Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Five Hundred and three : That's the plan

CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and THREE

Monday evening — 4:27 p.m.

Denver, Colorado

“You mean, Jake’s not back?” Nadia asked Nash.

They were talking via Internet video call as they did twice a day, every day, since they’d met. Nadia had the day off and hadn’t gotten out of her pajamas all day. Nash was still wearing his Marlowe School uniform.

“No,” Nash said. “We only have a week! Jake was going to come with us to Poland. We won’t be able to get into the mine if he’s not there to do his thing.”

Nash waved his hand to indicate Jacob’s psychokinetic ability. Trying not to panic, Nash nodded.

“Don’t panic,” Nadia said.

“That’s easy for you to say,” Nash said. “Sandy’s relying on me to sort this out. Seth’s dad and the guy who sold the book and…”

“Slow down,” Nadia said.

“How can I?” Nash asked. “We’re leaving in a few days. We’re only have one chance to get into the mine under the radar of the Polish neo-Nazis.”

“Whoa,” Nadia said. She used her hands in a slowdown motion. “Whoa.”

Nash shook his head.

“You’ve done more for this grandfather than anyone could have asked,” Nadia said. “You found his relatives name in the archives. He now knows when his relative died and where. He knows who she was with. You’ve found the mine! That’s a lot!”

“I just want…” Nash blew out a frustrated breath. “I mean, Sissy’s in Paris at the best ballet school in the world. Charlie is a basketball God. Noelle sold her first piece to that judge, you know, from the trial. For a lot of money! Jake’s off saving the world. It’s like everyone I know is doing really great and I… I’m here. Going to school. And…”

“I understand,” Nadia said.

“You do?” Nash asked.

“I do,” Nadia said. “You see everyone succeeding and you want to succeed too. That makes sense”

Nash scowled.

“Jake will be home in time,” Nadia said. “Next Saturday, we’ll all get on a plane and go to Poland. We’ll go into the mine and…”

She shrugged.

“We’ll find out what’s there,” Nadia said. “It’s exciting.”

“Terrifying,” Nash said.

“Exciting,” Nadia said. She smiled. “It’s exciting. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”

“There’s just so much to do!” Nash said.

Nadia just smiled at him. He shook his head.

“I miss Sissy,” Nadia said. “And, I’m so happy for her. She’s really living her dream.”

“How’s Ivan?” Nash asked.

“Depressed,” Nadia said with a shrug. “Busy. He’s got so much going on right now with the ballet and school and looking to start a career. Sissy was right. He doesn’t have time to miss Sissy.”

“I bet he still does though,” Nash said, speaking from experience.

Nadia nodded in agreement.

“I should go and… you know,” Nash said.

“Get ready for Friday!” Nadia said.

Nash nodded.

“Do you think…?” Nash asked.

“I think we’ll have an adventure,” Nadia said. “We’re going to a new country. We’ll eat great food. Stay in great places. And…”

“We’ll find the mine,” Nash said.

“We’ll go inside the mine!” Nadia nodded.

“We’ll find the manuscript,” Nash said.

Nadia nodded.

“We’re going to have a really fun time,” Nash said.

“Yes, we will,” Nadia said. “You’ll feel better after to you work through some of these details.”

“Thanks for your help,” Nash said. “I really… Thanks.”

“I’m clicking off this call so you can work,” Nadia said.

Nadia waved and ended the phone call. He’d set the program up so that it took a picture of her smiling face when the call ended. The computer still showed an image of her smiling face. Nash sat at his computer for a few minutes just looking at the screen. He caught someone else’s reflection of the computer.

“You’re doing that thing again,” Nash said, not bothering to hide his irritation. “That thing we talked about.”

“What thing?” Katy asked. “I’m not doing anything.”

“You’re giving me that weird look,” Nash said. He turned around to face at the girl. “Are you going to eat me? Blow me into bits? Or cast a spell on me? What?”

“There’s a ghost there,” Katy said. She pointed to the screen. “Just behind her.”

“I don’t see it,” Nash said.

Katy walked forward to the screen. She put her small finger over something Nash thought was just a fog or maybe a trick of the light.

“It’s her father, I think,” Katy said. “He’s there in all of your conversations.”

“How would you know about all of my conversations?” Nash asked.

“You talk to her so much that I’ve seen,” Katy said. “How come her father’s there with her when you talk?”

“He’s probably there because we’re so not right for each other,” Nash mumbled.

“I think that he’s there with her all the time,” Katy said and nodded.

“What do you want, freakish one?” Nash asked.

Nash loved and admired Katy, but lately he felt so much pressure about this trip that he was irritated with everyone.

“I wanted to tell you that you need Paddie and me to go to Poland with you,” Katy said.

“We don’t need little kids with us,” Nash said, with an irritated sneer.

“You do,” Katy said. “Or I should say that you will by the end.”

Nash sighed.

“You won’t be successful and impress your girlfriend if we’re not there,” Katy said.

“Fine,” Nash said. “But you have to get your parents to agree.”

“Okay,” Katy said. “They’re going to decide to go too. Mom thinks it will be a good cover for you guys if we make a big spectacle of the Americans going on vacation. That’s what she says, at least.”

“Jake will be go with us though,” Nash asked in a firm voice. “Right?”

“Me and Paddie too,” Katy said with a nod.

“Why do I need you?” Nash asked.

“You just do,” Katy said.

The little girl shrugged her shoulders, turned in place, and ran off. Shaking his head, Nash turned around to look at his laptop. There was something creepy in that image of the ghost behind Nadia. He clicked the picture closed.

“What are you doing?” Teddy asked as he came up behind Nash.

“Uh…” Nash said. Too embarrassed to mention the ghost, Nash came up with, “Katy wants to go on the trip. Katy and Paddie. What do you think?”

“Fine, whatever,” Teddy said. “We have a chartered plane plus her dad’s going. He can keep an eye on them.”

Teddy shrugged.

“We have to get to work!” Teddy said.

“Time’s a wasting,” Nash said.

Teddy dropped his laptop on to the table and the boys set to work on today’s task — getting all of the maps together, in pdf form, and on everyone who was coming’s phone.

~~~~~~~~

Monday evening — 6:12 p.m.

Evergreen Cemetery, Leadville, Colorado

They had approached the Fire of Hell with caution. Gilfand took the lead with Sam right behind him. Delphie and Maresol followed behind. For the first time ever — or at least in Delphie’s experience — nothing happened.

One step at a time, they’d crept up to the spot. But nothing happened.

The four of them stood over the hole looking down. They felt nothing.

Delphie pressed the spot on her face and looked into the Fire of Hell. She stood over the space so long that Sam was afraid that she’d been captured again.

“Delphie,” Sam said. He grabbed her shoulders and shook them.

“I’m okay,” Delphie said. “I’m okay. I just …”

She turned to look again.

“No, I insist,” Sam said. “It’s time to take a break.”

When Delphie didn’t move, Sam took her by the shoulders and moved her away from the Fire of Hell. She didn’t struggle. She knew in her heart that whatever Sam wanted her to do was probably the best thing for her. They walked to the spot, some feet away, where Maresol had set up a small campfire, and Gilfand was getting their supplies ready.

“What did you see?” Maresol asked.

“I can’t explain it,” Delphie said. She remembered to touch her face so she didn’t see so many dimensions of her friend.

“Try,” Sam said.

“Now, Sam,” Delphie said. “You get so bossy when you’re worried.”

“Worried?” Sam asked. “I’m not worried, I’m terrified! Ever since the last time … and you don’t remember very well, but I remember all of those horrible cemetery tours you had to do as a child and … Levi … and …”

“Steady on, Sam Lipson.” Gilfand put his hand on Sam’s shoulder to help steady him.

“You don’t have any idea …” Sam said.

He turned away from Delphie to look deep into Gilfand’s eyes. In this creature’s eyes, Sam saw eternity as clear as if it were laid out right in front of him. Love and loss, laughter and sorrow, his birth, Celia’s and Delphie’s birth, the death of his mother, his father’s disappearance, the birth of his children, and there’s were a blip on the map of eternity. Every event of his life all rang true in Gilfand’s eyes. He had a sense of time before him and time after. It was as if, at this very moment, Sam was a part of everything and also Sam Lipson. Sam swallowed and nodded. Gilfand smiled.

“There’s a good chap,” Gilfand said.

“So British of you,” Maresol said with a smile.

“I pretend,” Gilfand said with a tilt of his head. Turning to Delphie, he asked, “What is down there?”

“Everything,” Delphie said. “Nothing and something. It’s …”

Delphie nodded and then swallowed hard.

“The Oracle at Delphi lived in a cave …” Delphie started and stopped. “Celia and Sam took me there after Valerie left for college. Jake was at some sports camp. We had such a nice time. Sam and Celia refused to let me stay at the Oracle cave but I wanted to. I really wanted to. And … anyway, she used to sit on a tripod stood over a chasm just like this one.”

Delphie pointed to the opening in the rocks.

“This one is more covered up, of course,” Delphie said. “Someone went to a great deal of trouble to cover over this opening to the earth.”

Delphie nodded.

“My ancestor, well, she …” Delphie said. She looked at Gilfand. “Did you know her?”

“I met her on more than one occasion,” Gilfand said.

“And?” Delphie asked.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking,” Gilfand said. “But as Tink or Charlie would say, she was an asshole.”

Gilfand grinned at Delphie, and she nodded.

“There are fumes that come out of these caverns,” Delphie said. “The Oracle of Delphi would sit over the cavern and breathe in the toxic fumes. They would make her hallucinate.”

“I haven’t sensed any fumes,” Gilfand said. “Were you hallucinating when you looked in?”

“No,” Delphie said. “Because it’s blocked off.”

Gilfand raised his eyebrows in surprise, and Delphie nodded.

“Do we need to clear it for Jake and Abi to get out?” Maresol asked.

“No,” Gilfand said. “Abi will clear it when they are ready to leave. We’re likely to have to put it back.”

“What you’re saying,” Sam said with a shake of his head, “is that there’s really some thing down there. It’s blocking this hole from releasing fumes.”

Delphie nodded.

“Could you communicate with it?” Gilfand asked.

“No,” Delphie said. “It seemed like it wanted to communicate with me, but it was too afraid. The dark matter angel — Really I don’t know what it is. It just looks like an angel. Anyway, it says that the creature has lost its mind, senses.”

“What do we need to do?” Maresol asked.

“Yes,” Delphie said. “That’s the question.”

She looked at Maresol’s expectant face. She saw Sam’s eyebrow drop in determination. Gilfand looked ready to go.

“We need fire,” Delphie said. “Incense, our sage …”

“Why don’t you lead us?” Sam asked.

“Like a ceremony?” Delphie asked. “That’s a good idea.”

Delphie dug around in Sam’s backpack and took out the bundle of dried sage that she’s stored there. She lit the sage and let the smoke rise.

“The dark matter creatures tell me that Jake and Abi have arrived at the location,” Delphie said. “We need to be ready for them.”

“For Jake and Abi?” Maresol asked. “Not the creature that’s in there?”

“Oh, the creature too,” Delphie said with a smile.

Humming to herself, Delphie set about using the sage to clear any dark energy from her friends and Gilfand. She ran the burning sage bundle over the surface of each person and Gilfand. She lit her charcoal discs and started adding clearing herbs — rosemary, frankincense, myrrh, juniper, and dash of garlic powder. She led them on a quick meditation to keep their psychic guards up. When she’d finished, she invited everyone to take a seat around the opening. From the larger fire, Delphie lit the small fires Sam had set up around the circle. For good measure, they each took another sip of that disturbing fairy elixir.

They sat in silence for a moment before Sam shrugged. He got out supplies for S’Mores from his backpack. They used the small fire to cook the marshmallows. Adding chocolate and gram crackers, they loaded up on sugar and sheer joy. They laughed and talked like old friends. Maresol was in the middle of a funny story when Delphie tipped her head to the side.

“It’s time,” Delphie said.

Without ceremony, they stood up, grabbed each other’s hands, and waited for Abi and Jacob.

~~~~~~~~

Near the Fire of Hell inside the Marlowe Mine

“This is a shockingly big place,” Jacob said with a sigh.

Abi glanced at him.

“You didn’t know?” Abi asked.

Jacob shook his head.

“How can that be?” Abi asked.

“No one’s been in this mine since my mother’s father died,” Jacob said.

“The whole curse thing?” Abi asked.

“I doubt he’d come down here either,” Jacob said. “He was never very strong or healthy. It was something that was really important to my mom.”

“What was?” Abi asked.

“That I am healthy and strong,” Jacob said. “We beat the curse, but only barely.”

“That was your father’s genes,” Abi said.

“You know this?” Jacob asked with a smile.

“Your father is strong, healthy, even at his advancing age,” Abi said.

“He’s active and we eat pretty well,” Jacob said.

“You’re missing what I’m saying,” Abi said. “Your father is strong and has extraordinary health. You and Valerie haven’t ever been really sick or weak in any way. That’s because your father’s life force is strong. You inherited that from him. Your boys have some of it, as well, but they are more like their mother.”

Not really sure what she was talking about, Jacob just nodded.

“You know who has a lot of that life force?” Abi asked and grinned.

“From the look on your face, I’d guess Katy?” Jacob asked.

“Precious Katy,” Abi said. “I do love that girl. Valerie’s son …”

“Eddie?” Jacob asked.

“Shows a lot of promise,” Abi said. “He will be more like his grandfather though.”

“Well, there’s a dark thought,” Jacob said.

“Lord Perses,” Abi said. “He does come in handy. Honestly, he’s an extraordinary creature. It’s a little odd to find a family that connected so much strength and power.”

“Perses,” Jacob said. “The fairies.”

“There are a lot of fairies, from a lot of realms, Jacob Marlowe,” Abi said, with sudden intensity.

“Good to know,” Jacob said.

“You are familiar with only Queen Fand and her fairies, as her children live in your home.” Abi said, to cover her strong emotions, Abi continued, “Your wife’s best friend is the only grandchild of an Archangel. Possibly the only grandchild of any Archangel. Ever.”

“We know you and Gilfand,” Jacob said.

“And precious Hedone,” Abi said with a soft smile. “She … Well, let’s just say that she is magnificent. Her transformation has been … lovely to see.”

Jacob raised his eyebrows in surprise, but Abi said no more. They walked a few moments more before Jacob put his hand on Abi’s arm. They stopped.

“What is it?” Abi asked.

“Marshmallows,” Jacob said.

Abi took a deep breath.

“That sweet thing with the crazy name your father makes using fire,” Abi said.

“S’Mores,” Jacob said. He looked up. “We’re close.”

Abi looked at him and then looked up at the ceiling of the tunnel. She pointed a few feet in front of them.

“Gilfand is sitting right there,” Abi said.

“We are close,” Jacob said.

Abi put her finger to her mouth. Jacob nodded. Abi took out her shield and her sword. Jacob took out the Bowe knife. Abi looked at the knife and shook her head.

“You are better off keeping your hands free and your power strong,” Abi said.

Jacob put the knife away.

“I would like you to create a perimeter around us,” Abi said. “I will approach the Fire of Hell to see what is inside. You will be my back up.”

Jacob didn’t respond so Abi turned to look at him.

“Are you all right with me taking the lead here?” Abi asked.

“Lead on, General,” Jacob said with a bow.

Abi looked away to cover her grin at him.

“Set up the perimeter,” Abi said. “Stay right behind me at the ready. I will need all of your powers, even those you’re not sure that you have. I can feel it in the air.”

“Are we in danger?” Jacob asked.

“We are always in danger,” Abi said.

“More so than normal?” Jacob asked.

“That is my fear,” Abi said. “But as you know better than most …”

“Fear is a liar,” Jacob whispered out loud as Abi said the same words in his head.

Jacob nodded.

“Are you ready, Jacob Marlowe?” Abi said.

Jacob gave her a slow nod.

“I will tell you,” Abi said. “It is my great pleasure to have you by my side.”

Jacob grinned at the compliment, but knew better than to return it. Abi smiled at his restraint. She nodded to him and they walked the last few feet.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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