CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-THREE
Saturday morning — 3:15 p.m.
Blane pulled the SUV into the gas station on Main Street. Moab was busy with summer visitors. Even though he had a third of a tank of gas, this was the gas stop on the trip. He didn’t dare run out.
“Okay,” Blane said. “Time to wake up. This is our last stop before we …”
Nelson stirred, but didn’t wake up. Blane put his hand on Nelson’s leg. He felt heat through Nelson’s jeans. Blane turned to look at Nelson.
Nelson’s forehead glistened with sweat. Blane put the back of his hand on the back of Nelson’s forehead.
“Shit,” Blane said. “You stupid, stupid, asshole.”
Rage and impotence flushed through Blane. Nelson’s AIDS had flared up. Even though it had been less than a year since he had the virus, his mind went completely blank on what to do to help Nelson.
Someone behind Blane honked their horn. Blane waved his hand. He jumped out and started the pump to fill up the tank. He opened the back door of the SUV to grab a water bottle from the stash in the back. He dug around the SUV until he found the paper bag filled with Nash and Charlie’s electrolyte drink powders. He fixed a bottle, and returned to the driver’s seat. He shook Nelson.
“Wake up,” Blane said.
Nelson groaned. Blane pinched Nelson’s collar bone. Nelson’s eyes opened.
“You’re having a flare up,” Blane said, his face inches from Nelson’s. “Drink this.”
Nelson waved his hand in front of his face, but Blane insisted.
“I’ll leave you alone if you drink this,” Blane said.
Nelson shook his head.
“Drink this and I’ll leave you alone,” Blane said.
Nelson opened his eyes. His eyes were glassy with fever.
“Blane!” Nelson said with a smile.
“Do something for me?” Blane asked in his most seductive voice.
“Anything,” Nelson said. His face was as open as a young child. “I love you.”
Blane gave him a saucy grin.
“Drink this for me?” Blane asked.
Nelson took the bottle. He drank the electrolyte water down.
“Where are your meds?” Blane asked.
“In my bag,” Nelson said.
Nelson’s head dropped back to the headrest. He gestured behind him. Nelson fell asleep again.
The gasoline pump gave a low “thunk” to indicate that the tank was full. Blane got out of the SUV. He took care of the gasoline pump and drove to a parking spot in the shade. This gas station was not as well set up as the last place they’d stopped. People, children, dogs, and all kinds of vehicles swarmed all over the small area. As soon as the SUV was parked, Blane threw himself into the back. He found Nelson’s large backpack on top of the rest of the junk.
He glanced at Nelson and winced.
Nelson would be furious if Blane invaded Nelson’s privacy in any way. Blane was weighing the conflict when Nelson coughed.
Nelson’s lungs were thick with mucus indicating that Nelson had been sick for a while.
“You stupid fuck,” Blane said under his breath.
Blane pushed on the backpack until he heard the telltale sound of medication bottles. There were three unopened white bags from the chain pharmacy. Blane opened the first and saw a bacteria inhaler for the treatment of AIDS related lung disease. The next bag had a prescription for antibiotics. The third bag had two different bottles of antiviral medications. The prescriptions were filled last night.
Nelson had not taken his meds this morning or last night.
There was no way around it.
Blane was going to have to get him to take these meds. Blane grabbed another plastic bottle with water. He doctored it with the electrolyte mixture and went to the driver’s seat again.
“Wake up,” Blane demanded.
Nelson opened his eyes.
“Blane!” Nelson said, as if he hadn’t just seen him. “What are you doing here?”
Nelson sat up. He looked out the windscreen and then back at Blane.
“Where are we?” Nelson asked.
“Moab,” Blane said. Pressing forward, he said, “You’re in the middle of an AIDS flare.”
“Oh yeah,” Nelson said. “I know. Sucks.”
“Then why did you …?” Blane started, but Nelson was asleep.
Blane sighed. Clearly, Mack and Wyn were not the only children under his care.
“Wake up!” Blane bullied.
Nelson opened his eyes. His face flushed with joy. Before he could utter a word, Blane stuck the antipneumocystic inhaler in Nelson’s mouth.
“Breathe in,” Blane ordered.
Nelson took the inhaler from Blane. He used it twice.
“Now this,” Blane said.
He gave Nelson enormous sized antibiotics and a couple of acetaminophen for his fever. Nelson drank them down with the electrolyte water in the plastic bottle.
“And these,” Blane said.
He gave Nelson his antivirals.
“I took those this morning,” Nelson said, pushing Blane’s hand away.
“You have to double up when you’re in a flare,” Blane said.
“Says who?” Nelson asked.
“Says me,” Blane said, rather than argue.
Nelson glared at Blane but took the meds.
“Thank you,” Blane said. “Do you need the toilet?”
Nelson nodded. Nelson’s squinted and looked confused.
“Where are we?” Nelson asked.
“Moab,” Blane said. “Come on now.”
Blane hopped out of the SUV and went around to the passenger side. By the time he got there, Nelson was asleep again. Blane grabbed a pack of baby wipes from the glove compartment before he dragged Nelson out of the SUV. They went into the gas station. By some miracle, there were large clean toilets. Blane had to hold Nelson up in line.
“Hey, no funny business,” said a jovial middle aged, pot-bellied man as Blane started toward the handicapped toilet.
“He’s sick,” Blane said.
The man looked at Blane for a long moment. One of the nice things about swapping places with Jacob was that Blane knew how to play a convincing heterosexual man. Blane gave the man his most Jacob nod.
“Let me help you,” the middle-aged man said.
He took the other side of Nelson. Between the two of them, they negotiated Nelson’s pants down and got him onto the toilet. The men looked at each other with vague relief when Nelson used the toilet. Nelson’s immune response caused a flush of diarrhea.
“You need help cleaning up?” the middle-aged man asked.
“I have two boys,” Blane said in his imitation of Jacob. “This shouldn’t be harder.”
“I can hold him upright,” the man said.
“That would be great.” Blane gave the man a very Jacob nod.
They rescued Nelson from the toilet. Blane cleaned up Nelson’s diarrhea and put his pants back on while the man held him up.
“You’re Blane, right?” the man asked. “Blane Lipson.”
Blane looked at the man.
“Mitt,” the man said. “David Mitchell. Everyone calls me ‘Mitt.’ We’ve talked on the phone.”
Blane blinked at the man and his familiar name. He had no idea why he knew that name.
“You’re on your way to Kayenta, right?” Mitt said.
“I’m your big equipment broker,” Mitt said.
Blane laughed. Nelson slipped a bit but Mitt held him tight.
“Go wash up,” Mitt said.
Blane went to wash his hands and forearms.
“Where’s Heather?” Mitt asked.
“The girlfriends wanted to drive together,” Blane said.
“She’s know about …” Mitt nodded toward Nelson.
“Of course she does,” Blane said, irritably. “Nelson is her friend too.”
“No offense meant,” Mitt said. “Just trying to get the lay of the land.”
Blane looked at the man through the mirror. Mitt smiled, and Blane nodded.
“I brought the family,” Mitt said. “I figure we could all use some time helping other people. Plus, those kids will drive us crazy if they’re home all week.”
Blane made sure he was clean before taking Nelson from Mitt. For good measure, Mitt used the sink to wash up.
“Do you have leads on what we need?” Blane asked.
“I have the list you sent me,” Mitt said. “The real question is whether you want to buy or rent.”
“Rent,” Blane said.
“Right,” Mitt said. “That’s what you said, but Sam called. He wants to buy the equipment and set up a team.”
Blane grimaced. Mitt laughed at Blane’s grimace.
“A lot of work for you,” Mitt said.
“Doesn’t matter to me,” Mitt said.
“Whatever Sam Lipson wants …” Blane started.
“Sam Lipson gets,” Mitt finished with Blane. “Isn’t that the way of things?”
Blane nodded. Mitt gestured to Nelson.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“He hasn’t slept in the last few weeks,” Blane said. “Flared up his infection.”
“New boyfriend?” Mitt asked with a knowing chuckle.
“Big court case,” Blane said. “He’s a forensic analyst for the Denver Crime Lab.”
“Ah,” Mitt said. “Court case. Yep. That would do it.”
He winked at Blane, and Blane shook his head.
“Hey, I hope it works out for you,” Mitt said. “You deserve it.”
Blane wasn’t sure why, but the kind, supportive words from this man in the middle of a public bathroom made Blane tear up. Blane nodded.
“Come on,” Mitt said. “Let’s get him back in the car.”
Mitt took one side of Nelson, and Blane took the other. They got Nelson back to the car.
“Come, meet the family,” Mitt said.
Blane rolled down the window for Nelson and went to meet Mitt’s two daughters and wife. They chatted excitedly about going to the Navajo reservation. Blane smiled and nodded.
“I need to get back,” Blane said, gesturing to the SUV.
“His friend is sick,” Mitt said. “Here’s my cell. If you need help, just call us.”
“I’ll see you Kayenta?” Blane asked.
“We got one of those air places in Mexican Hat,” Mitt said.
“It’s an authentic hogan,” Mitt’s younger daughter said.
“We won’t be far,” Mitt said. “The big breakfast meeting is tomorrow morning?”
Blane nodded. Mitt leaned in.
“My eldest has a crush on Aden’s kid,” Mitt said.
“Nash?” Blane asked.
“No accounting for taste,” Mitt nodded.
“You know, he’s got a girlfriend,” Blane said.
“Good looking kid like that? He’s probably got a harem,” Mitt said with a wave of his hand. “Doesn’t stop the heart from wanting.”
Blane grinned. Mitt slapped him on the back, and Blane started back to the SUV.
“Hey Blane!” Mitt said.
Blane turned to look at the man.
“Great imitation of Jake,” Mitt said.
Blane laughed. Shaking his head, he went back to the SUV. As soon as the door to the SUV closed, Blane was once again overwhelmed.
He was all alone in the middle of nowhere with an increasingly ill man.
If he didn’t stem this flare up, Nelson could easily die on the ride between here and Kayenta. Blane looked at Nelson.
“Why didn’t you take care of yourself?” Blane asked in a low voice. “You need to sleep not to be on some cross country journey to nowhere Arizona.”
Nelson’s eyes fluttered.
“I love you,” Nelson said, softly. “Had to try.”
Scowling, Blane shook his head.
“Totally worth it,” Nelson said.
Blane closed his eyes and wondered what he should do.
Take Nelson to the hospital?
Was there a hospital in Moab, Utah?
Blane looked around.
“Think, think, think,” he muttered to himself.
He thought about calling Ava or one of his other co-workers and then instantly rejected it. They would feel disloyal to Nelson if they told Blane anything.
He shook his head and took a drink of watery soda.
Out of nowhere, he remembered the acupuncture treatment that had helped him the most when he was sick. It felt like a life time since he’d been this sick, but the truth of the matter was that Blane was often a lot sicker than Nelson was now. Blane sighed. He looked at Nelson. He could do most of the treatment right here in the SUV.
He also remembered that Nelson was close with Roger Whitaker. Blane knew Roger through Alex Hargreaves. Whenever Roger was in town, Roger stopped in for an acupuncture treatment from Blane. Blane thought for a moment. He looked down at his phone. He had bars. With a silent thank you to Lipson Construction who still paid for his phone, he connected his headset to his phone and dialed Roger.
“Blane!” Roger said.
“Oh good,” Blane said, not bothering to keep the relief from his voice. Roger was a world famous psychiatrist. “You answered.”
“Just between things,” Roger said. “Plus I was hoping I’d hear from you.”
“Oh yeah?” Blane asked.
He started the car to turn on the air conditioning. Nelson moaned but didn’t wake up.
“I’ve heard that you might be dating someone new,” Roger said.
“News travels,” Blane laughed.
“He loves you,” Roger said. “So be nice.”
“Always,” Blane said.
“Now, you didn’t call for me hear me threaten you over my little brother,” Roger said.
Even with Roger’s southern accent, the threat in his words came through loud and clear. Blane grinned, but didn’t respond.
“What’s happened?” Roger asked.
“We’re heading to the Navajo Reservation …“ Blane wondered if they’d ever get there.
“Water wells,” Roger said. “I told him to just show up. Did you work it out? Did you work it out?”
“Sort of,” Blane said.
“What does that mean?” Roger asked.
“He fell asleep in the middle of our conversation,” Blane said. “Now he seems to be in the middle of a fairly severe AIDS flare.”
Roger took a quick intake of breath.
“His lungs are filling,” Blane said. “He’s got meds for pneumocystis and …”
Roger didn’t say anything to interrupt so Blane continued.
“He’s burning up,” Blane said.
“How can I help?” Roger asked.
In the background, Blane heard someone speak in the background on Roger’s end.
“I need a moment,” Roger said. Returning to Blane, he said, “Sorry, I’m due for television.”
“When we talked about his health, he told me that he had low virus, high T-cell,” Blane said. “Now he’s really sick.”
“I see,” Roger said. “You know this happens.”
“Not like this,” Blane said.
“True,” Roger said.
“This seems to have come out of nowhere,” Blane said. “What’s going on?”
“He didn’t lie,” Roger said. “He has almost no virus. His T-cells are freakishly resilient.”
“Pneumocystis?” Blane asked.
“He has some lung problems,” Roger said. “Dating back to when he was a kid.”
Blane made an acknowledging noise. In Chinese Medicine, unresolved grief settled in the lungs. Roger continued.
“How he hasn’t scarred his lungs is anyone’s guess,” Roger said. “You’d have to ask Pierre. I think he got sick with some lung ailment as a child and simply hasn’t recovered.”
Blane got out of the SUV to dig out his acupuncture needles from the mess in the far back.
“He’s really sick?” Roger asked.
“I’m not sure he’ll make it to our destination,” Blane said.
Roger sucked in a breath. Blane found the duffle bag Heather had packed his acupuncture needles in. He grabbed a box of needles and an applicator.
“Does he use oxygen?” Blane asked.
“No,” Roger said. “Not usually. He’s very strong.”
“Mmm,” Blane said mildly.
“Yes,” Roger said. “He is sick now. But you’ll see. He will rebound. It was like that after he was infected. It’s freaky.”
“Okay,” Blane said. “Anything else? History wise?”
“Why?” Roger asked.
“I’m going to treat him here,” Blane said.
“Good thinking,” Roger said. The line was silent for a moment. “Let’s see …”
After a moment, Roger added, “No. I think that’s it.”
“Allergies?” Blane asked.
“None,” Roger said. “Or none that I know of.”
“Okay,” Blane said. “By the way …”
“Yes?” Roger asked.
“Who is his mother?” Blane asked.
“Why, she was the only heir of Saint Bernard,” Roger said. “You know, the chaste monk? Guess he wasn’t as chaste as people thought.”
“The Templar?” Blane asked.
“Exactly,” Roger said. “It’s a big secret. His mother was basically held hostage by her family. They’ve managed the mating since the time of Bernard, himself, but the line was frightfully barren and filled with females. Nelson is the first male since Bernard. Supposedly looks like Bernard.”
“How did they get away?” Blane asked.
“I’m not sure,” Roger said. “I doubt Nelson knows. I will tell you that Carlos the Jakal has never claimed the bombing of the train. In fact, he is sure that he did not do it.”
“There’s a possibility that the bomb was to kill …” Blane started.
“Pierre, his wife,” Roger said. “Their child, our Nelson, was a big secret. No one knew that he existed until his mother was killed.”
“Why?” Blane asked.
“He’s the first male heir since Bernard,” Roger said. “Child of the lowly weapon’s master. There’s quite a bit of mystery around what it means to be the male descendent of Saint Bernard. He doesn’t know what it means, just that his father has hid him because he was the heir.”
“And we think that means…” Blane said.
“Jax looked into it,” Roger said, interrupting. “The legend says that there’s a fortune waiting, uh, gold from heaven, I think, for the legitimate male heir of Bernard. Maybe. No one knows for sure, that’s the problem.”
“Only if he survives,” Blane said.
“Pierre swore he would protect Nelson from the Templars,” Roger said.
“Good to know,” Blane said. “Listen, I should go. See what I can do.”
“Good luck,” Roger said, and hung up the phone.
A second later the phone rang again.
“You will let me know,” Roger said without greeting.
“Of course,” Blane said.
Blane pocketed the cell phone. Taking a breath, he got back into the driver’s seat of the SUV. Nelson looked only sicker.
“Hang in there,” Blane said to himself.
He thought for a moment. He lifted Nelson’s right wrist to take a pulse. He lifted Nelson’s left wrist. After a moment of panic, he got to work.
Having never given acupuncture to Nelson, he had to start slow. He put in an acupuncture needle and then tested Nelson’s pulse. He put in another and checked Nelson’s pulse again.
To his surprise, Nelson seemed to respond right away.
“Maybe there’s hope,” Blane said.
He quickly set a few acupuncture needles. There was nothing to do now but wait. Nodding to himself, Blane put the SUV into reverse and left the gas station.
If all went well, Nelson would be well enough to get himself into the hotel. If not, Blane would take him to the hospital in Kayenta.
The next three hours would determine what happened next.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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