CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHT
Monday afternoon — 5:10 p.m. MT
Jacob and Blane were frustratingly, infuriatingly, “I’m going to scream” slow in wrapping up their meal. Tink glared at the men through the entire process.
Of course, having these annoying little kids around didn’t help move things along. Paddie had to go pottie after eating all the French Fries. Blane had just returned with the boy when Katy had to go. Of course, Sissy and Wanda were annoying as well.
Wanda was all “I’m having a big day tomorrow.”
Tink wanted to scream: “I’m having a big day today!”
She glared at Wanda, who just grinned at Tink. They all acted like they knew something that she didn’t. She crossed here arms and slunk down in her seat. Even Charlie seemed unusually cheerful.
She wanted to punch him.
The only thing that kept her from completely losing it was that Jacob kept checking his phone. Blane tried to make light of it, but she knew Blane well enough to know that he was waiting for something.
Then, finally, after Tink was sure she’d evolved into a new species, Jacob looked at him phone and said, “Time to go.”
“It’s about fucking time!” Tink said.
Of course, her voice came out unnaturally loud and the entire restaurant turned to look at her. She felt immediately stupid. Her face flushed red. She felt a well of self-loathing rise up from inside and her horrible voice began to rage at her. She wanted to run out of the restaurant or get hit by a car or maybe stab herself. She shifted toward the table to grab an implement but ran into Jacob instead.
He grabbed her forearms and looked into her eyes.
“Stop,” Jacob said.
“But I just …” Tink’s eyes welled with tears. She was too irritated to finish the sentence so she bounced on one foot.
“You’re excited and worried,” Jacob said. “It’s understandable. But you must know on some level …”
“What?” Tink asked.
“We’ve got this covered,” Jacob said.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and she turned. Blane hugged her tight.
“If we didn’t have it covered, we wouldn’t be sitting here,” Blane said.
Tink started to cry. Blane shifted over to give his spot to Charlie. Tink and Charlie talked and hugged. After a few minutes, Tink seemed to be feeling better. The group went out to the vehicles. Jacob took over driving from Sissy. Blane had driven Heather’s Subaru. Charlie, Tink, and Ivy went with Blane while Sissy, Wanda, Paddie, and Katy went with Jacob. The gigantic SUV, with Jacob at the wheel, drove out of the parking lot and turned left onto the frontage road that ran alongside I-70. To everyone’s surprise, they were now heading away from Denver toward Kansas. Blane followed close behind.
“Look!” Sissy pointed to the highway where two Colorado State Police cars were sitting behind the white van.
“Kansas Police, too!” Wanda said.
The children turned in their seats to watch the action. Behind them, Tink, Charlie, and Ivy watched the police with similar interest. Jacob pulled into the parking lot of an old, rundown business. Blane pulled in behind them. The children jumped out of the vehicles the moment they stopped.
“What’s going on?” Tink asked.
Charlie grabbed onto Tink to keep her from running across the span of dead grass that separated the frontage road from the highway. Ivy took Tink’s hand to keep her in place.
“Let’s just listen to what they have to say,” Ivy said. “Before we freak out.”
“I’m already freaked out!” Tink said.
Jacob waited for Blane and the men joined the children in a group.
“It’s one thing to take a child in the state of Colorado,” Blane said. “It’s another to cross the state boundary.”
Blane pointed to where Risa, the social worker, was guiding Chet out of the back of the van. The police technician cut Chet’s plastic restraints and placed them into evidence bags. Chet rubbing his arms. Risa said something that caused Chet to lean down to listen to her. Risa pointed to them. Chet’s head popped up with surprise. He looked over at them.
Tink cheered and waved and screamed and generally made a scene for her brother. Chet waved his arm over his head at them.
“What happens now?” Charlie asked Jacob.
“He has to be processed,” Jacob said. “Pictures of his injuries, give his statement, stuff like that, but he’ll be at the Castle tonight.”
“He will?” Tink asked.
“Risa told Heather that this group likes to ‘retrieve’ kids after they’ve gotten free of them,” Jacob said. “We’re going to hide him at the Castle until the state is sure that the group has been disbanded.”
“Can you keep him safe?” Tink asked.
“I respect you too much to lie,” Blane said. “There’s never a guarantee that he’ll be safe.”
“But we’ll do our damndest to make it so,” Jacob said.
Tink threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. This launched a round of enthusiastic hugging. They watched Chet follow Risa to a Colorado State Trooper’s car. The police car thread its way through the traffic and across the highway.
“Risa said that you and Blane can come with her while Chet goes through processing,” Jacob said. “Is that okay?”
“That’s fantastic!” Tink said.
She hugged Jacob again for good measure. The police car pulled into the parking lot. The State Trooper let Risa out of the back.
“We have a long evening ahead of us,” Risa said. “Are you sure you want to join us?”
“Sure?” Tink asked. “I’m absolutely sure.”
“Blane?” Risa asked.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Blane said.
“Good,” Risa said.
She opened the back of the police car. Tink slid in next to her brother and Blane sat near the window. Risa got in the front of the vehicle. They waited until the police cruiser was out of sight.
“Okay,” Jacob said. “Sissy, can you take Heather’s car?”
“Sure, but where’s Heather?” Sissy asked.
“She’s helping Seth with something,” Jacob said. “Before we go, I want all of you to know that this isn’t over with Chet. This is really just the beginning. These people believe they are tasked by their God to change this boy. They will stop at almost nothing to get him to stop being who he is.”
“You mean they’ll kill him?” Charlie asked.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that,” Jacob said. “I wanted you to know so you can support Tink. I also wanted you to know that we will do everything in our power — which is vast, as you know — to make sure that Chet can live a full life.”
Katy and Paddie hugged Jacob’s legs. The other kids gave a small cheer and piled into the cars. With Tink gone, Sissy drove Charlie, Ivy, and Wanda while Katy and Paddie went with Jacob. After a tense afternoon, Katy and Paddie fell fast asleep. Charlie and Ivy spoke in hushed tones in the back of the car while Wanda and Sissy got caught up. This time, Jacob let Sissy drive in front of him. They made the easy journey back to Denver where everyone was waiting for them at the Castle.
Monday evening — 7:20 p.m. ET
Heather was sitting at their dining room table when Fin returned Tanesha. She turned around to smile at Tanesha.
“Glad you had a good time,” Fin said.
He nodded to Heather, kissed Tanesha’s cheek, and disappeared. Tanesha gave Heather a wide smile which made Heather grin.
“Looks like you had a good time,” Heather said.
“Oh,” Tanesha said. She swung her purse and turned back and forth. “You could say that.”
Heather laughed. She nodded to the pitcher of water and glass in front of her. The water helped Tanesha combat the effects of traveling by fairy.
“Thanks,” Tanesha said.
She poured a glass of water and drank it down. Tanesha drank another glass of water before noticing what was on the table. Heather was holding their Grey Alien shaped salt shaker. Their Little Green Men alien shaped pepper shaker was sitting on the table to her left with the larger Reptilian Alien cinnamon and sugar shaker on her right.
“Planning an invasion?” Tanesha asked.
“An invasion?” Heather asked as she set the Grey Alien salt shaker in front of the other two aliens forming a triangle.
Heather picked up the grey Saucer Space Ship and put it in the middle of the triangle. Scowling, Tanesha pulled out the chair across from Heather and sat down. Heather pointed to the pitcher of water and Tanesha poured herself a glass of water. Heather cleared her throat.
“Fine,” Tanesha said, and drank down another glass of water. “What are you doing?”
“Besides making sure you drink your water?” Heather asked with a grin.
“With the Alien shakers,” Tanesha said.
Heather pointed to the disc.
“And the Alien space craft,” Tanesha added quickly.
“I was about to tell you,” Heather said.
“Oh,” Tanesha said with a smile.
“You’re a glow,” Heather said. “How was it with Jeraine?”
“He was …” Tanesha’s eyes misted over. “ … amazing.”
“Really?” Heather asked.
“I know,” Tanesha said. “It’s surprising. He woke up early. Took me to breakfast. We went for a run and carriage ride and a matinee of that play I’ve wanted to see and we just had the most romantic dinner I’ve ever had. When we made love, he was really present, available. I could see his love. For me. His love for me.”
Tanesha waved her hands over her eyes.
“You know?” Tanesha asked.
“Wow,” Heather said.
“I know!” Tanesha said. “I don’t want to even hope that this is what our life will be like now. I mean, I get that real life won’t … but he’s never been this … way … with me. I mean, I’ve seen him do it … you know, in the magazines and …”
Tanesha’s front teeth raked her lower lip. Her eyes welled with tears.
“Oh crap.” Unbidden, tears fell from Tanesha’s eyes.
“Sorry,” Heather said.
“He’s been so romantic with all of his women,” Tanesha said. “But me? I get the …”
Heather reached out to hold Tanesha’s hands.
“He was that way this time,” Heather said.
“Right,” Tanesha said. “What is he up to now?”
Heather gave Tanesha a soft smile. Tanesha’s forehead dropped to the table. Heather got up to smooth Tanesha’s hair. After a moment, Tanesha grabbed Heather’s hand.
“Don’t pet my afro,” Tanesha said with a tearful laugh.
Heather laughed and went back to her seat. She waited while Tanesha wiped her tears and caught her breath.
“Is it possible that he’s used these other women as a surrogate for you?” Heather asked in a kind, soft way. “Practice so he could get it right when it really mattered to him?”
Tanesha’s smart eyes traced Heather’s face. When she realized she should respond, Tanesha lifted a shoulder in a kind of shrug.
“It’s what he says,” Heather said.
“It doesn’t really change anything for me,” Tanesha said. “Does it?”
Heather gave a slow shake of her head.
“I still have to wait and see what happens,” Tanesha said.
“Or just enjoy the weekend, soak it up, and …” Heather shrugged.
“What’s …” Tanesha shrugged, “ … mean?”
“It means that not everything is connected to everything else,” Heather said. “You can have a nice weekend, take in all that he has to give, and get back to living your life. If Jeraine screws up, deal with it then. If he doesn’t, go from there. But enjoy it first. Draw deep and let it strengthen you. You’ll be devastated if he screws up again. That’s a fact. Not taking in his love now won’t mitigate what he does later.”
Tanesha’s head went up and down in a nod. She looked down at her hands. Her right hand picked at her manicure for a few minutes.
“I wonder if I can do that,” Tanesha said finally.
“You can certainly pretend to,” Heather said.
Tanesha laughed. For a moment, the two women’s eyes caught. They’d been best friends for almost all of this life. Tanesha nodded.
“You have a big life now,” Heather said. “Another month or so of work and then back to school. A son who loves you. Parents to annoy and cheer for you. Your Gran. Jeraine is just a small part of it …”
“Not all of it,” Tanesha said with a nod. Tanesha smiled. “Thanks.”
Heather smiled and looked down at her aliens and spaceship.
“What are you doing?” Tanesha asked.
“Oh …” Heather sighed. “Seth’s in a jam. I told him I would help him.”
“Oh?” Tanesha asked.
Heather explained how Seth had disappeared and how she’d found him locked to the table in the old police interrogation rooms below the vacant subway station.
“Is he still there?” Tanesha asked.
“No,” Heather said. “I sent him home. Well, he was asleep so I just transported him home. He’ll wake up in his own bed. I did leave a note where he was before though.”
“A note?” Tanesha asked.
“Saying that he was at home if they needed him,” Heather said with a nod.
“I can see that this would require three species of alien and a space craft,” Tanesha said with a nod.
Heather looked down at the shakers and laughed.
“I’m trying to figure out who took him,” Heather said.
“Who took who?” Tanesha asked.
“Who kidnapped Seth and put him into the room,” Heather said.
“Ah,” Tanesha nodded.
“Exactly,” Heather said.
“The suspects?” Tanesha asked.
Heather picked up the Grey Alien salt shaker.
“The police or possibly the Feds,” Heather said. “Corrupt ones, I mean. They want Big Daddy’s money or to influence the negotiations going on around Big Daddy’s crime business.”
“You mean, they want Big Daddy’s money,” Tanesha said. “And the pepper?”
Heather picked up the Little Green Men pepper shaker.
“Crime syndicates,” Heather said. “There’s a couple of drug cartels, a few African-American crime bosses, the Mob.”
“The Mob?” Tanesha asked. “Like the Mob?”
“Yeah,” Heather said with a nod. “But they are the least likely because Seth has already talked to all of them. Last week. He says he worked out a peaceful transition of Big Daddy’s business affairs. Everyone agreed. It was shockingly civilized. Seth said that Big Daddy knew that he wouldn’t live forever. He made arrangements before he died and everyone agreed to keep their end of the deals.”
“And that’s not true?” Tanesha asked.
“No,” Heather said. “That seems to be true. Didn’t you see them at the funeral?”
Tanesha shook her head.
“Only had eyes for Jer?” Heather asked with a smiled.
Grinning, Tanesha nodded.
“Well, they were there,” Heather said. “Together. Dancing, drinking, talking.”
“So it’s probably not them,” Tanesha said.
“Right,” Heather said.
“The Reptilians?” Tanesha pointed to the cinnamon and sugar shaker.
“These are something unknown,” Heather said.
“Something unknown?” Tanesha asked. “You mean like the Mob boss who wanted Seth to solve his wife’s murder before he was arrested for it.”
“Does Seth have any ideas?” Tanesha asked.
“Anyone who thought that Big Daddy had something that he deserved or wanted,” Heather said.
“So, Big Daddy’s family?” Tanesha asked.
“His distant relatives, people who worked for him,” Heather said.
“That sounds likely,” Tanesha said.
“It does,” Heather said. “Except …”
Tanesha raised her eyebrows.
“Just a feeling but I don’t think it’s this guy,” Heather said.
“Okay, feeling-wise, what is it?” Tanesha asked.
Heather pointed to the space ship.
“And that is?” Tanesha asked.
“Something else,” Heather said.
“Uh …?” Tanesha tipped her head to the side to ask the question.
“Something or someone who is using Seth to get what he or she or they wants,” Heather said.
“Seth’s a vehicle,” Tanesha said with a nod. “What do you think that means?”
“Someone put him there to keep him out of touch so they could run some deal or operation or to keep him safe or quiet or …?” Heather shrugged.
“Or any of that,” Tanesha said.
“What are you going to do?” Tanesha asked.
“Keep Seth safe,” Heather said. “In the meantime, we’re due at the Castle.”
“We are?” Tanesha asked.
Heather explained about Chet, his awful foster parents, and the conversion school he had been attending.
“Chet’s due there any minute,” Heather said. Tanesha nodded. “We have to take Jeraine’s car. Sissy took mine.”
“Sissy?” Tanesha asked. “What do you mean Sissy took your car?”
“She got her license when she was here at the wedding,” Heather said.
“They grow up so fast!” Tanesha said.
Heather smiled and Tanesha laughed.
“I know you were looking forward to seeing Jabari,” Heather said.
“I know that he’s safe and sound at Mom’s house,” Tanesha nodded.
“He’s waiting for you at the Castle,” Heather said.
“Let’s go!” Tanesha said with a laugh.
Tanesha hopped up from her seat. She grabbed Jeraine’s car keys off the hook and they went out the back.
“You know,” Tanesha said as she started the car. “I think you’re right.”
“About?” Heather asked.
“There’s something going on that we don’t know about,” Tanesha said. “With Seth I mean.”
“I wonder if Seth knows,” Heather said.
“Probably not,” Tanesha said.
“How do we find out?” Heather asked.
“I bet we’ll know soon enough,” Tanesha said. “This kind of thing doesn’t stay hidden for long.”
Heather nodded. Tanesha backed out and started toward the Castle.
Monday evening — 11:20 p.m. ET
“You’re really just a big kitty,” a woman’s voice said.
Hearing voices, Ivan had gone to the door of the apartment in the basement of the Castle. He quietly opened the door.
“You are speaking to an ancient being,” a deep male voice said.
“Just a baby boy.” The woman made a kissing sound, and the male chuckled in a deep way.
Worried that these were the people coming for Chet, Ivan crept down the hallway toward the voices. He reached the corner and looked out.
He squeaked with horror.
The hall was all but filled with a creature with a lion head, large golden wings, four paws, and a snake for a tail. Ivan’s horror drew the creature’s attention. The big lion head jerked in his direction.
Horror coursed through Ivan’s veins. He froze.
In a breath, the creature’s snout was an inch from Ivan’s face. The creature took a deep sniff. Ivan’s hair blew in the creature’s direction.
“Russian. Human. Dancer. You must be Ivan.” The creature bowed to Ivan. “I apologize for frightening you.”
When the creature bowed, Ivan felt fear flush from him. Abi caught him just as his knees buckled. She was able to keep him from falling to the ground.
“There’s a monster,” Ivan said to Abi.
“I am not a monster,” the creature said. “I am a Chiron.”
“Not real,” Ivan said. “I’m dreaming.”
Abi kissed Ivan’s cheek. He felt waves of golden light flow through him like a warm summer breeze. He could almost see his heart inflate with golden light. The darkness that lingered from the gulag and his sister’s death blew away in the warmth. He sighed a breath of golden light.
Abi snapped her fingers. Ivan was back in bed with Sissy. He put his arm around Sissy and fell into a profound, restorative deep sleep.
“Try not to scare them,” Abi said. “Hedone asked you not to scare them.”
“How ever will I determine which ones are here do to evil?” the Chiron asked. “Hedone gave me the sacred duty of protecting these humans from those with religious delusions. I owe Hedone my life. I will protect these humans to the best of my ability.”
“They won’t look like a Russian dancer,” Abi said.
“Humans look the same to me,” the Chiron said. “Every one of them. Always have.”
Abi looked at the creature.
“Why don’t we patrol together?” Abi asked.
“I would love that,” the Chiron purred. “Now that you are mating with that… fairy, I never get to spend time with you, mother.”
Abi scratched under the Chiron’s chin. They set off down the hallway.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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