Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Forty-four : Who is to blame?


“They’re digging a well at my mother’s house today,” the medical examiner said. “Is that a bribe?”

“Likely,” Pierre said with a chuckle.

The medical examiner laughed. He pointed to Pierre.

“You’re funny,” the medical examiner said.

“Overwhelmed,” Pierre said. “I tend to bluff through humor.”

“I bet,” the medical examiner said. “How are you going to get these bodies home?”

“I’m flying them to Denver,” Pierre said. “I’ll fly them home to France tomorrow.”

“And all of their crap?” the medical examiner asked.

“Crap?” Pierre asked.

“Gear, swords, armor,” the medical examiner said. “Knights-of-old crap.”

“It will come with me,” Pierre said.

“Can’t do it,” the medical examiner said. “It’s still a part of the investigation.”

“Then I’ll come back and get it,” Pierre said.

“Why you?” the medical examiner asked.

“My family is the weapons’ masters for the Templars,” Pierre said.

“That’s what I was looking for,” the medical examiner said. “I couldn’t figure out why you had to take care of all of this. Being a weapons’ master isn’t a high ranking position?”

“No,” Pierre said with a grin. “We took independence rather than status.”

“Why?” the medical examiner asked.

“My family has been making weapons since people first put rocks to metal,” Pierre said. “Movements come and go. Weapons are always in demand.”

“So you could make weapons for people on both sides of a fight?” the medical examiner asked.

“It has happened,” Pierre said.

“How’d you get here to the US?” the medical examiner asked.

“I married the princess,” Pierre said.

“Oh I see,” the medical examiner said with a chuckle. “You’re not only a low ranking member of this little club, you pissed off the head of the group.”

“The head of the group is sitting in a drawer back there,” Pierre said. “My guess is that he’s not pissed anymore. At least I hope not.”

The medical examiner rewarded Pierre with a quick smile at his joke. Recovering himself, the medical examiner looked down at the paperwork on his desk.

“You know all of these men to make the identifications?” the medical examiner asked.

“Grew up with most of them,” Pierre said. “As you can imagine, it’s a small club. Some were young …”

“Six under thirty,” the medical examiner said.

“My sister sent their pictures and identifying images,” Pierre said. “I may not have met them, but I know their parents.”

“Your sister,” the medical examiner said. “She knows everyone?”

Pierre nodded. The medical examiner looked at Pierre for a long moment.

“You get revenge on dear old dad?” the medical examiner asked.

“Not my style,” Pierre said. “Plus I was in Denver recovering from a hip replacement.”

Pierre gestured to the crutch next to his chair.

“If I’d known they were going to secretly attack my son’s partner and his family, I would have called the police at the very least,” Pierre said.

“And your son?” the medical examiner asked.

“He was in Denver with me,” Pierre said. “I am very protective over my son. If they had threatened him, then I might have been involved in protecting him. But he was safe and sound.”

Pierre shrugged.

“Yeah, I see that in you,” the medical examiner said.

“Plus, my son’s partner is my acupuncturist,” Pierre said. “I am dependent on him for pain relief.”

The medical examiner gave Pierre a blank look.

“Train explosion,” Pierre said.

The medical examiner looked like he was going to say something. Instead, he picked up the phone and dialed a number. He spoke in the phone in Navajo for a few minutes and set the receiver down.

“Let’s get through identification first,” the medical examiner said. “My son and a couple of his friends should be here by then. They’ll help you get these bodies to the airport.”

“What about Death Sickness?” Pierre asked.

“You a reader?” the medical examiner asked. “Tony Hillerman?”

Pierre nodded.

“Jim Chee was training to be a healer,” the medical examiner said.

“That’s true,” Pierre said.

“We don’t go in for that superstitious crap,” the medical examiner said. “I am a man of science.”

“I’m glad,” Pierre said with a smile.

“Plus, I hedge my bets by having a sing every year or so,” the medical examiner said. “Gets the family together. Makes my grandmother happy.”

Pierre grinned.

“So, don’t you worry,” the medical examiner said. “My son and his friends will be glad to help. I called Ganny before you arrived. He’s already brought a couple SUVs. A couple of his guys should be here soon.”

The medical examiner nodded.

“They couldn’t pass the drug test to work for the construction company,” the medical examiner said. “My son and his friends, too. They have to wait for their systems to clean out. This gives them something positive to do.”

Pierre’s eyes welled up. He gave a quick nod. The medical examiner stood up.

“One way or another, the Navajo Nation will get you and your family squared away,” the medical examiner said. “Don’t you worry. We know what it is to lose. We won’t fail you now.”

Pierre wiped his eyes.

“But first, we need to do the identifications,” the medical examiner said.

Pierre got up and followed the medical examiner into the building.

“They really try to kill you with a bomb on a train,” the medical examiner said. “Got Carlos the Jackal for it?”

“Me, my son,” Pierre said. “They killed my wife.”

“Families,” the medical examiner said, with a shake of his head.

Grinning at the back of the medical examiner’s head, Pierre couldn’t help but agree.


Thursday mid-day — 11:41 a.m.

Kayenta, Arizona, at the hotel on the Navajo Reservation

“Hi,” Hecate said as she came into the little hotel kitchen. “It’s Jeraine, right?”

Jeraine looked up at Hecate. He looked her up and down before scowling. He was mixing a bowl of brownies for the kids.

“Why do you look like our Tink?” Jeraine asked.

Taken back by his demand for an answer, Hecate opened and closed her mouth.

“Truth,” Jeraine said. “You her mother?”

“I cannot have children,” Hecate said.

Jeraine looked up at her quickly. He gave her a long look before nodding.

“I’m sorry,” Jeraine said.

“My parents were cousins,” Hecate said with a grin. “It’s probably a good thing.”

She laughed. Jeraine started pouring the brownie batter into a pan. Hecate reached out to hold the pan.

“Why are you here?” Jeraine asked. “I mean, I heard that you and Heather are friends, but I’ll tell you — Miss T and Heather are best friends. They’ve been together since they were kids. Miss T’s never met you.”

Hecate sighed. She gave him a long look.

“Everyone whispering about this?” Hecate asked.

“Pretty much,” Jeraine said.

Jeraine opened the oven door and started placing the pans into the oven. He looked up at her.

“You know that Heather and I are immortal,” Hecate said.

“So?” Jeraine asked. “The pastor at the Baptist Church in my neighborhood says that my soul is immortal.”

“You’re right,” Hecate said. “That’s not so different.”

“If you say so,” Jeraine said.

Jeraine close the oven and set a timer. He went to an electric kettle. He set a teabag in a mug and poured water over it. He gave Hecate the mug. She smelled the tea and grinned at him.

“How did you know?” Hecate asked.

“Heather loves this tea,” Jeraine said. “So does your dad.”

Hecate grinned. He looked around the small room until he found a jar of Delphie’s honey. He set it in front of her with a spoon.

Curious, she picked up the honey. She looked at it for a long moment before taking off the lid. She seemed to calm down. She smiled at him.

“Have you met Delphie yet?” Jeraine asked.

“The Oracle?” Hecate asked.

“Sure,” Jeraine said. “There are from her hives.”

“Nothing better than honey from happy hives,” Hecate said.

Hecate took out her teabag. She added a dollop of honey and then put the cup to her lips. After a moment, she looked at Jeraine.

“Let’s see …” Hecate said. “I look like Tink because I look like my mother. Tink looks like my mother because she is a descendant of one of my mother’s other children, her mortal children. Before you ask, He … uh … Heather did not adopt Tink because she looked like me or her mother. My mother has a lot of descendants. Heather knows that I cannot have children. And, my mother is not necessarily a good or nice person. Looking like her could easily mean that a child is a very bad person. Heather and Blane adopted Tink because she is a wonderful, beautiful person. She is worthy of their love and so much more.”

“Makes sense,” Jeraine said. “You don’t look like Mike or Jill …”

“Titan genes tend to overpower human genes,” Hecate said. “My father’s children with Anjelika look like him because of his genetic dominance. It’s true for all Titans who have children with mortals.”

“But not Greek Gods?” Jeraine asked.

“It’s more complicated for them,” Hecate said.

Jeraine wondered if he cared enough to ask.

“Heather has a child who looks like his father,” Hecate said. “She has a child who looks like Olympia. It is not because the first child’s father is dominant and Blane is not. Their looks are a mixture of both.”

“Oh, I get it,” Jeraine said. “Titans tend to just show their look but Greeks …”

“They are already a mixture,” Hecate said.

“Huh,” Jeraine said with a nod.

He started melting chocolate for frosting.

“You asked about why your wife, Tanesha, hasn’t met me,” Hecate said.

Jeraine looked up at her for a brief moment. He gave her a quick nod and returned to look at the chocolate.

“I will answer you if you tell me what you are making,” Hecate said.

“I’m making something called ‘brownies.’ They are a kind of chocolate cake that you can pick up with your hand,” Jeraine said. He imitated eating a brownie with his empty hand. She nodded. “It’s a real favorite for this family. Delphie, the one you call the Oracle, makes them almost every day. I wanted to have some ready for when the teenagers come back from work.”

“And now?” Hecate said. “Will you pour that on top?”

“This is chocolate,” Jeraine said. “It’s very bitter.”

Hecate walked to the pan and started to put the tip of her finger in the pan.

“No,” Jeraine said. “It’s hot.”

Hecate looked at him and blinked.

“You’ll injure yourself,” Jeraine said. He put a hand on his chest. “I have seen Heather mad. It is not pretty. If you get injured on my watch?”

Jeraine shook his head. Hecate grinned at him and he smiled.

“My skin is not fragile to heat,” Hecate said. “I won’t be injured.”

“By all means,” Jeraine said.

He held the pan out to her. She dipped the tip of her pinky into the pan. She stuck the tip of her pinky in her mouth.

“Oh,” Hecate made a face. “Bitter. What is it?”

“Chocolate,” Jeraine said. “It’s from a small tree that grows south of here. It is picked and toasted, then ground.”

Jeraine had the sense that Hecate was deeply listening to him.

“I don’t know this,” Hecate said. “You feed this to children?”

Jeraine grinned.

“It is very dry here,” Jeraine said. “I’ll make frosting to put on the brownies to keep them from drying out.”

“Frosting,” Hecate said.

Jeraine picked up a jar of sugar.

“Sugar,” Jeraine said.

“I know this,” Hecate said. “It was a rare privilege.”

“They figure out how to make it from beets,” Jeraine said. Seeing a look of confusion on Hecate’s face, he smiled. “It’s very affordable now.”

Hecate gave him a distracted nod.

“I will watch you,” Hecate said.

“You will talk and watch,” Jeraine said.

Hecate grinned at his tone.

“Don’t pull that ‘I’m a Goddess’ bullshit with me,” Jeraine said. “I’ve known plenty of starlets, music stars, and even lived with Heather for more than a year.”

When Hecate actually laughed, he felt like he’d accomplished something.

“I shall answer your question,” Hecate said. “Heather and I have been friends since she was a child.”

“You are older than she is,” Jeraine said.

“That’s correct,” Hecate said. “Her grandmother often asked me to watch her. We had such fun. I am unable to have children, and honestly no one knew what to do with this half human, half God child. So she was given to me.”

Hecate smiled.

“Where have you been?” Jeraine asked. “Miss T met Heather when she was a child. Where were you?”

“Good question,” Hecate said. “I … well …”

Jeraine glanced at her and took the chocolate from the stove.

“Well?” Jeraine asked as he got out the soft butter and started mixing it with powdered sugar.

“You know that Heather’s mother was able to reset Heather’s human body to that of a child,” Hecate said.

“Miss T told me,” Jeraine said. “We grew up with Heather but she was really thousands of years old. Like an old soul.”

“Like an old soul,” Hecate said. “Well put.”

“You were going to tell me about you,” Jeraine said. “If you’re Heather’s friend, I want to know about you.”

“Why?” Hecate asked.

“Heather and Miss T are best friends,” Jeraine said. “We all live together now. Heather and Blane are family to me. Their kids, my Jabari — they are like siblings. They take care of Miss T when I’m on the road and …”

Jeraine looked at her and nodded.

“If you’re here now, you’re likely to move in,” Jeraine said. “Just the way things seem to go. I figure I’ll get a jump on it so I can tell my brother, Blane, all about you.”

“I …” Hecate looked at him. She sighed. “I used to spend a lot of time around people and then …”

Hecate swallowed hard. Jeraine gave her some space to talk.

“Many of the humans I knew, was close to, died,” Hecate said.

“Plague?” Jeraine asked.

“Fire,” Hecate said. “Burned alive. Hanged. Tortured. Drowned. Assaulted to death.”

“Witches,” Jeraine said.

“Right,” Hecate said. “I’m responsible for the witches. Witchcraft.”

Jeraine didn’t respond. He kept working on the frosting. A timer rang and he took the brownies out of the oven. He set them on the counter to cool.

“I used to use drugs,” Jeraine said. “A lot of drugs.”

Hecate watched his face.

“I’m a singer,” Jeraine said. “Popular. I used to do drugs and lots of women. I’d get in front of thousands of people and …”

His eyes flicked to her. Their eyes locked.

“It’s kind of like being a God,” Jeraine said. “Without the immortality and the powers.”

“It is an amazing feeling,” Hecate said with a soft smile.

“What is?” Jeraine asked.

“Standing in front of a crowd of humans who love you,” Hecate said.

“Intoxicating,” Jeraine said. “I lost myself completely. Lost my mind. Literally injured my brain.”

“I’m sorry,” Hecate said.

Her voice was so sweet and kind that Jeraine looked up at her.

“I don’t know what that was — spell or whatever — but thanks,” Jeraine said. “That felt nice. I am still finding myself.”

He shook his head as if to clear it.

“I was going to say that while I was living this high life, I didn’t notice that other people were following,” Jeraine said. “Then one girl died. Then another. Then … Didn’t have anything to do with me. I wasn’t even there, but …

“All of the sudden I was in jail,” Jeraine said. “My parents had given up on me. Miss T wouldn’t take my calls. I had this heavy withdrawal and …”

“These women and men died because they believed what I told them,” Hecate said.

“They died because someone else didn’t like what the strength and purpose they got from you,” Jeraine said.

“You can see why …” Hecate said.

“Withdrew? I withdrew, too.” Jeraine cut her off to say. “I hid from the world. I tried to make good with Miss T but she wouldn’t have me, and rightly so.”

“What happened?” Hecate asked. “How did you get …?”

Hecate gestured to him now.

“A friend of my father’s came to talk to me while I was in prison,” Jeraine said. “He sat with me all day, every day for weeks. I don’t really know why he did it. He just showed up there and …”

Jeraine nodded.

“He probably saved my life,” Jeraine said. “He’s sober. He definitely got me on the road to recovery.”

Jeraine sighed.

“Then I just …” Jeraine said. “I ate a lot of humble pie.”

“Humble pie?” Hecate laughed.

“It’s …”

“I can imagine,” Hecate said.

“I made my mess,” Jeraine said. “I needed to heal it. That became the purpose of my life. And … It’s not a bad life purpose — to heal those who are hurt by you and the world.”

He took the brownies out of the pan and set them on the counter. He looked at the Goddess who looked so much like Tink.

“Did you make your mess?” Jeraine asked.

“They came after me! Stupid Roman Catholics! Had to kill everyone because …” Hecate said. “I didn’t do anything! I supported women where they stood for the purpose of making a better world.”

Jeraine gave her a sad nod.

“I understand,” Jeraine said.

“But?” Hecate asked.

“Did you warn them?” Jeraine asked.

“Warn them?” Hecate asked.

“You knew that people were angry with women and men following your teachings,” Jeraine asked.

“Small people, stupid people …”

“But people none the less,” Jeraine asked.

“Are you saying that I caused my followers horrific deaths?” Hecate asked.

“I am not,” Jeraine said.

“What are you saying?” Hecate’s voice still defiant.

“I’m saying that we are responsible for those who love us,” Jeraine said. “Even if it’s just to love them in return. Did you love your followers?”

“I …” Hecate’s eyes were wild with pain. “I …”

“Then you didn’t you warn them that people were small, jealous, and status hungry?” Jeraine asked. “Protect them or get them to protect themselves?”

Hecate’s eyes went wide. They filled with tears as she gasped for breath.

He pressed a warm, frosted brownie into her hand.

The simple gesture was enough. Hecate broke down and sobbed. He negotiated her to a chair. He finished making the brownies and then started in on lunch. When her storm of emotions subsided, he gave her a box of tissues.

“Welcome back,” Jeraine said softly.

Hecate, the Titan, gave the human, Jeraine Wilson, her first genuine smile in a long, long time.

Denver Cereal continues next year…

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