Viki smiled briefly and walked out leaving Todd alone with Sophia. Todd didn’t know how, but he suspected RJ Gannon knew something about Téa’s kidnapping and he was determined to prove it. After all, it wouldn’t surprise him if Gannon went after him like how Todd went after Gannon when RJ was seeing Téa. Damn, that Sophia had sharp instincts. He turned around and walked back to the window, glazing out of the corner, sure not to reveal too much of his face. Sophia stood there by the door, unsure of what to do or say next, only knowing that somehow her presence in the room brought him a sense of comfort.


A few days later…

He stepped off the plane, walked confidently down the runaway and waltzed into the busy airline terminal. He looked around as if expecting someone to meet him. He briefly looked down at the briefcase he was carrying, full of money that would begin a new chapter in his life.

“RJ! RJ!! Over here!!” came a female voice. Her exotic features were accented by an expensive business suit.

Without breaking a stride, he approached her, “Roseanne. Roseanne Delgado. I didn’t know if you would come.”

“Well, I gave your proposal a lot of thought and I decided…to invest in your venture,” she said. She looked up into RJ Gannon’s eyes but she saw nothing there. Just emotionless, cold eyes.

“Good, I’m glad. Shall we?” he motioned with his hand smoothly.

“We shall. Come with me RJ. I want to show you something,” grinned Roseanne.

RJ smirked and followed his companion out of the airport.


The Park
That afternoon…

Viki had taken Starr to the park. It was a warm and sunny for an April day. Starr was excited to be spending time with her Auntie Viki. Viki was pushing Starr on the swings and Starr was giggling and laughing. Viki had made an effort to spend more time with Starr and at the request of Todd, she had brought Starr to the park today. In the bushes, hidden from view, Todd watched his daughter, longing so much to reveal himself to her but holding back, afraid that he would put his young daughter in jeopardy. His arm was out of it’s sling and had healed nicely. He was still staying in that dingy apartment on Main Street. Often, Sophia would stop by and recently they’d taken to sharing hamburgers Sophia would bring over in the evening after the academy. Sophia would pass messages to Viki and just yesterday, she brought him a new pair of jeans and a t-shirt. It wasn’t much but he did appreciate it.

As he watched his daughter giggle while Viki pushed her, his thoughts drifted to Sophia. She hadn’t discussed her family nor did he know where Sophia lived. And to his surprise, he found out her was interested in getting to know more about her.

Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder and defensively turned around, ready to strike.

Sophia held up her arm and Todd pulled back.

“What the fuck are you doing sneaking up on me like that?!” he hissed keeping the volume of his voice low.

“Chill out,” replied Sophia kneeling down next to Todd, dressed in jeans and a leather jacket, “Look, I knew you would be here and well, it just so happens I made a very important acquisition at work today.”

Todd was curious, “What?”

Sophia dug into her pockets and held up a small, round object.

“It’s a bug,” she grinned, “Now we can bug RJ Gannon’s apartment.”

Todd was impressed, “Isn’t work going to miss it?”

Sophia made a face and shrugged her shoulders, “ I don’t think so. No one saw me take it.”

“That you know of,” said Todd crossing his arms.

“Whatever,” said Sophia, “Look, now is the perfect time to plant this in RJ’s apartment. I just came from the diner where RJ and Roseanne Delgado are eating.”

“Téa’s niece…” whispered Todd. He became quiet as his thoughts drifted to his kidnapped mate.

“Yeah. Roseanne’s pretty chummy with RJ. C’Mon…” said Sophia insistently.

Todd took one last quick look at his innocent daughter and left with Sophia.


Carlotta’s Diner…

Antonio Vega leaned up against the counter and watched RJ Gannon and Roseanne Delgado discuss something while they ate. And he wanted to know what but every time he went over to the table to serve them, they got very quiet. Something wasn’t right. Sophia, his partner at the academy, couldn’t be found after duty and now suddenly, RJ and Roseanne were best friends.

The door opened and Antonio noticed an old “friend” from his gang days show up, Manuel Cruz. Manuel approached the counter and appeared very nervous.

“Tonio, dude, I gotta’ talk to you…” he whispered.

“Manny…it’s been ages…” grinned Antonio deciding to humor himself.

“Hush!! Will you!! Look, I gotta show you something. Come with me…”

Very curious, Antonio called for his mother and told her he was leaving with Manuel. RJ and Roseanne didn’t appear to notice Antonio’s disappearance.


RJ’s apartment…

Sophia picked the lock to RJ’s apartment and Todd followed her inside, amazed at every new talent she displayed. It was dark as the setting sun cast long shadows over the living room. Todd walked to the bookcase, studying the books, surprised to notice Machevelli’s ”The Prince”. It appeared to have been read recently. He went through RJ’s music, lots of jazz CD’s and then finally he noticed a small picture frame lying face down on the shelf. He turned it over to look at it. RJ and Téa. And she was smiling. He put it down. His loins ached for her. For knowledge of her.

“Getting sentimental?” asked Sophia.

Todd turned to discover Sophia planting the bug on the back of a picture frame that was hanging on the wall.

“Don’t you think he’ll find it there?!” said Todd crossing his arms.

“Well, I learned at the academy the phone is the first place the bad guys check,” said Sophia with a grin.

“The picture frame will be fine,” said Todd.

“The thing is, you can only listen in from 500 feet away…” said Sophia finishing up.

“Oh? What’s the point of having it then?” questioned Todd.

“There is a broom closet down the hall,” she said, “We can hide in there to listen to the bug.”

“Oh great,” muttered Todd.

“Look, how else are you gonna’ find out if RJ had anything to do with your woman’s kidnapping? C’Mon, I know a bar on the wrong side of the tracks in my old neighborhood. Let’s go get a beer. Trust me. No one, and I mean no one will recognize us.” She said.

It had felt good for Todd to get out of that stifling room and suddenly he felt the appeal of Sophia’s offer. It had been a long time since he had enjoyed a beer. Todd cocked his head signaling his was interested and they left.


Later that evening
RJ’s apartment…

RJ’s mood had changed when he left the diner. As he drove to his apartment, he got a phone call from an associate, Javier Lopez, demanding more money if RJ wanted his merchandise back. RJ was livid. Fist, they had said his “merchandise” was gone and now they were dangling “it” in front of him like a carrot. Two-timing double-crossing bastards, thought RJ. He walked into his apartment, threw down his briefcase and reached for his scotch, drinking straight from the bottle. He didn’t have the kind of money they wanted and it would take close to six months for his business with Roseanne to even begin making that money. He slouched on his couch and stewed. Who had that kind of money? He only knew of two people. Asa Buchanan and Todd Manning. And Todd Manning had practically disappeared from the face of the Earth – like she had.


”The Bucket O’ Thirst” bar
South Llanview…

Manuel took Antonio to one of the old bars they used to frequent, confident that no one would discover them there. They took a small booth in the corner and Manuel nervously ordered them two beers.

“What’s got you so worked up Manny?” asked Antonio seriously, crossing his arms.

“I was working a deal Tonio and it went sour…in a really big way…” began Manny looking around, making sure he didn’t recognize anyone.

“Hey you should know, I’m in the police academy. There are some things…you might not want to tell me, kapise?” Antonio said honestly.

“Nah…I wanna tell you ‘cos you a cop. Maybe you can help me get outta’ this mess…” said Manny. The waitress brought their beer and Manny paid for it. Then he began to dig into his pockets as Antonio looked on, confused.

Manny held up a ring. It was a woman’s engagement right and he gave it to Antonio. Antonio studied it and noticed tiny initial engraved on the band. “TD” and “TM”.


“You knew the chick. Téa Delgado.”

Antonio’s face was wracked with confusion. Didn’t Téa leave town last February?

Just then, Sophia and Todd walked into the bar.


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