Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Thirty-five : At the pool


Sunday mid-day — 10:13 a.m.

Kayenta, Arizona, at the hotel on the Navajo Reservation

Nelson was lying on a chaise lounge under a large umbrella by the hotel’s large pool. Nadia was listening to music on headphones and reading a book on a chaise lounge on his left. The chaise next to him was empty. His chest still congested, he was taking a day of rest before he joined whatever mayhem he chose. He and Nadia had been making plans to work in the health clinic, but nothing had come together yet.

Right now, he was enjoying the sauna like heat and watching this new “family” interact. In the pool, the younger children were laughing and playing with each other and their mothers in the shallow end. The teenagers talked among themselves at the deep end.

Feeling movement, he looked up to see a bear of a man walk toward him. The man was about his height, solid, thick muscle under a thick coated of dark brown hair. He had more than a few significant, life threatening scars under all of that hair. He wore a pair of tight, designer sunning white trunks that left little to the imagination. The man gave him a strong, direct look before sitting down.

“I hear you thinking about getting involved with Blane,” the man said in a hostile tone. “Joining the family.”

Nelson pulled off his sunglasses to look at the man. The man’s eyes were hidden under a pair of dark sunglasses. Nelson slid his sunglasses back on.

“What’s it to you, little Titan-ling?” Nelson asked with a sniff.

The man sat up and leaned forward.

“What?” the man asked.

“You are clearly Perses son. Outside of the hair, you look just like him,” Nelson said. He reached out and touched the man’s forehead. “Not quite in your powers yet, are you?”

“My what?” the man asked.

“Hey, Mike,” Tanesha said as she hustled in their direction. She looked at Nelson, and said, “His bark is worse than his bite.”

“Mike?” Nelson asked.

“This is Mike Roper,” Tanesha said. “Jill’s eldest brother. He’s a painter. You’ve probably seen his work at the Denver Art Museum?”

As if he was thinking about it, Nelson gave a vague nod.

“Meet Nelson Weeks,” Tanesha said. In a soft voice, she said, “Templar.”

Mike blinked and then blinked again. He lay back on the chaise lounge. Tanesha touched Nelson’s shoulder in silent support and continued to the snack bar. Nelson rested his head back on the lounge.

“What did you mean?” Mike asked in fluent French.

Nelson sat up on the lounge and looked at Mike.

“U.S. Army,” Mike said, pointing to his chest. “Vet.”

Nelson nodded.

“Perses was always one of the most powerful Titans,” Nelson said, in French. He raised his eyebrows to see if Mike understood. Mike gave him a quick nod. “Perses would have been killed, like so many of them, but he went into hiding in Rhodesia. He had a large patch of land, a plantation, really.”

“Slaves?” Mike asked continuing in French.

“Not that I know of,” Nelson said. “Having met your father, I doubt he would tolerate owning human beings. It surprises me that he tolerates humans at all.”

Mike snorted.

“Why did he go into hiding?” Mike asked.

“No one knows,” Nelson said, lying back. “His daughter is Hecate.”

Nelson raised his eyebrows at Mike, but Mike shook his head.

“Hecate is the mother of witchcraft,” Nelson said. “Very strong. There are a lot of stories about her power. She … Well, anyway, it’s the Orders guess that she foresaw the coming purge and told her parents to go into hiding. They survived.”

“His wife?” Mike asked.

“Boy, you really don’t like him,” Nelson said.

“Don’t know him,” Mike said. “We grew up with a step-father because Perses was …”

“Held captive, that’s right,” Nelson said. “I’d forgotten.”

“Who’s his wife?” Mike asked.

“He was married to his cousin, Asteria,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t a love match, but one ordained by his father. There weren’t a lot of people around and few Titans. Their unions and breeding was controlled by their families.”

“What’s she?” Mike asked. “This Asteria.”

“She’s also a Titan,” Nelson said. “Her powers aren’t well known, but the Order says she’s a shape shifter. She’s said to have prophetic dreams, so it could have been her who gave the warning as well. You could ask Hedone about her. Hedone and Hecate know each other well so it’s likely that she knows Asteria.”

Mike grunted.

“Why did you say that I have powers?” Mike asked.

“You’re a half-ling, like Hedone was, correct?” Nelson asked.

“My mother is human, if that’s what you’re asking,” Mike said. “From a line of healers. Her family is from Russia. Have you met Otis?”

Nelson shook his head.

“He’s my grandfather, mother’s father,” Mike said. “He’s traveling the world with his girlfriend, Princess Mari of Queen Fand’s realm.”

“Prince Finegal’s sister?” Nelson said.

Mike nodded.

“Met her?” Mike asked.

Nelson shook his head.

“Things to look forward to,” Mike said. Abruptly he said, “What powers will I get?”

“No way to know,” Nelson said. “But yes, you and your siblings will grow into some power — each unique and suited to you individually. It’s possible that one or two of you won’t have powers, but unlikely. Are all five of you Perses’ children?”

“Only three,” Mike said.

“Three Titan-lings,” Nelson said with a little awe in his voice.

“And?” Mike asked.

“It’s very rare, that’s all,” Nelson said. “I doubt any Titan has had even one child since … Well, long before we were born.”

Mike scowled but didn’t say anything.

“How did you know? About me, I mean.”

“I’ve met your father, and you look like him. That’s a no brainer,” Nelson said. “As for the powers, it’s age, mostly. You’re in your mid-thirties?”

Mike grunted in agreement.

“That’s around the time you should start getting your powers,” Nelson said with a shrug. “I don’t think anyone’s seen it happen so it will be interesting to see you get yours.”

Mike shook his head and scowled.

“You live at the Castle?” Nelson asked.

“I’m married to Jake’s sister, Valerie,” Mike said. “I’m also a good friend of Blane’s. I was there when Enrique …”

“So was I,” Nelson said.

Not sure of what would happen next, he sat up.

“That’s where I remember you from,” Mike said with a sneer. “Enrique’s group.”

Nelson nodded.

“You hurt Blane and I’ll …” Mike said, sitting up.

Nelson raised his hands as if Mike had a gun. Nelson turned to look at Mike.

“I have loved him a long time,” Nelson said evenly. “He is just getting to know me but I …”

Nelson’s hand went to his chest. He gave Mike a nod and lay back down.

“You know love, Mike Roper,” Nelson said. “I see it on you.”

Mike grunted.

“You know then that I would never risk injuring the creature that owns my own heart,” Nelson said.

Mike scowled.

“What about Enrique?” Mike asked.

“I was new to town,” Nelson said. “Broke. Enrique paid me to smith a few objects for him. I needed the money.”

Nelson shrugged.

“You don’t need money now?” Mike asked.

Nelson shook his head.

“Enrique was gay royalty,” Nelson said. “Blane was the prince at his side. I fell in love with the prince. That is why I was there.”

“And when it all went to shit?” Mike asked. “I saw you at the burning party.”

“I was there when Enrique burned Blane’s possessions,” Nelson said, stiffly.

Mike didn’t respond.

“And?” Mike asked.

“And what?” Nelson asked.

“Why were you there?” Mike asked.

Nelson sighed.

“I’m not sure,” Nelson said. “I … Maybe I hoped that Blane would show up to defend himself or … I don’t know.”

“When was the last time you …” Mike asked.

“Around that time,” Nelson said. “My life took off in a different direction. I was sick for a year or so and then started working at the Denver Crime Lab.”

“Ava,” Mike nodded.

“Right,” Nelson said. “I haven’t seen Enrique for … years. I will tell you, Enrique always knew how I felt about Blane. Thought it was funny.”

“What do you think he will do when he finds out that you’ve joined their family, our family?” Mike asked.

“Have I joined their family?” Nelson asked.

“Looks like it to me,” Mike said.

Emotion rushing through him, Nelson looked away. After a moment, he sighed.

“I don’t really care,” Nelson said with a shrug.

“Hey!” a young girl’s voice interrupted them.

They turned to see Noelle run up to Mike. Noelle was wearing a pair of overalls splattered with paint and a bandana over her hair.

“Don’t run,” Mike said, pointing to the pool.

“We’re late!” Noelle said. “Margaret’s grandfather is waiting for us, and you’re here chatting with Nelson! What are you wearing?”

Mike looked down at the trunks.

“You need to get dressed!” Noelle said.

Mike raised his eyebrows at Noelle and then turned to Nelson.

“Duty calls,” Mike said.

Mike nodded to Nelson and left. Nadia pulled off her headset to look at Nelson. Nelson shrugged, and she smiled. She reached over to squeeze his hand before putting her ear bud headset back in. Unsure of what just happened, Nelson lay back to rest for a while.


Sunday mid-day — 12:14 p.m.

Kayenta, Arizona, at the hotel on the Navajo Reservation

“Sandwiches,” Jeraine said, gesturing to the tray he was carrying from the hotel kitchen.

They were setting up lunch in one of the group rooms.

“Great,” Heather said. “I thought we might eat and see if we can get the kids to nap.”

“Jabari’s been sitting with Miss T for a while,” Jeraine said. “Worn out.”

“Mack too,” Heather said. She pointed to where Mack was sitting with Nelson. “He won’t come in. Doesn’t want to miss anything.”

Jeraine nodded.

“It’s so exciting to be in the pool,” Jeraine said. “I didn’t know Jabari could swim!”

“He’s our little fish,” Heather said with a grin. “He took lessons last spring with the other kids. He took right to it. I think he’ll be our swimmer.”

Heather shrugged.

“Where was I?” Jeraine asked with a laugh.

“I know, right?” Heather grinned. “I feel like that.”

“Life,” Jeraine said.

Heather looked at him. Jeraine was looking down while he put cut carrots out into a bowl. She had the feeling that he wanted to talk to her about something. He looked up at her.

“You okay with this Nelson?” Jeraine asked.

“Are you?” she asked.

Heather turned the question on him rather than answer. She’d known him almost his entire life. He could be very vague when he had something important to talk about.

“He seems nice enough,” Jeraine said. “This Templar stuff is weird. And he’s sick.”

Jeraine shrugged.

“The dude is gorgeous,” Jeraine said with a laugh. “With those glasses and that beard, he just looked like some geeks. Here he is and … wow.”

“I know, it’s a complete transformation,” Heather said.

Jeraine nodded.

“I wanted talk to you about something,” Jeraine said.

Heather sighed with relief. The wait may be over.

“You remember, La Tonya?” Jeraine asked.

“Your sister?” Heather asked. “Sure.”

“You probably remember how she married that perfect guy,” Jeraine said. “Not a stupid addict asshole like me. Perfect. She went to med school and graduated in the top percentile of her class and stuff. Had perfect babies. Waited to get work so that she could be with them until they went to school.”

Heather nodded.

“Her guy …” Jeraine swallowed and looked around to see if they were alone. “Turns out he wasn’t so perfect.”

“What happened?” Heather asked.

“He … well …” Jeraine looked up at her. “It’s kind of a secret because it just happened… Like just now, while we were sitting at the pool.”

“What happened?” Heather asked.

“He was arrested for embezzling money from his work,” Jeraine said. “Remember how they had that nice house and …”

Heather watched Jeraine struggle with his words.

“I was the asshole,” Jeraine said with his hand on his chest. “That’s my family role. I’m the asshole; she’s the perfect princess. I was the jerk who couldn’t keep his life together. But he … “

Jeraine shook his head and looked away. When he looked back, his eyes burned with indignation.

“Everything was a lie. He … My sister is … They have two kids and she’s pregnant and …”

“What’s happened?” Heather asked.

“They picked him up from his work. Yesterday. Saturday,” Jeraine said. “So like an hour ago, La Tonya was dropping the kids at summer school. The Sheriffs were there when she got home. She can’t go inside. They told her that the house was bought with some loan from some hostile government.”

“He was a spy?” Heather asked.

“Banker, spy, backer of terrorism, money launderer,” Jeraine said with a shake of his head. “We don’t’ really know.”

“Sounds bad,” Heather said.

“No notice. They’ve lost everything they have,” Jeraine said. “She … um … doesn’t want mom or dad to know. I called Seth, you know, to see if he could help, but it turns out that the guy her husband was involved with was the same guy that … that …”

Jeraine swallowed hard.

“That stuff with Ivan in Russia?” Jeraine asked. “Otis? You know the guy who just died? La Tonya’s husband was one of his bankers.”

“Oh wow,” Heather said.

“Yeah,” Jeraine said. “She called because, um, well … She doesn’t have anyone else. Like no one. I don’t think she would have called me either but they … I mean, La Tonya’s never ask me for anything. Not one thing. Ever. But she …”

“What can we do?” Heather asked.

“She and the kids need a place to stay while they sort this out,” Jeraine said. “I know that we said we’d put the Yellow House on the market on Monday, but I wondered …”

“What does Tanesha say?” Heather asked. “It’s really her house.”

“Oh, Miss T,” Jeraine said. “She’s wiring La Tonya some money right now. Hiring lawyers. You know, taking care of everything. Miss T called her mom to go be with La Tanya. I guess, Yvonne’s on her way.”

Jeraine looked up at Heather.

“They took her car,” Jeraine said. “While she was in it! She drove up, and they made her get out. Frisked her head to toe and …”

Jeraine swallowed hard.

“Took her watch, wedding ring, necklace, phone, purse …” Jeraine said. “They took her shoes. They wanted her clothing but … She’s supposed to turn in her clothing when she has a chance to change. She said they’re trying to ‘break’ him, you know, her husband.”

“Sounds awful,” Heather said with a smile.

“Miss T said that you and Blane would have to agree, but I know that you put money into the house. Time,” Jeraine said. “It didn’t feel right not to ask you … I know Blane’s working but I figured that he wouldn’t mind if you …”

Jeraine stopped talking and looked down.

“Ask me what?” Heather asked.

Would it be okay if La Tonya and her kids lived at our little Yellow House?”

“Of course,” Heather said. “Should we send you back to help? Edie’s here. She could …”

“No,” Jeraine said with a shake of his head. “I will only make her crazy. She and I … you know.”

“She did call you,” Heather said.

“No. Did I say she called me?” Jeraine asked with as shake of his head. “Sorry. She didn’t call me. One of the Sheriff’s called Miss T. He’s someone Miss T knows from some of the nonsense you guys have been through. I called La Tonya after I found out. The Sheriff answered because, you know, they were taking her phone and …”

Jeraine shook his head.

“No, she doesn’t need me,” Jeraine said. “She does need a place to live until she can sort this stuff out.”

“She had no idea?” Heather asked.

“Not a clue,” Jeraine said. He shook his head. “No one did. I guess it some kind of international banking thing. They swooped in out of nowhere to make sure he didn’t destroy anything.”

He took a breath and let it out.

“You okay to let her use our beds and stuff?” Jeraine asked.

“Of course,” Heather said. “Whatever she needs.”

“She doesn’t even have any clothes!” Jeraine said, his voice rising. “She … When I talked to her, she was just sobbing. I’ve …”

Jeraine looked up at Heather and shook his head.

“Never seen her cry,” Jeraine said. “She was always been …just … perfect.”

Jeraine shrugged.

“I wondered if …” Jeraine said. “Um …”

“You want me to see if I can help?” Heather asked.

“I’m afraid she’ll kill herself,” Jeraine said. “She’s been depressed. This pregnancy has been really hard. Mom’s been with her almost every day.”

“Sure,” Heather said. “But you should know that I’ve never liked her husband. I’m not going to ‘fix’ that marriage.”

Jeraine gave her a nod.

“Help my sister and it will make up for you never helping me,” Jeraine said, in an attempted joke.

“Why do you think I haven’t helped you?” Heather asked.

For the first time in this conversation, Jeraine looked Heather in the face.

“I just figured that …” Jeraine started.

“Tanesha asked me not to ‘fix it’ — your marriage, you, that is,” Heather said. “When you left and all of that. She said that you needed to grow on your own. She would never trust it if you didn’t do that work yourself. So you’re right, I didn’t fix it.”

“But you helped me?” Jeraine asked.

“You’re alive,” Heather said. “Every wonder how that’s possible?”

Jeraine threw his arms around Heather. She hugged him while he cried for his sister and then for himself. Heather held onto him until he was more stable.

“The guys are back,” Heather said softly.

Jeraine pulled back from hugging her. They heard the noise and general chaos created by the Lipson Construction men returning for lunch.

“I should tell Blane,” Heather said. “But I’m sure he’ll be as concerned about her as I am.”

“I’ll go tell Miss T,” Jeraine said.

“If you need to go back …” Heather said.

“Thanks,” Jeraine said.

With that, he turned on his heel and walked out of the room. Heather watched his back for a moment. She shook her head and returned to finish setting up lunch.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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