Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and fifteen : Change of wind


Wednesday afternoon — 3:45 p.m.

New York City, New York

Seth O’Malley waited outside the classroom where Ivan was teaching the male Esprit de Corps dancers. He’d tried to time his visit with the end of class, but it seemed that the dancers had bartered with Ivan for a longer class.

In all the years of knowing Ivan, he’d never known the man to break even one rule. Seth idly wondered what they possibly could have given Ivan to cause him to break this rule. When he saw Ivan, he got his first clue.

Ivan looked exhausted.

As the class left the room, Seth took in a sense of the man. While still incredibly fit, there were dark circles under the man’s blood shot eyes. He moved as if he were in pain. Usually too hyper-vigilant, Seth walked all the way into the classroom before Ivan noticed he was there.

Ivan saw Seth and his face turned an unnatural shade of grey.

“Sissy?” Ivan asked.

“Fine,” Seth said, soothingly. “Absolutely fine. How has she seemed to you?”

“Good,” Ivan said.

“Lonely,” Seth said.

“Good for dancer to be lonely,” Ivan said, immediately. “Builds character needed to be world class.”

Seth raised his eyebrows at Ivan and smiled. Catching his look, Ivan shrugged. Ivan pointed to himself.

“Old man,” Ivan said.

“Pushing too hard,” Seth said. “Under too much strain.”

Ivan’s eyes scanned Seth’s face. This man had reached into hell to pull Ivan out for no other reason than he could. Seth O’Malley was one of the only people Ivan trusted completely.

“Why are you here?” Ivan asked, in an attempt to be more normal.

“I have been presented with a puzzle that I wondered if you might help me with,” Seth said.

“I’m kind of …” Ivan gestured to himself and the classroom.

Seth put his hand on Ivan’s arm.

“You are pushing too hard,” Seth repeated.

“And you know this? How?” Ivan sniffed at Seth.

“I recognize the condition in myself,” Seth said.

To force Ivan to slow down, Seth took a seat along the wall. After a moment, Ivan sat down next to Seth.

“You know more about recovery and longevity in dance than any person on the planet,” Seth said.

“Baryshnikov,” Ivan said.

“Who consults with you,” Seth said.

Ivan gave Seth a blistering scowl. Immune to the blistering stare, Seth grinned. Ivan scowled.

“Need the …” Ivan lost the word. He stumbled for a moment and then shook his head. He made a gesture with his hand. “Just gone.”

“You are exhausted,” Seth said. “Is it just Sissy?”

“Otis,” Ivan said and then the man’s actual name.

Seth nodded.

“We are in trouble,” Ivan said.

“Ah, yes,” Seth said. “I have heard that.”

“Don’t wish to return to gulag,” Ivan said.

“Nightmares?” Seth asked.

Ivan gave a quick nod.

“You no tell Sissy,” Ivan said.

“I no tell Sissy,” Seth said.

Ivan looked offended at Seth’s imitation of pigeon English. Seth pointed to Ivan.

“Really?” Ivan asked his hand against his chest.

Seth nodded.

“You’re exhausted,” he repeated.

“Is true,” Ivan said, in an exaggerated Russian accent.

Seth laughed. They sat in silence. More than once, Ivan opened his mouth to speak. He invariably thought better of it and closed his mouth.

“Do you think people would let me teach them without degree and … the rest?” Ivan asked.

“I think you’d have to beat people off with a stick,” Seth said.

“Sounds bloody,” Ivan said.

They sat in silence for a moment.

“Expression?” Ivan asked.

“My brother Silas used to say it,” Seth said, grinning at his younger brother. In an imitation of his brother’s effeminate voice, “I’ve got to beat them off with a stick, and let me tell you — it’s … fun.”

Ivan burst out laughing. Seth smiled at his joke.

“I believe in education,” Seth said.

“You still take piano lessons,” Ivan said.

“I’m learning the violin this year,” Seth said.

“How’s that going?” Ivan said.

“I fucking hate it,” Seth said.

“Good,” Ivan said.

They laughed and fell silent again.

“Okay,” Ivan said. “The classes are long and incredibly boring. Filled with spoiled children trying to impress their awful parents but have no idea about life or the world.”

“I bet,” Seth said.

Ivan sighed and looked at Seth.

“What did you come to ask me?” Ivan asked.

“You’re going to drop out of those programs?” Seth asked.

“I will consider it,” Ivan said.

Seth grinned at the stubborn man, and Ivan laughed.

“I can’t just do what you say,” Ivan said.

“’S not gulag,” Seth said in a mock Russian accent.

They laughed.

“What did you come to ask me?” Ivan repeated for emphasis.

“Ah, that,” Seth said. “A construction company was building a hotel and came upon a mass grave.”

Ivan hissed and his hand went to his chest. His eyes large, he turned to look at Seth.

“Where?” Ivan whispered.

Seth raised his eyebrows. Ivan swore in Russian for a while.

“Are you done?” Seth asked after Ivan fell silent.

Pizdets,” Ivan said. “Now, I am done.”

Seth laughed. They sat in silence again. Seth sighed.

“For me, it’s about the families,” Seth said. “My mother was hysterical when Saul was lost. It was like an open, oozing wound. For years. The US military wouldn’t tell her anything about him — where he was, what he was doing, what happened to him. We didn’t know if they were looking for him or if they … She waited in agony. Year after year. I’m sure that this intense, unending trauma led to her early death.”

Ivan sighed.

“I’m sure your mother felt the same way about your sister,” Seth said. When Ivan didn’t respond, he added, “And you.”

Ivan’s eyes flicked to look at Seth’s face. Seth nodded.

“What about …?” Ivan asked about the man who’d sworn to kill him and recently threatened Sissy.

“Funny story …” Seth said. He looked at Ivan and stopped talking.

“Just tell me straight,” Ivan said.

“He’s dead,” Seth said.

“Says who?” Ivan asked with a derisive sniff. “Where can I see his body?”

“I knew you’d ask that,” Seth said.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellphone.

“Let’s see …” Seth said.

Seth looked at the phone for a moment before remembering his reading glasses. He took them out with such flourish that Ivan chuckled in response. Smiling, Seth poked at the phone for a moment before holding it out to Ivan.

“Okay,” Seth said. “Brace yourself.”

Ivan leaned forward to look at the phone. Surprised, he leaned back. Seth held the phone steady as almost immediately, Ivan took another look.

“’S fake,” Ivan said.

“I thought the very same thing,” Seth said. He poked at the phone for a moment. “His autopsy photo.”

“Faked,” Ivan sniffed and shook his head.

Seth nodded and poked the phone. He held it out. Ivan looked at the photo and raised his eyebrows.

“I have a photo of every organ,” Seth said.

“He’s not an organ donor?” Ivan asked.

“Shocking that this bastard is too selfish to donate his organs,” Seth said with a grin.

“How?” Ivan asked.

“He was driving fast. Rented sports car. Hit some black ice,” Seth said. “Slid under one of those over the road trucks.”

“Slid under a truck,” Ivan said.

“Took his head clean off,” Seth said.

“Where?” Ivan asked suspiciously.

“Colorado,” Seth said. He poked at the phone. “You know Ava?”

Ivan leaned over to look at a picture of Seth’s wife in the autopsy room. Ivan looked at Seth.

“Before you ask, she wasn’t bought off,” Seth said. “Her lab confirmed his death via DNA.”

Ivan opened his mouth and then closed it. He sighed. He seemed to deflate with the sigh.

“I am very tired,” Ivan said. He touched the phone. “This is good news for me, for Sissy.”

“I think we should be cautious,” Seth said. “Optimistic, but cautious. We don’t know what he’s set in to motion.”

“Smart,” Ivan said. “Are you going to Poland next weekend?”

“There’s some question about that,” Seth said.

“Why?” Ivan asked.

“I’m not sure,” Seth said. “The international types are looking into it.”

He put his hand on his chest.

“Piano player,” Seth said.

Ivan laughed at him. Seth grinned at his own joke.

“Sissy will be disappointed,” Ivan said. “She’s been looking forward to seeing her brothers and sisters.”

Seth nodded. He waited a moment for Ivan to get back around to the mass graves in Siberia. Ivan sighed.

“I will help you,” Ivan said.

“You may need to go there,” Seth said.

Ivan said Otis’s real name as a question.

“I plan to ask him,” Seth said with a nod. “But …”

Seth put his hand on Ivan’s shoulder.

“Let me take you home,” Seth said. “You can rest, eat and care for yourself. I will ask my assistant to remove you from classes.”

“Your assistant?” Ivan asked.

“The movie studios gave me an assistant,” Seth said with a shrug. “They thought it would help me finish the last scores faster.”

“How’s that going?” Ivan asked.

“I was shot in my hip,” Seth said. “It hurts when I move around, not when I talk on the telephone or type.”

Ivan grinned.

“This will give her something to do,” Seth said. “She’ll be grateful.”

Ivan didn’t say anything for a moment. He sighed.

“I would appreciate your help,” Ivan said. “Yes. I need to stop for a while.”

“Three hours to Paris,” Seth said.

Ivan looked at Seth for a long moment. Ivan shook his head.

“She is …” Ivan started. He looked at Seth’s face and stopped talking.

“Why don’t you rest up?” Seth asked. “I’ll let you know about the trip to Poland. We don’t leave for a few days.”

Ivan nodded slightly.

“I have a driver too,” Seth said.

“Studios?” Ivan asked.

“You know it,” Seth said. “We’ll take you home.”

“I would appreciate that,” Ivan said.

Seth picked up one of Ivan’s boxes. Ivan grabbed his bag. Seth opened to the door where a muscular man plucked the box from Seth with a “tsk.”

“You are not supposed to be lifting things,” the man said in a deep baritone.

“Movie studio,” Seth mouthed to Ivan.

Grinning at Seth, Ivan followed him out of the building.


Wednesday afternoon — 2:05 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

After school book shopping with Fin, Tanesha had borrowed Heather’s Subaru to go up to Leadville to pick up her mother. Yvonne’s knee was so bad that the doctors wanted to replace it all together. Unwilling to make such a rash decision, Yvonne wanted to come home and speak with people she trusted.

Tanesha and Rodney had settled her in the back of the SUV. As was usual for them, Tanesha and Rodney drove in silence while Yvonne slept in the back seat. Yvonne only woke up when she reached the little yellow house.

Rodney hopped out of the vehicle and ran around to the back door. He easily lifted Yvonne out of the back seat and carried her into the house.

Tanesha stood on the walkway for a moment. She wasn’t sure if she should go inside with her parents or leave them to it. Rodney stopped at the door and turned to look at her.

“Would you mind opening the door for me?” Rodney asked.

Jerked out of her thoughts, Tanesha ran to the door and opened it. She let Mr. Chesterfield, her father’s dog, out while her father helped Yvonne get settled upstairs. When Tanesha and the old dog returned, Rodney was waiting in the kitchen.

“You know how your mom is,” Rodney said. “She wants to be alone for a bit.”

Tanesha nodded. She went to the refrigerator for one of the bottles of water her mother kept refilled on the bottom. She gave her father a bottle and took one for herself. For a moment, they drank the cold water from the refillable bottles.

“Akeem?” Tanesha asked.

“Working,” Rodney said.

“He’s all right bunking with …” Tanesha squinted. She’d been so caught up in her life that she hadn’t even met her father’s new mentee.

“Nathan,” Rodney said. He shook his head. “It’s good for Nathan. He went in for selling pot. He was a kid. 16. So he spent most of his time in solitary.”

“How awful,” Tanesha said.

Rodney gave Tanesha a solemn nod.

“He’s getting the hang of life outside, though,” Rodney said. “He’s not yet thirty. Wants to be a lawyer for young people like himself. Got his GED and college while he was inside.”

“Applying to law schools?” Tanesha asked.

“Interviewing,” Rodney said. “He’s hoping to get into DU or Boulder. He wants to stay here where he can get support.”

Tanesha nodded.

“Lots of guys are coming out now,” Rodney said.

“Why?” Tanesha asked.

“They’re overturning the marijuana convictions,” Rodney said. “You know, since it’s legal now.”

“Seems fair,” Tanesha said.

Her father nodded.

“I could use a hotel or an apartment building there are so many guys,” Rodney said. “I’m worried that they’ll get out from under weed crime and just slide back in the prison door.”

Tanesha looked at her father without saying anything. Rodney shook his head and sighed. Tanesha scowled.

“What’s the first thing you teach guys who come out?” Tanesha asked.

Rodney looked up at her and squinted.

“If you don’t ask for help, no one’s going to help you,” Tanesha said.

“What does that mean?” Rodney asked.

“Jacob owns property all over the Denver Metro area,” Tanesha said. “Most of it, he bought for next to nothing. He usually fixes it up and rents it as low cost apartments.”

Her father looked at her and blinked. After a long moment, Rodney asked, “And that means?”

“You should ask him if he will give you or sell you a building,” Tanesha said. “Set it up as a non-profit so people can donate to help. You’re the one who’s always saying that human beings are not happy unless they are giving back.”

Rodney watched her face.

“Look at what Honey and MJ did,” Tanesha said. “You could do that for boys who were imprisoned for selling weed.”

Rodney continued to watch her face.

“Therapy,” Tanesha said. “Medical. Workout facilities. Groups. Strict rules — no drugs, no gangs, no crime, no violence. I bet people will beg to get in.”

“Would that just be another Cabrini Green?” Rodney asked. He gave her one of his dark looks. “Prison for poor people?”

Used to his dark, she smiled at him.

“Doesn’t have to be,” Tanesha said. “You could run it or at least run the charity. I bet we could get Jer and his rich friends to pitch in. Do concerts for it or whatever.”

Rodney took a fast breath.

“You think Jacob’d …” Rodney said.

“What would you tell me?” Tanesha asked.

“You won’t know if you don’t ask,” Rodney said. He shook his head. “Yeah, but he’s …”

“It’s okay,” Tanesha said, mildly, “if you’re too afraid to ask.”

Rodney’s head jerked up to look at Tanesha. They looked at each other for a long moment.

“He helped Honey and MJ,” Tanesha said. “Found them resources and grants. People to work in the building. Jill’s brother Steve trained the medical staff. I’ve been going to the trainings. It’s good. Everyone pitches in to teach what they know. Of course, they had to do piles of paperwork because most of their tenants are on some kind of Medicaid.”

“Honey’s really good at paperwork,” Rodney said. “Does a lot of it for me.”

Tanesha nodded.

“Everyone pitched in,” Tanesha said. “Sam helped, too. It took forever because no one had ever made one before, but it’s open and full. They are already breaking even.”

She stopped talking to see if her father would respond. When Rodney didn’t say anything, she smiled at her father’s doubt.

“It’s a huge success,” Tanesha said. “They’re already half way through the remodel of a building near by Craig Hospital. Jake’s putting the step-by-step plans up on the Internet so people can do it all over the country, even the world.”

Rodney didn’t respond. Tanesha knew she was better off leaving the topic alone. She kissed her father’s cheek.

“Call me if you need anything,” Tanesha said. “I have to meet Jer. He got some offer or another. Something. I don’t know what it is.”

“Good luck with Jeraine,” Rodney said.

Tanesha squeezed her father’s shoulder and walked to Heather’s car. She waited in the driver’s seat for a moment. Her father came out of the house and walked to the car. Tanesha opened the passenger door.

“You really think Jacob’d be interested?” Rodney asked. “You know, in helping me and these boys?”

“Who is it that came all the way to the prison to interview you for your first job?” Tanesha asked. “Who is it that has hired the guys who were ready for work?”

Rodney remembered the day when Sam Lipson came to prison visiting hours for the single purpose of changing Rodney’s life. He blinked.

“Okay,” Rodney said.

Without saying another word, he closed the passenger door and walked back to the house. Tanesha started the vehicle and drove to the Castle to meet Jeraine.


Wednesday afternoon — 2:05 p.m.

Leadville, Colorado

Jill had a chance to sleep for a few hours while Jacob took care of the kids. She then really, really, really needed to focus on studying for her finals.

That is, of course, if the fairies were going to kill her husband again.

Sheepishly, the fairies assured Jill that nothing like that was planned.

After promising to be super-duper-careful, Jacob left Jill with the chocolate cake and her studies. He took the twins to the Marlowe School. He picked up Paddie and Blane. Situating Katy and Paddie in the far back of the monstrous SUV, he put the Greek Gods — Ares and his son, Asclepius — and his Titan father-in-law, Perses, in the middle seat. Ares and Asclepius had never been in a car before so they were excited to go for a drive. Perses was happy to show off his knowledge of modern day human life. While Katy and Paddie slept in the far back, the Greek party happily chatted with each other and stared at the world with transfixed awe. Blane took the passenger seat.

They were heading up to the Cemetery and the Fire of Hell to follow up with the fairies and check in with Sam, Delphie, and Maresol. On their way out of town, Blane told Jacob all about what he’d missed while he was gone. They were well outside Denver when Blane slowed down.

“How did you get back to Denver?” Jacob asked Blane. “Last time I saw you, you were at the house in Leadville.”

“Heather needed to go to see her grandfather,” Blane said. He flicked his eyes to the back seat. “I went by fairy.”

“How was that?” Jacob asked.

“If you’re asking if I threw up when I arrived, I can assure you that you and I are not so different,” Blane said.

“Ugh,” Jacob groaned.

“Yes, I am complaining to you who’ve been completely rebuilt from the inside out,” Blane laughed. “How was that?”

“Ugh,” Jacob groaned.

Blane laughed, and Jacob grinned.

“I have to tell you…” Jacob started.

“Heather told me,” Blane said. “My biologic father has three other sons. Much younger than me.”

Jacob nodded.

“It’s weird because I thought my bio father was killed right away,” Blane said.

“Guess not,” Jacob said. “Did you ask Heather?”

Blane nodded. Jacob let the silence lag.

“She said …” Blane fell silent for a moment and then shook his head. “I’m not exactly sure what she said. Something like time is not linear.”

“Any idea what that means?” Jacob asked.

“None,” Blane said. “I want to say that I don’t give a shit, but I …”

Blane shook himself.

“And anyway, Sam Lipson is my father,” Blane said. “There’s not much else that matters to me.”

“Did you say Sam Lipson?” Asclepius asked.

Blane looked at Jacob, who raised an eyebrow.

“Sam Lipson’s a good man,” Asclepius said. “I like him quite a bit.”

Jacob chuckled. Glancing at Blane, his cousin raised his eyebrows and laughed.

“Yes, well, carry on,” Asclepius said.

“They’re mostly human, son,” Ares said. “Humans don’t need our permission to carry on.”

The Greeks and Titan laughed heartily.

“Shhhh!” Paddie said. “We’re sleeping!”

The Greeks and Titan almost giggled at the reprimand from the child. Jacob looked at Blane and rolled his eyes. Blane laughed.

Laughing and joking, the SUV with two Greek Gods, a Titan, an object of power, a rebuilt man, a once ill, now well man, and two children continued on its way to Leadville to meet the fairy queens, the Fire of Hell, an Oracle, Sam Lipson (of course), the First Mother, and a few kids, who may or may not be an orphans’ siblings.

Life, you see, is about the company you keep and the adventures you have with them.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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