Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Four Hundred and Seventy-two : Ready

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-TWO

“Alex and I had a case where we were looking for something written by another Jewish author who was murdered in the same camp,” Raz said. “That case led us to create a file for all dead or missing authors from that time. Lidia, or as we call her LS, was on that list.”

“LS?” Bernie nodded. “That would give us enough anonymity when we travel.”

“Teddy said you wanted to look at modern day satellite imaging,” Raz said. “What are we looking for?”

“Where LS worked and kept her papers; sort of a library,” Bernie said. “The journal says that there are at least two of her unpublished manuscripts as well as many volumes of books. Many of her friends gave her their possessions before they were taken to the camps. LS was deeply involved with the Jewish writing community. But who knows? There’s no way to know what books or manuscripts could be there. There may even be some art and other objects that are on the Lost Art list.”

Bernie shrugged.

“And there may be nothing,” Bernie said. “The Nazis could have found it or the Soviets or looters or it could be flooded or… Anything could have happened. We won’t know until we find it and take a look.”

“Don’t you think things might have deteriorated over time?” Raz asked. “It’s been a long time and …”

“She stored them in a salt mine,” Bernie said.

“Sir, I know that you …” Raz said, shaking his head.

“I thought the same thing,” Bernie said with a nod. “All those stories of Nazi treasures in salt mines. This one is said to be on a piece of property owned by her family going back many generations. It was a family retreat.”

“Where?” Raz asked.

“Between Bochnia and Wieliczka,” Bernie said. “Salt mines, that is.”

Raz’s eyebrows rose. His face flushed for a moment before he shook his head.

“Same salt seam?” Raz asked.

“Splinter off the main seam,” Bernie said with a nod. “She describes it in the journal.”

“Who owns the land now?” Raz asked.

“The man who sold us the journal has papers for the land,” Bernie said. “He was to in contact with Polish authorities, after the Russians left. The papers are from the 1980s. He is confident that he still owns the land. He’s just not exactly sure where it is located.”

“But …”

“She describes it as a little ugly shack on top of a salt mine,” Bernie said. “The Nazi’s never knew it was there. Of course, there’s no way to know … anything really. We could find it and everything is gone. We could … Well, anything. I haven’t found any record that Nazi’s found it and they were looking for her manuscript. It was up for Pulitzer so …”

Raz nodded and Bernie stopped speaking.

“We’ve found it,” Teddy said in a bright voice. “The shack, that is.”

“We’re pretty sure, at least,” Nash said.

Raz looked from Bernie to Teddy. He gave a quick shake of his head.

“You’re joking, right?” Raz asked. “This isn’t really happening.”

Bernie shook his head.

“Let me show you,” Bernie said.

~~~~~~~~

Sunday morning — 12:03 a.m.

Jacob herded Katy into the main Castle living room. Noelle was slumped over on the couch holding her Teddy Bear. When Katy arrived, Noelle looked up. Jacob gestured to the couch. Katy slouched her way and threw herself onto the couch. A few minutes later, Rachel skipped into the room. When she saw the girls, she smiled. She sat in between them. Noelle scooted over, but Katy put her arm around the tiny girl. Cleo the cat sauntered into room and settled by the fireplace.

Aden took a seat in an armchair. Sandy and Jill came in and sat on the loveseat. Delphie stood near the kitchen.

“Why won’t you just leave me alone?” Noelle asked, in a half-begging weeping voice.

I didn’t want to be here,” Katy said.

Rachel leaned over and kissed Noelle’s cheek.

“Why is Rachel here?” Noelle asked.

“Rachel’s been harassed by a boy in her class,” Sandy said.

“He’s calls me a ‘kike,’” Rachel said. He voice was quiet and small. Because she almost never spoke, everyone’s attention turned to her. “That sounds like kite but it’s a bad word for Jewish people.”

Rachel shrugged and smiled.

“Why are we here?” Noelle asked.

“We’re here because the three of you have had trouble with someone in your classes,” Jacob said.

“We’ve been bullied!” Noelle said. “By mean people!”

“Scott the Snot tried to kill his mother!” Katy said. “No one believes me!”

“I do,” Delphie said.

“I do,” Noelle spit out.

“We all believe you,” Jacob said.

“Then why don’t you do something?” Katy asked.

“That’s why we’re all here,” Aden said.

“Oh, of course,” Noelle said. “This is all about someone else’s crisis. No one ever cares about me!”

Noelle collapsed onto the arm of the couch and sobbed.

“I care,” Rachel said.

“Oh, honey,” Sandy said. “You know that’s not true.”

Aden opened his mouth but Sandy gestured for him to be silent. The silence lagged. After a full minute, Noelle looked up and said, “I know, it’s just…”

“We’re here to figure out what to do next,” Jill said.

“Isn’t that something grown-ups should do?” Katy asked.

Jill had to stifle a snort for Katy’s new found gumption. This Scott was helping Katy find her voice.

“We can,” Jacob said. “Most parents would step in and try to fix this for their kids.”

“There’s a lot of wisdom in that,” Aden said.

“We can kick the kids out of the Marlowe School,” Jacob said. “That’s not even hard. But what happens then? Katy? What’s going to happen to Scott if he leaves the Marlowe School?”

“Who cares?” Katy asked.

“Katy, this should be easy for you,” Delphie said. “What happens to Scott?”

Katy crossed her arms and leaned back.

“I understand that you can’t do it,” Abi said as she came into the room. “It’s a hard question.”

“I can’t do it!” Katy said. “I can do anything.”

Abi smirked and went to the fire where she picked up Cleo. She spun toward Katy.

“Prove it,” Abi said.

“I…” Katy said. “Fine. What will happen to Scott when he leaves the Marlowe School?”

Katy blinked for a moment and scowled. She pointed at Noelle.

“That girl? She’s in big trouble,” Katy said. “Right now. Big Trouble. If she doesn’t go to the Marlowe School, she’ll …”

Katy nodded.

“What happens?” Jill asked gently.

“She dies,” Katy said. She looked at Noelle. “Can you live with that? Because Scott goes to a special school for bad kids and he …”

Katy shook her head.

“I couldn’t live with that,” Katy said.

“What about me?” Rachel asked.

Katy clamped her mouth closed and shook her head.

“So we know that things won’t turn out good for these kids if they leave the Marlowe School,” Jacob said.

“Why do we care?” Noelle asked. “They are bad kids. They should have bad lives.”

The adults started talking at once. Noelle collapsed back onto the arm of the couch. Katy’s eyes went from face to face as if she was both frightened and amused. Rachel’s eyes locked on Abi, who was not speaking. Abi smiled at the little girl.

“You’re just saying we have to …” Noelle whined.

“What needs to be said is very simply this,” Abi spoke in a deep heavily African accented voice that was unfamiliar to them.

The mere sound of her voice seemed to vibrate through the humans. The adults stopped speaking and turned to look at Abi. Katy clapped her hands at Abi in glee. Rachel laughed and Noelle scowled.

Abi smiled.

“This is what my normal voice sounds like,” Abi said. “I don’t use it because you can feel it.”

Abi closed the tips of her fingers to the tip of her thumb.

“Here,” Abi said, as she gestured to her heart.

Everyone’s head moved up and down a bit.

“I have been alive for a lot longer than any of you,” Abi said. “Combined. I will tell you very simply this. Everyone does what they think is right. Everyone believes that they are the one who is right — even people who do terrible, horrible things. They do these things because they believe that they are the right thing to do.”

Noelle opened her mouth to protest, but Abi spoke first.

“You see, this boy that’s harassing Rachel,” Abi said. “He believes that he’s being loyal to his father by calling Rachel names. This girl — she was doing what she could to hide the fact that her life was so crazy. Did you know that she didn’t have a father? That her mother was in this crazy relationship with Jazmyne?”

Abi looked at Noelle, but Noelle refused to respond.

“Noelle,” Abi said.

“Oh fine,” Noelle said. “No, I didn’t know. But no one cares about gay people. No one would have cared if they all knew.”

“Is that true?” Abi asked.

“No,” Aden said. “This happened at the after school art program Noelle was in. It was really cliquey. It was supposed to be the best in the city, but it was really a mess. The mothers were all having affairs and the men were … If anyone knew that this girl’s mother was a lesbian, they would have chucked the child out of the school.”

“She wasn’t a very good artist,” Noelle mumbled. “They were always threatening to kick her out.”

“Oh really?” Sandy asked. “Who was the best there?”

“Me,” Noelle said.

“Huh,” Sandy said.

“What’s ‘huh’ mean?” Katy looked at Jill to ask.

“Auntie Sandy is reminding Noelle that people who are the best often get harassed,” Jill said.

“You mean like Scott?” Katy asked.

“Like Scott,” Jill said.

“Scott sees how strong you are Katy,” Abi said. “Think of what you have in common — both of your fathers are dead by gunshot wounds caused by their own actions. Yet here you are — happy, loved, the daughter of Jacob Marlowe.”

“Who the school was named after,” Jill said.

“And Mama Celia,” Katy said with a nod.

“Who is also a Marlowe?” Jill asked.

Katy pointed to herself. The little girl scowled.

“Understanding doesn’t help much, does it?” Delphie asked.

Katy, Noelle, and Rachel nodded.

“What does help?” Sandy asked the room and then turned to look at Abi. “I mean, I have situations from elementary school that bug me to this day. Tanesha had a whole bunch of this crap come up when she was taking her finals just a few weeks ago.”

“I have had it come up for me,” Jill nodded.

“Mommy?” Katy asked.

“Just stuff that happened after I came back from Costa Rica,” Jill said.

“A couple of kids said that her parents hated her so they didn’t come back,” Sandy said.

Jill looked at Sandy and then said, “That mom called social services on Meg and Mike, remember when I didn’t have snack on the day that was my day. Meg had like three jobs. Mike worked with Sam and went to high school.”

“They forgot,” Sandy nodded.

“That was a mess,” Jill said, and looked down at her hands. “I don’t know what I’d do if I saw that mom again. Even now. All these years later and …”

Jill gestured around at the Castle.

“It still hurts,” Jill said and touched her heart. “So, I get it.”

“I think we all do,” Jacob said, with a nod.

“Oh seriously, when did the rich Marlowe ever have social problems?” Sandy asked as a kind of joke but it was clear that she was serious.

“Oh you mean how cool it was that my father was pussified by my bitch mother?” Jacob asked. “Or maybe my family business was literally shit?”

Sandy wrinkled her nose and grimaced.

“Ow,” Katy said. “That’s not very nice, Daddy.”

Sandy and Jill looked at Aden and Jacob glanced in his direction.

“Yes, you’re right,” Aden said. “It totally escaped the attention of the elementary school bullies that my entire family packed up and left me.”

Everyone nodded. The look on Delphie’s face indicated that she’d had much worse than what they’d described. Delphie squinted and looked at Abi.

“I think what we’re saying kids is that we’ve been there,” Delphie said.

The adults nodded.

“What if I told you that the kids who did this to you believed they were doing the right thing,” Abi said.

“For their selfish reasons,” Jill said.

“Matbe,” Abi said. “Sandy, didn’t the man you thought was your father tell you he was doing it for your own good?”

“Yeah, but he was lying,” Sandy said. “He was doing it for himself.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Abi said. “People in power always justify their actions.”

“You mean that this Scott the Snot justifies what he does to Katy because he’s in power?” Jill asked.

“Or he thinks that Katy has all the power,” Abi said with a nod. “He’s trying to take it away from her.”

“I’d never do that to anyone!” Noelle said. “That’s like the stuff that Nuala does.”

“What’s a Nuala?” Abi asked.

“Noelle’s birth mother,” Aden said.

Abi scowled. She raised her right hand. Her fingers moved as if she was tickling the air. The air sparked every time her finger tips hit the tip of her thumb. After a moment, she moved as if she was throwing something into the middle of the room. A line made out of blue-grey light appeared in the air. It slid across and doubled into two lines. The two lines doubled again until box of blue-grey light floated in the air. One side of the box dropped and the box doubled itself. As soon there were six sides to the box, it grew. The box was seven or eight inches long when Rachel pointed.

“Someone’s inside!” Rachel said.

They leaned forward. The box grew and grew until it was about ten feet high and ten feet wide. A woman paced back and forth inside the box.

“That’s Nuala,” Noelle said.

“She looks happy,” Abi said wryly.

They watched Nuala pace back and forth as if she was imprisoned by the box.

“We live in a ‘cause and effect’ world,” Abi said. “I do this and that happens. This means that Nuala, Scott, the boy in Rachel’s class, and this girl who hurt Noelle — they have to live with the consequences of what they’ve done in their lives. That’s a law of this world. That’s just how life works.”

Abi smiled at Rachel.

“This is a little bit much for our Rachel,” Abi said.

“Katy will teach me,” Rachel said.

She was little and so sweet that everyone smiled.

“But what do we do?” Noelle asked. “What am I going to do?”

“Whatever you do, you will have to live with the consequences of those actions,” Abi said.

Noelle scowled.

“Why do I have to live with the consequences when they started it?” Noelle asked.

“Abi is saying that they believe that you started it,” Delphie said.

Noelle’s head jerked to look at Delphie.

“How did I start it?” Noelle asked. “I didn’t do anything!”

“How would this girl think that you started it?” Sandy asked.

Noelle looked at Sandy and blinked.

“Just for fun,” Sandy said. “What might she think?”

“She might think that Noelle was a show off,” Katy said. “Because she’s so good.”

“Right,” Delphie said. “Teacher’s pet.”

“I was,” Noelle acknowledged.

“You remember how everyone was really invested in what other people thought?” Aden asked.

“Like who was the best and stuff,” Noelle said with a nod. “I didn’t like it that they said I was the best because there were other people who were good, but different. Now that I work with Mike, I wish that I had paid more attention to what the different people were doing. I would have learned more.”

“Exactly,” Aden said.

“What do I have to do?” Katy asked.

“Now that you know all about Scott’s life and his heart break, how do you feel about him?” Jacob asked.

“About Scott?” Katy asked. She looked at her father for a moment before she shrugged. “I don’t know. Just because things have been hard for him doesn’t mean he has to be such a jerk.”

“What if he doesn’t know that?” Jacob asked.

“Well …” Katy said. “I guess I could tell him when he’s being a jerk. What about him trying to kill his mom?”

“We’ve already talked to his mother and the police,” Jacob said with finality.

“I called the morning after you had the vision,” Jill said. “It turned out that they already knew that Scott had tried to hurt his mother. Scott is now seeing someone who can help him with all of this.”

“So I don’t have to do everything?” Katy asked.

“You just have to be Katy,” Jill said.

“I can do that,” Katy said.

“But he’s going to hurt Katy again!” Noelle said.

“Maybe he will,” Jill said. “We’ll be here if she has trouble again. If we protect her like a baby …”

“I’m not a baby!” Katy said.

Jacob raised an eyebrow and nodded.

“I wouldn’t mind if you fixed this for me!” Noelle said.

Aden rolled his eyes and fell back into his chair.

“I can do it,” Sandy said, imitating Noelle. “You guys think that I’m a little fragile princess but I’m strong!”

“Not about this!” Noelle said.

“Then we learn how to deal with this,” Sandy said. “You’re a girl who watched her sister get shot, right in front of you. You’ve survived the craziness of an addicted mother. You’ve lived in New York City. You went through that horrible fight in City Park …”

“I fought back and even testified,” Noelle said. “That guy’s never going to get out.”

“How do you bring this fierceness to the situation with this girl?” Delphie asked.

Noelle scowled and looked down for a moment.

“What about Rachel?” Noelle asked.

“I was just going to be me,” Rachel said with a shrug. “He doesn’t have to be nice to me, but I am a nice girl. So I’m nice.”

Rachel nodded. Once again, the little girl had charmed the adults completely. When Abi took a breath, they turned to look at her.

“We cannot abandon these troubled kids just because they have behaved poorly,” Abi said. “We have too much in common to be separate from each other. It’s not easy but it’s really not as hard as living with the curse that you are good and they are bad.”

“I also want to say to each of you,” Sandy said, “we are here for you. We want to know how it goes. This is hard stuff that we weren’t able to figure out when we were young. Let us help if you get stuck. Let us know about your triumphs and failures. We’ll all learn something.”

“There are plenty of unpleasant adults in the world,” Aden said.

“When you’re able to see that everyone is on the same team, things go a lot differently,” Abi said.

“I can do it,” Rachel said with a smile.

Katy nodded in agreement.

“Oh, okay,” Noelle said in a mopey voice. “I’ll try. Can I go now?”

“Sure,” Aden said.

The kids got up and left the room. For a moment, the adults sat still.

“When did Noelle become a teenager?” Jacob asked.

Everyone laughed.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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