple of fear washed through him. He glanced over at Ray and saw the same concern and fear written all over his face. Todd took a deep breath to steady his nerves and wearily exited the car.

“My God Todd, what was that?” Ray couldn’t believe what he had just seen. One minute Todd had been in a great deal of pain and then the electrical spark had briefly lit the interior of the car. Todd’s pain had evaporated with the spark, but Todd had reacted to the whole thing like it had happened before. That had been scary. Todd was beginning to resign himself to these strange occurrences.

Todd looked back at him as they entered the emergency room. “That was nothing, just part of a dream.” He was tired and he didn’t know how much longer he could stay awake. Maybe Ray was right. he needed to sleep but how could he do it without dreaming. Even if he did manage to get some sleep, what guarantee did he have that the dream would go away.

Ray was able to get Todd into triage quickly, and as the nurse began cleaning the cut and removing any pieces of glass still left in Todd’s hand, he went in search of Larry. When he found Larry he gave him a quick rundown on the events and then followed Larry back to the room where Todd waited.


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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Chasing the Monsters: 64

"Now let's get everything ready," Bitsy said, corralling the children into the family room.  "Sam, you have the painting?"

"Yep, right here, Grandma Bitsy."


"Good.  Ray, did you pick up all your toys?"


"Yes.  All picked up!"


"Jewel, looking pretty as ever?" she said to the little girl in Sister Rebecca Katherine's arms.


Jewel just nodded.


"Perfect.  Then where's Jack?"


"On the phone, again," Sam said, disgusted.


"Well, Jack is very close to Jenna, Sam.  She's his very best friend," the nun said.


"Oh no, she's not, she's his chick," Sam said, loudly.


"Oh, well, that too," the nun said.  "What shall we make for the dinner, then?"


"Pizza!"  Sam said.  "We have those big ones in the freezer."


"Macawoni and Cheese," Ray said.


"That's all you eat!"  Sam chastised.   "What about that pork chops thing, Sister?"


"Oh, Dear, not that.  The smell might drive y'ar parents away!  Remember?  Y'ar father couldn't stop poking fun at me for that one."


"Yeah, true.  I guess it's going to be the pizza?"


"Unless we can think of something else."


"Yay!  I love the pizza.  Dad does, too."


"Well, if he loves it, we should make sure he gets it," the nun added.


Bitsy went into the kitchen, and Sister Rebecca Katherine left Sam and Ray to tend to the family room.  She followed her friend, and said, "Bea, what is wrong, Dear?"


"It's nothing.  I'm just so thankful that Blair was able to . . . help Todd."


"She has that way about her, she does."


"He needs her.  Sister, I wish I could change everything."


"Oh, now, not everything.  Look at this beautiful family."


"Sister, I've . . . made so many mistakes."


"Dear, that's behind ya.  We all make them."


"Mine were so  . . . bad.  Oh, Sister, what if Todd had gone there and killed that man?"


"He didn't, Dear Heart.  And that is all."


***

"Oh, Todd, there's the house," Blair said, from the copter, as if she'd never seen it.


"I know."


"I can't believe how good it feels to be back here."


"I get it.  Me, too."


"It just feels so . . . familiar and good, doesn't it?"


He nodded, and kissed the top of her head.  He'd opted for both of them wearing headsets.  He said, "Anyplace I am with you and those kids, I feel good."


"I know, I do.  But something about being home.  I don't think we should move, do you?  Remember we talked about it, and then we never talked about it again?"


"Yeah, I guess we can stay.  Sam seems to have defeated his demon, and I'm glad it's not . . . anything like mine was, Babe."


"No.  It's all right.  And he has a strong and loving father, Todd.  You never did.  Whatever monsters he faces, he has that."


Todd let the words she said reverberate in his soul.  He teared up at the thought that her words could be true, and that it could be about him.   


Could I be that for someone else?


The copter landed, and they disembarked, using the master bedroom entrance, each of them carrying packages filled with gifts, and Todd also carrying the small duffel bag Blair had used as an overnight, and the backpack he'd used himself.  They got into their room, set down the gifts, and before they had a chance to let everyone know to come up, a stampede of feet made their way up the staircase.


"Ah, y'ar here!  The children are so excited to see ya!" the nun said, appearing at the door.


She was followed within seconds by Ray, pushing past her skirts and running toward them, "Daddy!  Mommy!" and jumping toward Todd, who was ready to catch him, and scooped him up, hugging him.


"Hi, Mom!" Sam said, rushing to her and they embraced.  Bitsy came next, carrying Jewel, who was clapping, as customary.  


"Mommy!" Jewel said.


"Hi, Baby Girl!  See your Daddy?"


"Daddy!" she said, and her voice was so clear, both Todd and Blair looked at each other in mild surprise.


He put Ray down and reached for his daughter.  "Hey, there.  Mommy and I brought you presents."


She clapped again, and Ray, running around looking in all the bags said, "Pwesents?"


"Yep.  Lots of them.  We'll open them later tonight," Blair said.


"It's Family Night, I decree!"  Todd said, and Jack, who just entered the room, rolled his eyes a little.


"Hey, King Manning," Jack joked, and walked to his father and mother and embraced them.


"King Manning," Todd said.  "Has a nice ring to it, and nothing seems more true right now."


"Can Jenna come?  She was already planning on coming over," Jack asked.


"Sure," Todd said, "The more loyal subjects the better."


"Oh, Todd," Blair elbowed him.  


"Well, let's get to our homework, so we can be ready for Family Night,"  Todd instructed.


"What homework?  It's Friday, Dad!"  Sam said, as Todd picked him up.  Their hug was particularly long, and Sam said, over Todd's shoulder, "Dad, I'm sorry."


Todd patted Sam's back.  "For what?  You have nothing to be sorry for.  I'm sorry I lost my head and ran out that way."


"Nah, I'm sorry for the stuff you have in your head," Sam said.


Todd looked at Blair, and said, "Nothing up there but you, and your mother, and your brothers and sisters.  That's all."


"And Grandma Bitsy and Sister Rebecca Katherine?"  Sam asked.


"Yeah, them too," he said.


"Yeah, Gramma Bitty and Sister Webby," Ray said.


"Sister Webby is me new moniker," the nun said.


"It's kind of cute," Blair said, smiling.


"Oh, it sure is.  Now, children, let's get back downstairs, we have some things to do before Family Night starts, don't we?"  The nun said.


Todd handed Jewel off to Jack.  "All right, listen to Sister Webby, will ya?"


A series of yeses were heard, as they all went out.  


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