CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN
Levi Johannsen had returned.
He was enormous in size. His menacing for towered over them. Perses and Ares ran toward the creature while Sam screamed for the humans to stay down.
As if smash a bug, Levi’s hand moved toward Blane and his new found brothers.
“Enough!” Abi screamed.
The wind stopped blowing.
The clouds stopped swirling overhead.
The earth became eerily still. No bird dared to sing.
Perses and Ares spun around to look at Abi.
Abi pointed to this incarnation of Levi Johannsen.
“Cover your faces!” Perses yelled. “Do it now!”
“All the way on the ground!” Ares screamed.
Jacob grabbed Katy and Paddie and pushed them to the ground under him. Asclepius pushed Delphie onto her stomach. Blane moved to his belly and his new brothers followed his lead. Sam pulled Maresol down.
The world was eerily quiet. The humans were on the ground. Abi, Ares, Asclepius, and Perses remained standing.
Levi Johanssen sniggered at Abi.
“You dare to get in my way?” Levi asked.
“Shit!” Ares said. He dropped to his knee. He pointed to his son, “Drop!”
Asclepius dropped to his knee.
“Cover your eyes, son,” Ares said.
“Be still!” Abi said in a soft voice.
Her finger twitched and the creature no longer had a mouth.
“I’m tired,” Abi said in such a soft voice that it was as if she were speaking to herself. “I’m bone weary. I want to see my children and rest my head on my beloved’s chest. I can smell my favorite cookies! They are being baked — right this moment – just for me! By my friend, Sandy. I want a bath and a long drink of cool, clean water.”
“But instead, I’m dealing with you,” Abi said.
Her voice echoed with her exhaustion. She held out her hand toward Jacob.
“Jacob,” Abi said. “I need you to hold me down.”
“It’s the only way to ensure the humans remain intact.” In the silence, Asclepius’s soft voice carried to Jacob.
Jacob jumped to his feet. He grabbed Abi’s hand.
Abi raised her free hand to shoulder’s height. She cupped her hand and then flattened it quickly. This incarnation of Levi Johanssen blew to pieces with a soft “pfft” of an explosion. The carnage would have blown over them, but Perses held his sword over his head. The Titan held tight to the sword’s hilt with both hands. The sword emanated a powerful force field which shielded them from the blast.
Still, the force of the blast made Perses stumble back. The air filled with the sound of pieces of flesh pinging off the force field. The pieces of the creature exploded with little “pops.” The pinging and popping continued until the entire being was nothing more than a cloud of dust.
Abi turned her hand so that her palm faced down.
The dust dropped to the ground.
All that remained of Levi Johannsen was a grey, transparent wisp of smoke that hung over the destruction of his remains.
“Delphie,” Abi said. She nodded to Maresol. “Let her up.”
Asclepius hopped to his feet. He went to help Delphie up. The God of Medicine and Delphie came to where Abi stood.
After she spoke, Abi clutched onto Jacob’s shoulders.
“Say what you need,” Abi said to Delphie, from Jacob’s arms. “Where I am sending him, you will never see him again — not in this lifetime, not ever. It’s more likely that the sun will burn out long before his soul can reunite.”
Delphie nodded that she understood.
She walked to where Perses stood with his sword overhead. She touched Perses arm and he lowered his sword.
“Paddie?” Abi said. “We need the sword to ensure that he can make no incantations.”
“Stay down,” Ares commanded the child.
Ares grabbed the Sword of Truth. Ares anchored the tip into the ground and held onto the hilt. Paddie stroked the blade until it hummed.
“Go ahead,” Abi said.
Delphie’s mind flooded with all the ways that Levi Johannsen had hurt her. She remembered what it was like to be his slave. She remembered Celia’s father’s as he died fighting Levi Johanssen. She wanted to scream in rage at him. She wanted to go through each and every incident where he’d injured her. She wanted to express what it was like to grow up as his slave. She thought of how he’d returned, and she’d nearly died. At the edge of their group, near a tree, was her best friend Celia Marlowe’s ghost.
Celia Marlowe, her best friend, was there for the sole purpose of supporting Delphie.
Just like her friend had always been there.
At this moment, Delphie only felt one thing.
Delphie nodded to the Celia Marlowe, and Celia smiled.
Delphie turned to the soul of Levi Johannsen.
“I am over you,” Delphie said. “It’s not up to me to forgive you. It’s up to me to get over you. And, that I am over you.”
Delphie took a breath.
“I don’t feel sorry for you,” Delphie said. “I’m not angry with you. I’m not even angry with me about you. It’s very simply done.”
Delphie nodded her thanks to Abi. Turning, she walked back to where Sam was lying. Delphie dropped to her knees and Sam pulled her down.
Abi let go of Jacob. She gave him a soft smile.
“I will need you to hold me down,” Abi said. “I’m too exhausted to do this and protect the humans.”
Rather than speak, Jacob simply nodded. Jacob grabbed hold of her shoulder so that Abi could put her hands out in front of her.
Abi made a fist with both hands. She held them out in front of her, in the direction of Levi Johannsen’s spirit.
“Be gone,” Abi said in a soft, barely audible voice.
She wrenched her fists apart. The soul of Levi Johannsen blew into pieces. Tiny pieces of energy flew out from where he’d been. As with his physical form, the tiniest pieces disintegrated until there were only atoms of what had been his spirit.
Abi held up her hand. A breeze of the world gathered up the bits of soul and flesh. There was a light swirl as dust, leaves, and pieces of grass joined the detritus of this once man. The swirl rose high over their heads. When it was almost out of sight, there was a pop and all of the bits of soul, flesh, dirt, and dust scattered to the winds of the world.
The only sound that remained was the vibration of the Sword of Truth.
“Paddie,” Abi said.
Paddie put his finger on the blade to stop it from vibrating.
“You can let go,” Abi said in a soft voice to Jacob.
He let go but no one else dared to move. Abi sighed.
“Let’s go home,” Abi said.
With her words, the humans began to cheer. Blane’s new brothers hooted with exuberance. The Gods helped the humans to their feet and dusted off their clothing.
Fin appeared by Abi’s side. She grinned at him.
“I take it you’ve save the world,” Fin said, with an artificially bored tone. “Again.”
“Did you kill our children as you were asked to?” Abi asked.
“I couldn’t do it.” Fin shook his head. “I simply couldn’t. I didn’t try to kill you either.”
“I am not going to thank you for that,” Abi said.
Fin grabbed Abi and held her tight. Abi shrugged him off.
“Why are you here?” Abi asked in pretend irritation, continuing this game they always played.
“Sandy is making cookies and she will not give me any,” Fin said, in an exaggerated whine. “They are the cookies that you used to make when I was a child. She said that you had given her the recipe. She had to convert it to modern ingredients. And I helped her do it! But …”
Abi leaned her head back and laughed. Fin gave her a soft, love-filled smile. He grabbed her tight and they disappeared.
“I think that’s our cue,” Sam said. “Anyone who wants to see Leadville with me, I’ll take a car.”
Blane and his newfound brothers started in Sam’s direction.
“Delphie?” Sam asked. He held out his hand for her. “Would you like to help with the tour?”
“You know what?” Delphie grinned and dusted off her skirt. “I’d like that very much.”
“I’ll pack up the house,” Jacob said with a nod.
Sam nodded to him.
“I’ll go with you, Jacob,” Maresol said. “I have O’Malley’s truck. We’ll fit.”
Jacob nodded. He picked up Katy and held a hand out for Paddie. The boy put away his sword and took Jacob’s hand. They started off toward the house leaving the Gods and Titan to figure out what was next for themselves.
“Daddy?” Katy asked.
“Yes?” Jacob looked down at the girl in his arms.
“I think I want to be Abi when I grow up,” Katy said.
“Me, too,” Jacob said.
Maresol nodded in agreement. Katy and Paddie giggled.
The adventure of the Fires of Hell over, they went their separate ways.
Wednesday late-afternoon — 4:15 p.m.
Tanesha pressed her napkin to her lips. As if a great evil had been removed from the earth, she felt a chill down her back. The unnerving feeling combined with what Jeraine had just said had sent her heart pounding with fear.
Instinctively, she glanced across the street to Sandy’s apartment. Even though her friend no longer lived there, just seeing the building where they’d had so much fun gave her courage.
“What?” Tanesha said in a loud whisper.
Jeraine looked at her and blinked.
“What do you mean, ‘What’?” Jeraine asked.
“I’m sorry,” Tanesha said with a sniff. She let her long standing anger at this man pushed down the panic in her pounding heart. “What is confusing about my question?”
“Oh,” Jeraine said. “No.”
He read the betrayal on her face and shook his head.
“No, no,” Jeraine said. “I was just wondering what part of what I said was confusing.”
Tanesha took a few moments to breathe. In couple’s therapy, she’d learned that her rage terrified Jeraine. He panicked the moment it came up. And nothing good came from that. If she was going to stay married …
She checked her heart and saw that she still did want to stay married to this man.
She cleared her throat and took a drink of water. If she was going to stay married to this man, she needed to calm down or as the therapist said, “Act. Don’t react.”
The waiter appeared at that moment and cleared their salad plates. They were eating at a gourmet vegan restaurant. They had both decided to go vegetarian while they lived at the Castle. Because of a variety of food allergies, health concerns, and Honey’s Crohn’s disease, everyone at the Castle ate vegetarian food — supplemented with regular intervals of meat from the barbeque.
The waiter placed their plates in front of them. Tanesha was eating her favorite food — a stir fry of sweet potatoes, tofu, and marinated portabella mushrooms. Jeraine got something that looked like country fried steak but was vegan. For a moment, they simply ate.
Never one to run from a conflict, Tanesha set her fork down.
“I wasn’t sure what you said back there,” Tanesha said.
Jeraine looked up at her. His mouth was full of food and for a moment he just chewed.
“I was offered a residency in Las Vegas,” Jeraine said.
Tanesha felt her panic rise again. She put her hand on her heart and tried to breathe.
“Wherever love is present, fear is a stranger,” she whispered to herself her favorite quote from angel expert, Kyle Gray. She let out a breath and spoke again.
“You’re moving to Las Vegas?” Tanesha managed a whisper.
“Oh,” Jeraine said. He chuckled. “That’s what you panicked over.”
He laughed out loud. She scowled.
Maybe she didn’t want to stay married to this man.
Catching her look, he flushed and swallowed hard.
“Okay. I’m sorry,” Jeraine said. “You’re right. That wasn’t funny. It’s just that I thought you … and ….”
To buy time, he stuck a fork load of food into his mouth. Shaking her head, Tanesha took another bite of food. Blissed out by her food, she almost forgot he was there.
“A residency is where I’d work for the casino,” Jeraine said. “I would have a permanent show there. Their scout came to see us this last tour and liked the work we did together. I would work the weekends in Vegas. People would come to see me. No more crazy world travel.”
“But you’d move to Vegas?” Tanesha said the words with slow, heartbreaking emphasis.
“Not a chance,” Jeraine said.
Tanesha sucked in a breath.
“It’s not safe for me to live in Vegas,” Jeraine said. “Too many drugs. Too much temptation. Plus, I’d rather be here — with you and Jabari.”
Stunned, Tanesha simply blinked at him. He nodded.
“I can come home every night,” Jeraine said. “It’ll be late, but I will be here during some of the day.”
Tanesha tried not to breathe.
“I talked to O’Malley,” Jeraine said. “When he’s in New York, he hires a plane. Well, I guess you know that because you’ve taken it there. I guess I have, too. He keeps it so it’s available for him to go home at any time. Ava can go there. There’s no hassle or waiting. They use it more than you’d think.”
Tanesha nodded. She knew that Ava flew there when she had breaks from cases and was off for a few days. O’Malley came home when he could. Jeraine continued.
“Anyway, Jammy thinks we can get the casino to pay for the plane. It’s about an hour there and an hour home. Most men commute longer than that. Just a part of modern life.”
Tanesha nodded. In the past, she would have pointed out that he would have to take a half hour to get to the airport. So it was going to be more like three or four hours of commuting, not just two hours. She took a bite of food to keep from scratching at his enthusiasm.
“Because I know so many people in the industry,” Jeraine continued, “I can invite people to join me in Vegas. Jammy put some feelers out for me. Most people have said that they would love to come for a weekend or whatever we can set up.”
Jeraine set his fork down.
“That would be some weekdays in the summer, but I figured we could match it to your schedule,” Jeraine said. “And Jabari just loves the Marlowe School.”
“The money is good,” Jeraine said. “And I’d get a percentage of the other acts that were playing through me.”
Waiting for her to respond, Jeraine’s head bounced up and down in an odd nod.
“What do you think?” Jeraine asked.
She opened her mouth to respond, but he cut her off.
“Oh, I’m the first African-American to ever be asked to do this. Those old mobbed up white guys didn’t want us there. So this would be progress,” Jeraine said with a nod. As an aside, he added, “O’Malley said that he would come and he would ask his friends. So it’s not just hip-hop and the R&B crowd. He thought maybe the movie studios would let him present the new soundtracks there, you know, under me. That would be a big deal. Jammy said he thought that I could host my own jazz festival, you know, like we talked about when we were kids.”
Jeraine beamed. Tanesha smiled at his smile.
“Oh, O’Malley’s friend … the drummer?” Jeraine asked.
“Malik?” Tanesha asked.
“He might join my band,” Jeraine said. “His lady friend is looking to get out of New York City with her grandkids and daughter. Bad blood there. Some asshole ex-husband or something like that. They can get a house in Vegas. Plus, he’s a good drummer and great people.”
“But you’d be home? Here? In Denver?” Tanesha asked.
“And you’ll give me space to do my school work and stuff?” Tanesha asked. “Even if you’re home?”
“It’s going to be a lot of work to put the whole thing together,” Jeraine said. “I told Jammy that I wanted to try it for a weekend, you know, to see if we liked it.”
Luckily, Tanesha had not been chewing because she was so shocked that her mouth fell open.
“We, you know, like you and me … and Jabari and Blane and Heather and all of them,” Jeraine said.
He gave her a big smile with his dazzling white teeth.
“It could go for years,” Jabari said. “You could finish school and go to your fellowship and stuff and maybe we could have another child and everything. I’ll just be working the weekends like a regular Joe.”
“A regular Joe?” Tanesha asked.
Jeraine beamed at her again. They fell silent. They both focused on finishing their meals.
“What about the tour?” Tanesha asked as the waiter took their plates away. “You were going to leave a week after I go back to school.”
“That’s the question,” Jeraine said. “I was going to leave to set up the tour, hire musicians, stuffl like that. If I have a residency, then I’d go to Vegas and set up a band. It’s kind of the same thing but this would be permanent and not roving. You’d be surprised. There’s lots of real, quality musicians who are sick of traveling, sober, and still want to play.”
The waiter set down a piece of dark chocolate cake, two forks, and napkins. He asked if they needed anything else and Jeraine ordered a pot of green tea.
“I think of my dad,” Jeraine said. “He would have kept playing if he could have figured out how to do it and stay sober and raise a family. I mean, Mom did some touring …”
“She doesn’t have his demons,” Tanesha said. “What about drugs? Or the temptation of it?”
“I’ll insist on sober people — musicians and helpers,” Jeraine said. “You’d be surprised how many music professionals our age are tired of the drugs and the ‘life.’”
“Have you talked to your dad?” Tanesha asked.
“No,” Jeraine vigorously shook his head. “I wanted to tell you first. Get your take on it. I only talked to O’Malley because Jammy told me to talk it through with him. He has a lot of experience staying sober in this field. I guess you know that.”
Tanesha held her fork over the chocolate cake.
“What do you think?” Jeraine said.
Tanesha’s fork skewered a peace of heaven in the form of cake. She put it in her mouth and let the taste linger. She shook her head.
“It’s not as good as yours,” Tanesha said.
“Of course, it’s not,” Jeraine said with a chuckle. “But is it better than Blane’s chocolate cake. That’s the question that matters.”
“Blane’s cake is better than yours,” Tanesha said with a wide smile.
Jeraine pretended to be offended by what he knew was the truth. Tanesha waited for a moment.
“This Vegas thing sounds good,” Tanesha said.
“Too good to be true?” Jeraine asked.
“Other stars have done it,” Tanesha said with a shrug. “You have a lot of breadth. You can do weeks of jazz with or without O’Malley and your father. You can do weeks of rap or R&B or hip-hop or …”
“It sounds kind of perfect for you,” Tanesha said.
“But just for me,” Jeraine said.
Tanesha sighed. Over her own resistance to this man, she nodded her head.
“For us, too,” Tanesha said.
“But?” Jeraine asked.
“We’ve heard a lot of promises in our lives,” Tanesha said. “Let’s let the ink dry and the work start. You may hate it.”
“But then again, you might just love it,” Tanesha said, despite her own terror of him relapsing.
Rather than respond, Jeraine just grinned at her.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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