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Diversion

Chapter Text

Pauses

"I can't believe you asked Rex to ..." Her voice trailed off. "Bo, don't you trust me?"

"Of course I trust you, Red. It's him that I didn't trust. And now it seems I have a good reason not to. Look at his rap sheet, will you? ... All the time he was going around town with you in tow, calling himself 'Tad, just Tad', he was keeping secrets from you. Like that he had been in jail ... that he had assaulted a police officer ... that he had tied up a man and threw him in a dumpster ... that he'd blackmailed people ... was a suspect in several murder cases ... buried a man alive which resulted in that man's death ... And on top of it all, he neglected to tell you he grew up five blocks from you in Chicago and went to the same elementary school that you did... Obviously I had good reasons not to trust him."

Nora sighed as she roughly shoved aside the mountain of evidence staring back at her from her desk. "Tad, just Tad" wasn't really just Tad at all. He wasn't just some random stranger who popped up in town after the Pine Valley fires. She had thought from the beginning of his arrival in Llanview that he seemed familiar to her but he'd always sidestepped the question when she'd ask about his past. And now she knew his real name. Thaddeus James Gardner aka Tad Martin. All his personal shames and offenses were staring at her in the face but still, she couldn't help but think that this situation wasn't as simply black and white as it seemed. Still, she had to know why he couldn't just tell her who he was from the first time they had happened to "bump" into each other in The Palace's dining room. That probably had been no accident now that she thought of it.

"Obviously he's a con artist," Bo went on. "And a good one if he got you believing he was just a nice guy."

"I'm not simple-minded, Bo," Nora said. "I now know he had a reason for lying about who he was ... But things aren't always so obviously cut and dry - no matter what you think."

"Don't get mad at me, Red," Bo said, resting his large hands on his hips. "I thought I was protecting you by having Rex research him and now I know my gut instinct was right. This Thaddeus Gardner or whoever the hell he is cannot be up to anything good."

Nora pursued her lips before nodding. "Maybe you're right," she allowed.

"Maybe?"

"Yes maybe. It could have been a malicious thing but yet, it just doesn't seem like he would do this to hurt me."

"We don't know him well enough to know that, Nora. I don't trust him."

"Because you're jealous."

"Should I be jealous?" Bo asked, lifting an eyebrow.

"Bo Buchanan, if you are asking if I have romantic feelings for-"

"I take it back," Bo said. "I'm sorry. But who wouldn't be jealous when they have a wife who looks as amazing as you do?"

Nora reached out and thumbed his stubbly cheek. "You're sweet-talking me."

"Never," Bo teased and lightly kissed her before resting his forehead against hers. "What are we going to do with this information about Thaddeus or whatever he's calling himself these days?"

"We do nothing. You stay calm and watch your blood pressure. I'll talk to him on my terms."

"Red -"

"C'mon, Bo, I'll have him come down to my office. You're just a door away if he tries anything. Which he won't. I know him well enough to know he's not a danger to me or anyone else."

"Tell that to the guy he buried alive..."

"Bo..."

"Be careful, sweetheart."

"I will."

XoXoXo

As soon as Bo had left her office, she phoned Tad and asked him to meet her at the station. She said she really needed to see him. He joked that wild horses couldn't keep him away.

Fifteen minutes later, he showed up and after receiving a cursory harsh look from her husband in the hallway, tapped on her door.

"Come in," she called.

He pushed back the door and started inside when he noticed the expression on her face that said, "Why - why did you do this?".

He paused in the entryway.

"You know," he said.

"Yes, I know," Nora said. "I know you're little Thaddeus Gardner from the block... But what I don't know is ... Why you lied about it in the first place. Explain yourself. Now."

Chapter Text

Honesty

He sighed as he slipped into the chair across from hers. "Where do you want me to start?"

"You can start by being honest. Tell me why you lied to me."

"I never actually lied to you," he said. "I simply ..."

"Omitted the truth," Nora put in. "That's still considered a lie from where I'm sitting."

"Well I guess I can see your point of view. I just hope you'll see mine too and not throw the baby out with the bath water."

"You're a criminal, Thaddeus -"

"Tad."

"Whatever you go by... My husband has files on you and -"

"So your husband researched me huh?" Tad asked. "I should have guessed."

"He didn't trust you."

"Hey, I wouldn't trust me either," Tad admitted. "If I had a wife as pretty as you -"

"Don't try to butter me up," Nora snapped. "Just start talking. Why did you not tell me who you really were? I had a right to know."

"Nora, this town is currently crawling with former Pine Valley dwellers. If you really wanted to know the truth about me, you would have simply asked one of them."

"What are you implying?"

"Nothing. But Liza Colby did tell me she had lunch with you the other day. You could have asked her about me then."

"You're checking up on who I have meals with?"

"No. But I do know you're her opposing counsel on that imposter case I keep hearing about all over the news. Liza mentioned you in passing. It's not a crime."

"Fraud is."

"Oh you legal eagle, you," Tad joked. Then he straightened in his seat. "Really my intentions are not all that sinister. I just didn't want to have to explain what happened in all the years we haven't seen each other."

"So you are admitting you knew who I was before you approached me at The Palace?"

Tad nodded and smirked too. "Sure. Those eyes, that smile, THAT hair! I'd know Nora Hanen anywhere - even without that mole you used to have on your left cheek."

"I did not have a mole."

"A beauty mark then."

"It was removed. My mother's choice," Nora said briskly. "But whatever. It still doesn't excuse what you did."

"Maybe it doesn't but you have to admit while I was 'just Tad', you had a hell of a time getting to know me. I kept you in stitches. I wasn't that ugly, gap-toothed, bruised up kid from the old neighborhood to you this time. The one who tried to steal kisses from you outside in the school yard every time I got the chance. And was rejected every time might I add."

"I didn't reject you, Tad. I was nine years old. You don't start a romance at that age."

"So then it had nothing to do with your mom saying you should stay away from that 'Gardner kid'? The one with the crazy old man? Not that I would have blamed any of you - Ray was a piece of work."

Nora sighed. "My mother ... How did you know she said that?"

"Everyone's Mom said it, Nora. No one wanted their kids around someone with my DNA. As I said, I can't blame them or you or anyone."

"Well it had nothing to do with DNA or anything of the sort. I really was too young but Tad, Thaddeus, whatever you want to be called, I did like you as a friend. And even if my mother told Susannah and I to stay away from you, I never really would have. In fact, it broke my heart when you upped and disappeared the way you did. I looked for you at the corner of Wilmount Boulevard every single day where we used to meet on the way to school and you stopped coming. And when I asked your teacher, they said they didn't know where you and your family went either. It haunted me."

"I'm sorry," Tad said. "It haunted me too. Ray ended up dumping me in a park in Pine Valley. A man named Jeff Martin found me. Jeff's Dad and Mom ended up adopting me. I was a stubborn little pothead but they never once tried to dump me. Even after Ray raped my adoptive mother because she wouldn't give him money for me, they didn't dump me."

Nora covered her mouth. "Oh, Tad ..."

"Don't feel sorry for me, Nora. Thanks to them, I've had a pretty rich life. I have made a lot of mistakes - check your files; I am sure they're all listed in there in very vivid detail - but my life ... I don't really regret any of it. I do feel badly though if I hurt you somehow but I just didn't want to be that Thaddeus you once knew. I wanted to be anyone but him for you."

"Tad ..."

"You can tell your husband all this and he can check that out too."

"He was worried about me."

"I would be too. As I said, if I had a wife like you I wouldn't let another man in breathing distance of her."

"You had a wife. Actually a few of them according to these files..."

"Oh yeah," Tad said. "I was a cad. Tad the Cad in fact was my nickname during my young adult years. I'll have to regal you with those stories someday too. Provided you let me. Provided I haven't ruined our chance to be friends."

Nora stared at him long and hard, debating whether to believe him. But ultimately, she realized she had always known that he wasn't trying to hurt her. She could tell he was one of the good guys despite his criminal record.

She finally nodded. "You haven't ruined that ... exactly. We can try to be friends. Just be honest with me. Please. Or my husband will hurt you."

Tad nodded. "Somehow I don't doubt that. Not at all."

Chapter Text

Imposter

“Ms. Colby, Todd Manning is here to see you,” Liza’s new assistant announced, poking her head in the door. Martha Burns was a petite, mousy woman who kept her honey-blonde hair perpetually wound in a too-neat bun atop her head. She was efficient and hardworking though and Liza appreciated that in a P.A. Starting a new life in a new town was hard enough without having to worry about having a shitty employee too.

Liza nodded. “Tell him to come in.”

Martha started to turn and invite Todd into the office but he was already pushing through the door, nearly toppling little Martha in the process. She screeched and then ran from the room.

Liza looked at the man standing before her. “You’re not the Todd Manning I was expecting.”

The man shrugged dismissively and slid into the chair across from her. He immediately reached for the dish of hard candies she kept on her desk. He unwrapped a lemon one and popped it into his mouth, crunching it loudly and obnoxiously.

“Why are you here, T.M.?” Liza asked. “You even being here is an extreme conflict of interest considering I am representing -”

“The imposter,” he said. “The fake Todd Manning. The man who stole away eight years of my life.” He traced the hook shaped scar on his face for a moment. “I still can’t believe anyone would think that guy was me...”

“Yes, well, if you came here to disparage my client, I am afraid you’re wasting your time.”

“Actually there’s another reason I came here today... I want you to drop his case like a flaming hot turd.”

Liza arched a perfectly shaped eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

“Drop him, Liza. Can I call you Liza?”

“No.”

“Okay, Liza it is,” he said. “I think its in your best interests to drop his case.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you threatening me?”

He scoffed. “Oh hardly. If I was, you’d know it. I’d do it with a lot more ... panache too. No, I am actually offering you a very lucrative deal. You will drop his case and in return, I will pay you lots and lots of money.” He withdrew his check book from the pocket of his suit jacket. “How much would you like? I am prepared to put a lot of zeros on this. It means a lot to me that -”

“No sale.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. No sale. As in, no way in hell. Your brother hired me first and I intend to see this through.”

“He stole my life! You have no qualms about representing that imposter? Its down right ... unscrupulous.”

“‘Unscrupulous’ says the man who was going to write me a big check to cast my client aside.”

“Touche,” Todd said. He reached for another candy in the dish, this time a green lime one. He unwrapped it as he watched her. “Five million.”

“No sale,” Liza said again in exasperation. “I am not only going to try this case, I am going to win it.”

“Confidant, are we? What do you know that I don’t?”

She rolled her eyes. “As if I would tell you.” She waved in the direction of the door. “Now feel free to see yourself out.”

“Dismissing me? Real classy, Liza,” he said in a low voice. He then reached into her candy dish and took a whole handful, giving her smug look. “This isn’t over,” he vowed and then walked out.

Liza shook her head. She had heard that man was a crazy one but she had never seen his brand of insanity up close before. He really was something else. She sighed and was reaching for the phone when Martha poked her timid head into the office again.

“Ms. Colby, Todd Manning is here.”

“I thought I told him to leave.”

“No, the other Todd Manning,” Martha said, nibbling her thin bottom lip. She then darted from the office as the decidedly blond Todd came waltzing in.

“Liza,” he said, taking the seat the scar-faced Todd had just vacated.

“Todd one or is it Todd two?” she murmured. She was having a hell of a time keeping them straight. They were incredibly different men, especially in looks, but that they both claimed to be the same man was giving her a huge headache.

“I’m the only Todd,” he said.

“Well the other one - the one who was calling himself ‘T.M.’ for awhile - was just here.”

“Really? What the hell did he want?” He asked. “No, let me guess. The bastard wanted to use my money to bribe you to drop my case.”

“Yes. Its kind of eerie how well you two get each other.”

Todd shook his head. “Well we’re going to prove that I’m the real Todd and that he’s the fraud. The fact that he’s trying to prosecute me for ‘stealing’ his life is laughable... Anyway, did you agree to drop my case?”

“No. I told him off actually.”

“That’s a good girl. I’ll deal with that wannabe later. For now I have something else on my mind.”

“I am afraid to ask...”

He sighed. “Look, there is a reason I hired you to represent me and not my wife Tea."

“I figured as much. Are you going to tell me why that is now?” Liza asked, tucking a strand of her copper-red hair behind her ear.

“I knew if she found out what I was hiding she would freak out and she did.”

“I’m not following...”

“I’ve been hiding a woman from my past out in the pool house at my place for some time.”

Liza smiled thoughtfully. “Well I can see why she would ‘freak out’.”

He rolled his eyes. “We haven’t been doing anything but Tea would never understand ...the connection I have to this woman. She especially doesn’t get it after everything Marty has done lately.”

“Marty... As in Marty Saybrooke? The woman who -”

“The woman I raped, yes,” he said and his voice sounded somber. “I’m not proud of what I did in college. I owe it to her to try to make up for all the pain I’ve caused her.”

“She’s currently wanted for a multitude of crimes from what I’ve read in the newspaper...”

“I know... Tea found me with her today.”

“With you? As in -”

“No. I can’t say that hasn’t crossed my mind but I know Marty will never forgive me for the things I’ve done to her.”

“So what does this have to do with me?” Liza asked, picking up a pencil and squeezing it lightly between her fingers.

“Well my ‘dear’ wife had Marty hauled off to jail. Marty needs someone to represent her and since you’re representing me...”

“You’re hoping for what - a two-for-one kind of deal?”

“No. I am prepared to pay top dollar as I have already been doing. Your services will be rewarded.”

“It won’t be easy to win her case,” Liza said as she tapped her plump lips with the pencil. “But I always did like a challenge.”

“Good because I know Tea won’t represent her. She’s actually hellbent on seeing both of us fry now. That’s why I hired you against her wishes - because I knew once she found out about Marty she was going to turn full-on bitch.”

“You talk about your wife so lovingly,” Liza said facetiously.

“I do love her. She just has to understand Marty will always be important to me and I can’t and won’t ever walk away from her...” Todd sighed. “So you are taking the case?”

“Yes, I suppose so. High profile cases are sort of my forte.”

“Good because we need to haul ass to the police station right now and get her prepped for her bail hearing.”

Liza nodded and grabbed her gray suit jacket off the back of her chair. “What are we waiting for?”