CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SEVEN
Monday afternoon — 1:30 p.m. MT
Heather was angry. Her anger hung over the little yellow house like thunder storms. She had yet to come up with a way that she could help Chet that didn’t involve putting Tink right in the middle of it. Heather wouldn’t have minded endangering Tink’s ridiculous biological mother, but she was pregnant with another “dream” baby. As much as she loathed Tink’s mother, Heather would never put an unborn fetus in the middle of this debacle. Heather squinted. Sitting across from her on a comfortable armchair, Jill raised her hands as if Heather had a gun. Heather grinned. Jill put a hand on Tanner and another on Bladen, who were sleeping in her lap. Abi walked back and forth trying to comfort a fussy Zaidy with Zoe sleeping on her back.
A half hour ago, Risa had called to say that Chet was no longer at this facility.
After her first call, the school had moved him through their clandestine network of houses, schools, and quasi medical facilities. They had watched a surveillance video which showed Chet — bound at the wrists and ankles with plastic zipties — thrown into the back of white van. Risa had issued and Amber Alert, but she hadn’t given them much hope that it would work. Risa’s supervisor had told them that there was very little chance that they would ever see Chet again as this group would rather kill the child than have him “commit sins against God.”
Under hooded eyes, Heather watched everyone as they talked through pointless problem after useless plan. The fairies were of no help. Abi had great ideas, but they were more like military assaults then finding a lost boy. Sissy, who had arrived with everyone else, had left to use her new driver’s license to get lunch.
And then Ava called Sandy.
“Hello?” Sandy asked. Sandy fell silent while she was listening to Ava. “No. I haven’t heard from him. Did you ask Cl …”
Sandy fell silent for a moment.
“I see,” Sandy said. “Okay, I’ll let you know if I learn anything.”
Heather squinted at Sandy.
“Seth’s missing,” Sandy said in her direction.
“Now that’s something I can do!” Heather beamed. She hopped to her feet.
The dense air of the house cleared. Everyone turned to look at Heather.
“I’d appreciate it if …” Sandy said.
“My pleasure to be able to do something,” Heather asked.
“Why can you do something for Seth when you can’t help Chet?” Jacob asked.
“We’re related,” Heather said. “My father’s cousin’s child is his ancestor’s mother.”
“What?” Jill asked.
“Yours too,” Heather said. “On your father’s side. That’s why I can meddle in your and Sandy’s life so freely.”
“Thank you?” Jill looked up at Heather and Heather smiled.
“Whaaa …?” Jacob started.
“Don’t ask,” Blane said in a loud whisper. “You’re dealing with the family genealogy of Olympia.”
Chuckling, Jacob gave a little nod.
“Heather’s been nice enough to find Seth when he’s disappeared before,” Sandy said. “The many times he’s disappeared.”
“This happens often?” Abi asked.
“Sort of,” Sandy said. “The worrisome times are when Claire can’t find him. He and Claire are mentally linked. She usually gets a sense of where he is. Then, a couple times a year, even Claire can’t find him.”
“He has his hands in a lot of pies,” Jill said.
“Who would take Seth?” Abi asked.
“Government, usually,” Sandy said. “Spies, people he’s put in prison, mobsters, stuff like that. One time, a mobster’s wife was killed. The mobster was hiding out from the law. His henchmen picked up Seth to get Seth to figure out who killed her before the mobster turned himself in.”
“Did he figure it out?” Abis asked.
Jill and Sandy nodded. Heather gave Wyn to Blane and went upstairs.
“What’s she doing?” Jacob asked.
“She’s laying her human body down,” Blane said.
Jacob gave a vague nod.
“Anyone notice that Sissy’s been gone a long time?” Sandy asked.
They turned to look at the door. Sandy pushed some buttons on her phone.
“How much did she hear?” Sandy asked.
“Everything,” Blane said.
“Oh,” Sandy said, as she peered into her cell phone. “That’s not good.”
“What happened?” Jill asked.
Jill moved Sandy’s hands aside to see her phone.
“We installed a tracker on Sissy’s phone,” Sandy said. “I say ‘we’ but it was Aden. He was uncomfortable leaving Sissy alone in New York.”
“Where is she?” Blane asked.
“Marlowe School,” Sandy said. “She’s been there for fifteen minutes.”
“She’s told Tink,” Abi said with a nod.
“That’s not good,” Blane said. “Tink can’t fix this.”
Jill squinted her eyes and picked up her phone. She called the school. After a short conversation, she hung up.
“Okay, thanks,” Jill said.
“What was that?” Jacob asked.
“Katy and Paddie are at a doctor’s appointment,” Jill said.
“They are?” Jacob asked.
“With you,” Jill said.
“Oh,” Jacob said. “That’s not good.”
Abi shook her head and looked at Sandy.
“What does this mean?” Abi asked.
“They’re on another adventure,” Sandy said. “Probably to save Chet.”
Abi laughed while the other adults gawked at her.
“Oh, come on,” Abi said. “Just because you’re their parents doesn’t mean you can’t admire their amazing spirit.”
Jill and Jacob gave a vague nod while Blane smiled.
“They really are amazing,” Sandy said.
Jill and Jacob’s heads went up and down in a slow nod.
“Can you watch my babies?” Abi asked.
“Sure,” Blane said. “But where are you going?”
“To keep an eye on these renegade children,” Abi said. “They’ve let me watch and help before.”
“You’ve helped them?” Jill asked. Her voice rising with indignation.
“They were stuck in a wall, after all,” Abi said.
“Oh, that’s right,” Jill said. “I just …”
“Worry. I know. That’s why I’m going,” Abi said. “The girls will sleep until I get back.”
“Oh?” Blane asked. “How will you make that happen?”
“I will put a spell on them,” Abi said.
Laughing at the idea, Blane nodded to Abi. She set Zaidi in Blane’s arms and unhooked Zoe. Abi had disappeared before Blane realized that she was serious.
“You don’t have to …” Blane said to the air where Abi had been.
“I didn’t,” Abi said with a grin. “I just said that.”
Laughing, she gave Blane a little wave and disappeared again.
“I’d better call Paddie’s mom,” Jill said.
She passed Bladen to Jacob and Tanner to Blane and left to make a private phone call.
Monday afternoon — 3:40 p.m. ET
New York City, New York
Seth was sitting at a metal table in the middle of a grey cinderblock room. His hands were caught in handcuffs which were shackled to the table. The table was dusty and the floor dirty. He was staring into a mirrored window into another room.
Nothing stirred around him. Behind him, reflected in the window, a golden light appeared.
“Hedone,” Seth said under his breath.
“Where are we?” Heather, in her Hedone body, said.
“You look oddly … bright,” Seth said in the same low tone. “Voluptuous. Golden.”
“I’m a full Goddess now,” Heather said. “Sandy didn’t tell you?”
“I’ve been a little busy,” Seth said.
“I see that,” Heather said.
Careful not to disturb anything, she walked around the table. There was a tiny camera up in the corner of the room. She floated up to look at it. She passed through the mirrored window into an empty room, and seriously misused room, behind it. She came back.
“This is cozy,” Heather said. “How’d you get here?”
She moved her fingers and Seth’s handcuffs unlocked. Seth nodded in thanks. His eyes flicked to the camera.
“The camera doesn’t have a microphone,” Heather said. “I’m not sure it’s on.”
“Can you check?” Seth asked.
“Hmm,” Heather said.
She followed the lines back to a broken video screen. She looked around the box that the wires went into and ran her fingers over it. As far as she could tell, there was no electricity going into this box. She traced the wires back to the camera and appeared in the room again. Seth was still sitting at the table staring at the window.
“WiFi,” Heather said. “From the camera itself.”
She reached up and pressed a button.
“I’ve turned it off,” Heather said. “If someone is nearby, they should come in to check on you.”
At the ready, Heather stood behind Seth. They waited. One minute became five minutes. There was no sound and no movement. Ten minutes passed.
“I don’t think anyone is here,” Heather said.
Seth sighed and stood up. He stretched, jumped up and down, and paced around the room a few times while rubbing his arms.
“I don’t know how I got here,” Seth said. “I was at the airport dropping Ava off. Someone paged me at the airport. I’d left my cell phone in the car. I figured it was Claire asking for help cleaning up. She never wants to hire help.”
“She did eventually,” Heather said.
“Good,” Seth said. He lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “I went to the phone and that’s all I remember.”
Heather leaned toward him and sniffed.
“Some kind of sedative.” Heather sniffed again. “Maybe on the phone receiver.”
“Great,” Seth said. “I woke up here, like that. I figured they were watching me in the other room.”
“If they did, they’re invisible,” Heather said.
“Great, I was abducted by invisible men,” Seth said. “Does Ava know I’m missing?”
“Claire?” Seth asked.
Heather nodded and held up her hand.
“Ava called Sandy,” Heather said. “I was there so I came to check on you.”
“This is not the worst place I’ve found you in,” Heather said.
“That’s the truth,” Seth said.
“Are you all right?” Heather asked.
“I won’t be if I don’t find a toilet,” Seth said.
“There’s one in the hall,” Heather said. “The water seems to be on, power too, but no one is here.”
Heather opened the door to the hallway. She held up her hand to Seth and peered out. Nothing moved. They waited. After a few minutes, Heather nodded. She led him to the bathroom.
“Can you figure out where I am?” Seth asked at the doorway.
“I can try,” Heather said. “Call me if you need me. If I’m not back, go back to the room and wait.”
Seth nodded. Heather gave him a little wave. She waited until he’d checked and locked the bathroom door before trying to figure out where they were. She heard a noise and went up a few floors. They seemed to be under a subway station which meant they were still in New York.
That was good. She looked at the signs but they had been so graphited over she couldn’t read them. She went up to the street. They seemed to be under Thomas Paine Park. She looked out at the street signs — Lexington and Worth. Nodding to herself, she went to find Seth again. He was sitting at the table.
“We’re under some subway station,” Heather said. “It seems to be closed. I couldn’t tell which one, but we’re definitely in New York. I went to the street. We’re under a park, Thomas Paine Park.”
“Worth Street Station,” Seth said with a nod. He got up to walk around. “You didn’t see anyone?”
“No one,” Heather said.
“There are police interview rooms in all of these subway stations,” Seth said. “That explains this room.”
Heather looked at the room and then back at Seth.
“They don’t have these mirrored windows anymore,” Seth said. “Too many people break them.”
“It’s all done by electronics now,” Seth said.
“Any idea who picked you up?” Heather asked.
Seth shook his head.
“I can get you out of here, but since we don’t know why you’re here …” Heather said.
“I’ll get picked up again,” Seth said with a nod.
“Ava was calling your police buddies,” Heather said. “Why don’t we let them come to get you?”
“What if they’re the ones who picked me up?” Seth asked. “We don’t know if I was taken to save me or injure me.”
“Hmm,” Heather said. “I’m kind of new to the whole Goddess thing, but why don’t you let me see if I can try?”
“Can I bring you anything?” Heather asked.
“Sandwich, something to drink,” Seth said.
Heather disappeared and returned a moment later with a deli bag.
“That was fast,” Seth said.
“Benefits of being a Goddess,” Heather said. “I’ve fixed the door so they can’t come in here easily. I should be back before they get here.”
Seth nodded. He sat back down at the place where he’d been held. Opening the bag, he saw his favorite sandwich and a large cup of coffee. He ate his lunch and settled in for a long nap.
Monday afternoon — 3:40 p.m. MT
“Are you sure?” Sissy asked.
She looked at Katy in the rearview mirror.
“I know I just went,” Katy said. “I just really have to go. Again.”
Paddie turned to look at Katy.
“Are you okay?” Paddie asked. “You don’t usually have to pottie so much.”
Katy gave Paddie a sincere nod.
“I might have an accident,” Katy said.
“Poor Katy,” Paddie said. “Hang on.”
They were sitting in the middle seats of Jill’s enormous SUV. Katy was small so she still needed a booster. Paddie was strapped in beside her. Charlie sat beside Katy next to the window. Tink sat in the passenger seat while Wanda and Ivy sat in the way back.
Sissy turned on her blinker and pulled the SUV off I-70 at Burlington, Colorado. Seeing a chain diner, Sissy pulled into the parking lot. Sissy found a spot near the front door and parked the behemoth.
“They’re here,” Ivy said in a whisper.
She pointed to the white van in the parking lot. The children looked at the van in horror.
“Then it’s a good thing we stopped,” Sissy said with a nod.
“Let’s split up,” Charlie said. “Tink and I will take Paddie and Katy. We’ll get a table in the back and you guys can meet us there.”
“Won’t they be hiding in the back?” Sissy asked.
Charlie pointed. Through the front window, they saw two burly men and a skinny boy eating a meal at a corner booth. The boy’s head hung about five inches from his food.
“That’s them!” Tink said. “That’s my brother.”
She moved to get out of the SUV. From the seat behind, Charlie held her in place.
“We have to be cool,” Charlie said. “Or we’ll miss our chance.”
“I have to get him!” Tink shook her head.
“Katy has to go pottie,” Charlie said. “Can you take her?”
Tink turned around to look at the little girl’s desperate face.
“We can’t just run in there,” Charlie said. “We have to be smarter than that. We need to slip past then and then get Chet away.”
Realizing he was right, Tink gave a resigned nod. Charlie let go of her, and Tink hugged Sissy.
Charlie helped Katy out of her booster. He got out of the SUV and opened Tink’s door. Charlie took Paddie’s hand and Tink took Katy’s. They walked into the diner together.
“We’ll wait for you right here,” Charlie said.
Tink took Katy to the bathroom. When they returned to the front, Charlie had an amused look on his face. He nodded to a large table where Jacob and Blane were sitting. Jacob stood up and waved them over.
“Why Tink!” Jacob said in a loud voice. “How nice of you to finally get here?”
“Daddy, did you make me have to go pottie?” Katy asked.
Jacob winked at her. She ran to him to give him a hug. He pulled her onto his lap and made room for Paddie, who arrived just behind Katy. Tink scowled at Blane. He pulled out a chair for her.
“Please,” Blane said to Tink. “Have a seat.”
In the corner booth, Chet’s eyes flicked in their direction. His face instinctively flushed when he saw Tink. The men he was sitting with looked over at them.
“How’s it goin’?” Jacob asked the men in a congenial way. “My husband and I are meeting our kids here. I hope we’re not too loud.”
Blane gave the men a little effeminate wave. The burly men grunted. They sneered and said something in a grunting voice to Chet. The boy looked back down at his food. Under the table, Chet put his thumb up.
Sissy, Ivy, and Wanda came in. They watched Jacob put his arm around Blane. Sissy grabbed Wanda’s hand and they cozily walked to the table. Ivy skipped her way to the table.
“Hi Uncle Jacob and Uncle Blane,” Ivy said loudly.
Ivy hugged and kissed Blane and then Jacob before sitting down next to Charlie. Sissy pulled out a chair to Wanda and Wanda sat down. Sissy sat down next to Tink. The waitress showed up at that moment and, at Jacob’s insistence, the children ordered food.
“Nash and Teddy are presenting their proposal for their science project,” Sissy said. “They didn’t want to miss it. Noelle is with Mike tonight. Since Val’s baby is due soon, Noelle doesn’t want to miss the time she gets with Mike.”
“They’re here in spirit,” Wanda said.
“What are we going to do?” Tink asked out of the corner of her mouth.
“It’s already done,” Blane said.
“But …” Tink started.
Frustrated, she looked at Blane and then at Katy. The little girl nodded to Tink.
“But …” Tink started again.
“I guess the easiest way to explain it is that you are not alone,” Jacob said. “You don’t have to fix this or any situation with your brother by yourself.”
“You have a family,” Blane said. “We can help.”
“But …” Tink said.
Her eyes scanned Blane and Jacob’s faces. She looked at Charlie.
“Did you tell them?” Tink asked.
“When would I have had time to do that?” Charlie asked.
“We found out this morning from Risa,” Blane said. “Sissy found out from us.”
Tink’s eyes jerked to Sissy, and Sissy nodded.
“But …” Tink said.
“Why don’t we eat some pancakes?” Jacob asked. “Give it some time so that we old farts can take care of a few things.”
“But …” Tink said.
Wanda put her hand over Tink’s and squeezed. Wanda hung on until the waitress returned with plates of pancakes, waffles, and French Fries. Of course, Sissy had a salad with no dressing. Katy and Paddie maintained their perch on Jacob’s lap while they ate their French Fries. Blane chatted with Sissy and Charlie. They were halfway through their meal when the burly men in the corner stood up. One of them threw money on the table while the other one grabbed Chet. They children stared. Blane had to hold Tink back to keep her from running after her brother.
They watched the burly men pay for their meal and walk out of the restaurant.
“You’re letting them go!” Tink said. “We have to do something!”
Blane looked at Jacob, and Jacob nodded. Neither one moved from their seats. Like a silent play, Tink panicked while everyone else at their table slowly ate their food.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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