A short while later, Todd pulled into the emergency room bay at the Pine Valley Hospital. He was being chased by several police cars, who pulled in behind him. The officers emerged from their cars with guns drawn. Todd stepped out of his car with his hands raised. “Officers, there is no need for the guns. My brother is seriously injured, and I needed to get him here a quick as possible. I’ll be glad to answer your questions if you’ll let my wife get him some help.”
Blair peered from the car. She watched as an officer came to the door his gun still trained on Todd. He opened the door and looked in. Victor was struggling to breathe, and his color was off.
The officer lowered his gun “You may step out, Mam.” He helped Blair from the car. “You go with that officer. I need to have a few more words with your husband.”
Blair looked at Todd, reluctant to leave him, but he nodded and she hurried through the ER doors to get help. In seconds, a gurney was outside the door, and the officer that had been with Blair emerged along with a couple of orderlies. They soon had Victor on it and were wheeling it into the hospital. Todd and Blair spent the next few minutes explaining how they had found Todd’s brother badly beaten and brought him to the hospital.
The officer, who had waylaid Todd, now asked. “So you just found him like that? You didn’t see who did that to him?”
Blair and Todd both replied “No.” Luckily, the officer chose not to pursue the matter further. He gave Todd a ticket for speeding and went to find the doctor to check on Victor’s condition.
Blair looked at Todd, then whacked his shoulder. “Are you crazy? You almost got yourself killed by those guys. Why didn’t you just stop when they tried to pull you over?”
Todd rubbed his shoulder. “You said to hurry, and I meant it when I said I had to get Victor someplace still alive. You were with him in the backseat. You know he wasn’t waking up. I figured once they saw him they’d drop the reckless endangerment charges.”
“Todd, we just lied to the police. This story is going to come out sometime, and they’re not going to be too happy with us.” Blair stopped. Just thinking about how much more trouble they might be in, was giving her a headache. She sat down and began rubbing her head carefully.
Todd dropped to his haunches beside her. “What’s the matter? They did hurt you, didn’t they? I want you checked out.”
“Todd, I told you I’m all right. It’s just a headache. I can hear Bo now, he’ll be reading us the riot act for going it alone again.”
“I don’t give a damn. If he and Nora hadn’t been so intent on pointing their fingers at me, maybe Victor could have been found sooner, and you wouldn’t have been taken.” Todd sat down next to Blair and pulled her into his arms. As she rested her head on his shoulder, his free hand reached for her temple, and his fingers gently began to massage her forehead. “Blair, when that call came into my office, it was Deja Vu all over again. I kept hearing Mitch’s voice taunting me. Back then I was desperate for you to let me back into your life. I got a little crazy and ended up bungling everything. When Calmar got on the line, I vowed that this time I would do it right.”
She hugged him. “I remembered that time too, but this time I knew things were different. We’ve both changed a lot in the last eight years, but one thing has remained constant in my life. I never stopped loving you. The last few days brought all of those feelings surging to the top, and for the first time in a long time, I knew you were there for me no matter what.” She moved her head to listen to his heart. “Yes, it’s still there. For years, you tried you so hard to make people think you didn’t have one, but I knew it was there from the start. Just like I knew you would do anything to make me happy the night we made Starr. I’m happy, Todd, and you did that. Your love makes me happy.” She snuggled deeper into his hold and rested against him. She felt the gentle touch of his lips against the top of her head and smiled to herself. She was home where she belonged.
Todd held her and knew the minute she nodded off. He had noticed the bruising on her face and temple. It was obvious she had been hit or had hit something, and he was going to make sure she got looked at. He heard a commotion at the entrance to the Emergency room and from his vantage point, he saw three familiar figures come into the room. One was nursing a shoulder wound and the other two looked like they had been rolling around on asphalt. It was their attire he recognized. They were Calmar’s men. His reporter’s mind wanted to know what had happened. They had been fine when he had pulled away from the exchange site. Who or what had attacked them and why? Not wanting to disturb Blair, he sat there just observing the ruckus. Then he saw Officer Brody walk in with several other gentlemen in law enforcement. Their eyes connected, and Brody gave him a look, then turned his attention to the three prisoners.
“What’s Brody doing here?” Blair said.
Todd looked down to her. “I haven’t the foggiest. But if I were to take a guess, I think he was following me. I also think he’s the reason Calmar’s men look so beat up.”
“You mean you didn’t order Baker to do that?”
“Hell no! When did I have time to order Baker to do anything? His orders were to keep Calmar pinned down and keep him on the defensive until we were out of there. Then he was to leave. If Brody was following me, he must have attempted to capture Calmar and his men after we left.”
“I don’t see Calmar here. Do you think he got away?”
“Possibly. He did have a plane standing by. He’s the least of my worries right now. I wonder what Brody told the cops?”
“If you’re right, he saw the whole exchange. They’re not coming over here, maybe he left your name out of it.”
“Maybe? But it won’t be long before he contacts Bo if he hasn’t already. The minute Bo arrives he’s going to want answers. For the time being I hope they leave us alone.” Just then the ER doctor who had been in with Victor came out. Todd stood up and moved to him. “How’s my brother?”
“Your brother appears to have sustained numerous blows to his upper body and they broke a couple of ribs. One of the ribs punctured his lung, causing it to collapse. We’re preparing him for surgery to remove the rib and inflate the lung. He will need complete bed rest for at least a couple more weeks, but he’s going to be all right.”
“Is he awake?”
“Yes, you may see him but keep it short. We’ll be taking him to the OR soon.” The doctor started to leave.
Todd frowned when he saw Brody approach the doctor. Blair joined him and took his hand. “Let’s go see Victor, worrying about Brody and what he’s up to, won’t help anything.” She pulled Todd through the curtain and then stopped at Victor’s bedside.
Todd looked down at a man he had a one time hated. They were identical twins. and they would always have some connection because of that but that’s where it ended. “So, I’m waiting.”
Victor looked up. “For what?” he whispered.
“Your thanks.” Then Todd reached out mentally as he waited for an answer. It’s over Victor. You got your life back and I got mine. It ends here. You stole eight years of my life and I just saved yours. You owe me big time and I’m collecting. Have you got that?
Victor’s eyes narrowed. I hear you, but it’s not over. Still. “Thanks” he choked out just as the curtain was flung open. Todd and Blair stepped back, as a frantic Tea rushed forward and began touching Victor’s face. Todd saw Bo out in the hallway. He was deep in a discussion with John and Brody. The orderlies interrupted Tea’s reunion to take Victor to surgery. Todd and Blair watched as she walked alongside demanding answers and giving orders.
Blair tugged at Todd’s sleeve. “Let’s go, Todd. Tea’s here now and he’s going to make it.”
Before they could make their escape. Bo stopped them. “Hold on you two. I thought you learned your lesson when you attempted to trade Natalie for Blair. Do you realize you all could have been killed this time, Manning?”
Todd straightened his shoulders and turned to face Bo. “I knew exactly what I was facing and I decided it was worth the risk. Blair and Victor were going to be killed if I didn’t cooperate. Shit, I sent Louie to John. Since he’s here, I’m guessing you got the compound and everyone there. Your man Brody, over there, brought in the three who were holding Blair and Victor. I think everything went pretty smoothly actually.”
“You do know Calmar made his escape? Aren’t you worried he’ll try to get you again.”
“Calmar got what he’s been looking for. When he finds out you took down his organization, he’ll probably just disappear for a while. He’s all alone now. I’m betting the CIA will be looking for him. What’s to worry about?”
“Damn it, Manning, I should arrest you for that stunt you pulled night before last. But for now, I’d just like the name of the man who helped you out there today.”
“Don’t do that Manning. Brody said someone had Calmar targeted. He also said that same someone shot one of Calmar’s men before the guy could shoot him.”
“Sounds like whoever it was, did Brody a favor. Sorry Bo, I don’t know a thing about it.”
Bo was furious. He was used to Manning flagrantly ignoring the law, but he had no proof Manning had anything to do with the unknown shooter, and Brody never saw the man. He stopped and took a deep breath. “The doctors say Victor is going to make it. How about you Blair? Are you okay?”
“I’m dandy, Bo. I just want to go home.”
“I need an official statement from you, Blair. You were kidnapped”
“We’ll need your testimony to help convict these guys.”
“Fine, I’ll give my statement at your office, tomorrow. Don’t know how much good it will do you, I never saw anyone but the guy who took me to begin with.”
“Very well, tomorrow at my office. You’re not going to stick around until Victor is out of surgery.”
Blair looked at Todd, who shook his head no, and back at Bo. “We know he’s alive. I want to let the kids know before they see it on television. Now, can we go?”
Bo nodded. Brody, John and Bo watched as Todd and Blair left.
John turned to Bo. “ Manning might have saved Victor’s life, but I get the impression he’s still doesn’t feel all fuzzy for his brother.”
“I think you’re right. One son of Victor Lord Sr. was a headache, two will probably be the death of me. Nora is going to be fit to be tied after all this.” Bo saw the Pine Valley Police Chief walk into the ER. “Brody, arrange for the transfer of your three prisoners and then write up your report. Same goes for you, John. The CIA wants an update as soon as we can give it to them on that compound. Also, I want to talk to Louie tomorrow, too. Get him there, John. For now, I better fill Chief Hubbard in on what’s happened in the last 48 hrs. Then I’ll find out how soon we can get Victor transferred to Llanview Hospital. Tomorrow’s going to be another long day.”
Todd and Blair had headed home, but after Blair dozed off in mid-sentence, Todd took her to the ER at Llanview hospital, insisting they look at her.
After some x-rays and blood tests, the doctor returned with the results. “You sustained a minor concussion and your blood test revealed that there are still traces of a sedative in your system. You can go home, but someone will have to keep an eye on you tonight,” said the ER doctor as he faced Blair.
“I can do that. Is it okay for her to sleep?” Todd asked.
“Yes, but if you can’t rouse her. Get help immediately.” the doctor wrote on her chart and released her.
Blair had smiled to herself when Todd had gotten all protective of her. Now she sat in the car and looked at him. “Umm, just how are you going to keep an eye on me, tonight?’
“Easy, I’ll just spend what’s left of the night at La Boulaie. I let you out of my sight yesterday morning and you ended up kidnapped. If I have to, I’ll sneak in, but I’m staying, no arguments. We need to make a quick stop at the office and then I’ll take you home.”
Todd and Blair walked back into his office. She watched in surprised as Todd walked to his safe and opened it. He removed a small handgun from his pocket and put it away.
“I didn’t know you had that? You’re lucky the Cops didn’t know it either.”
“Well, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to use it. I stuffed it down under the car seat when I got out at the hospital.”
“Where do you think Calmar will go?”
“Don’t know, don’t care.”
“Now that he has the chip, it will be business as usual for him, won’t it?”
Todd stood there for a minute, then burst out laughing.
Blair sat up. “Why are you laughing? What Calmar and his guys were doing hurt a lot of people. I know you gave him the chip to save me, but I wish you could have avoided it. The truth should have come out. Now he’s gotten away with it.”
Todd moved to his desk. There on the monitor was the reason for his mirth. He turned to face Blair, grinning from ear to ear. “That‘s just it, Blair. The truth is already out there. I warned Calmar if he tried to double cross me, the secrets would come out. I meant to be back here earlier. Only my password was going to stop the leak. Don’t you get it?” Blair shook her head, bewildered. Todd turned the monitor so she could see what he saw. “The information went out over the net. Everything on the chip can be read by anyone. Joe Schmoe can read it, heck anyone in law enforcement or government, here or around the world, can read it.. Calmar is finished.”
Blair stood looking at the picture on the Monitor, that was playing over and over. A little bomb exploded and a skull appeared cackling “So Sorry!” Then she realized what Todd was telling her. She started giggling. and hugged him. “Looks like he got the same treatment Max got in the end. Nothing like one of Todd Manning’s cyber bombs to ruin your day.”
Todd chuckled and folded her close to his heart. There was only one thing left to do. “Blair, it’s over. I’ve been wanting to do this since I got home.” He reached into his top drawer and pulled out a small box. Going down on his knees, he opened the box and he looked up at her. “This time there are no secrets, no lies. All I have is me. I love you and I want you back. Mrs. Manning will you marry me?”
Blair looked down at Todd. He never failed to surprise her. With her heart filled with love, she gave him her answer. “Yes, I’ll marry you, Mr. Manning.”