Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Four Hundred and Ninety-six: To the mine

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and NINETY-FIVE

Sunday morning — 7:52 a.m.

Outside of Leadville, Colorado

The road ended at the sheer rock face of a mountain, and Jacob pulled the SUV to a stop. Jacob slowly rolled the SUV until the bumper hit the grey rock.

“Is this the mine?” Yvonne asked.

“Sort of,” Jacob said.

“I don’t see it,” Yvonne said.

“We have to hike from here,” Jacob said.

He looked over at Yvonne. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever laid eyes on. She glowed with a fragile innocence which made her all the more beautiful. She was also the strongest people he’d ever met. His instinct was to protect her. He also knew that any effort on his part to do protect her would be seen by her as an insult.

“You think you can you make it?” Jacob couldn’t keep himself from asking.

Yvonne snorted a mocking laugh at his question and got out of the vehicle. Chuckling at Yvonne, Abi got out of the back. They met Jacob beside the SUV. He pointed to a thin, narrow goat path that was almost invisible to their eyes.

“If you’ve never been here before, how do you know where to go?” Yvonne asked.

“My mother’s spirit is standing right there,” Jacob said.

Yvonne looked at Abi, and Abi nodded. Yvonne waved to where she thought Celia might be. Smiling at Yvonne, Jacob started up the path. Yvonne followed him and Abi took the rear. When Jacob glanced back, Abi was holding her sharp spear. A quiver of arrows was tied behind her neck and her bow was in her other arm. He had a vague sense that he should have brought a weapon. He was just about to ask Abi when Yvonne spoke.

“I sometimes think I’d like to do that,” Yvonne said.

“Do what?” Jacob asked.

“See ghosts,” Yvonne said.

“Who would you like to see?” Jacob asked.

“I’d hope to see Martin Luther King or maybe Joan of Arc,” Yvonne said. “But I figure that I’d just be harassed by the Spider.”

Yvonne shrugged.

“Do you think he’ll be here at the mine?” Yvonne’s voice was light, but Jacob could hear a low level panic in it.

“No,” Jacob said. “I know for a fact that he’s wondering somewhere else.”

“See, like that,” Yvonne said. “How do you know that?”

“My mother sent him there,” Jacob said.

“Celia?” Yvonne visibly brightened. “I loved Celia. I never had even one time thought about where his spirit might wind up, but I know that you’re right. If Celia had anything to say about it, that Spider is long gone. She was a great friend.”

Jacob grinned. Yvonne and his mother had been friends from the moment they’d met, standing in Dionne’s kitchen, right after Yvonne and Rodney had arrived in town. He turned to look down the path at her. She was right behind him. She gave him a dazzling smile and he laughed.

“Why did you laugh?” Yvonne asked.

“Your light,” Jacob said. “It’s uplifting.”

“We’ll put that on your list of powers,” Abi said.

“What?” Yvonne asked.

“Your power of light,” Abi said.

Still unsure of what they were talking about, Yvonne shrugged. They hiked back and forth up the razorback of the mountain until they reached the top. Jacob stopped. The woman came to stand next to him.

“I don’t see anything,” Yvonne said.

“There is something below us,” Abi said.

“Mom’s pointing to an entrance,” Jacob said.

He started forward and Yvonne followed him.

“Could you stand back?” Jacob asked. “Mom is saying that I need to do my thing to get the entrance open.”

“By all means, do your thing,” Yvonne said.

Abi looked at Yvonne, and the women laughed. Feeling like a little boy, Jacob shook his head. He walked to where Celia was pointing. As far as he could tell, there was nothing there. He dropped to his knees and felt around the bare rock with his hands. Used to working with a shovel, he wished he had one in this moment. He was about to ask Abi for a shovel when he felt a crack in the stone. His hands told him that this crack had been cut into this stone by someone with his skillset. His fingers followed the seam until he uncovered a manhole sized circle. He leaned close to look at the seam. Puzzled, he sat back on his heels.

“What is it?” Abi asked.

“It seems like this cover was screwed into the rock,” Jacob said.

He got up and walked over to where Abi and Yvonne were standing.

“Are we sure we should be going in there?” Jacob asked.

Yvonne glanced at Abi before turning to Jacob.

“Why?” Yvonne asked.

“It seems like someone intentionally sealed this mine,” Jacob said. “Only someone with my skills — psychokinesis — would possibly be able to open it. Even then, it would be tricky.”

“Why?” Yvonne asked again.

“The person would have to be really adept at using his skills,” Jacob said. “I say ‘his’ intentionally because this skill was always a male skill.”

“Until Katy,” Abi said.

Yvonne watched Jacob’s face closely.

“Until Paddie, I think,” Jacob said. “Katy loves Paddie so much that the skill grew inside her to protect him from the dangers of the world.”

“I believe you’re right,” Yvonne said. “Love. It awoken the skill that was dormant inside your child. Surely love has had a large impact on you.”

Jacob nodded. He looked at Abi, who seemed to be in a meditative silence.

“Do you have any idea what’s down there?” Jacob asked.

Abi didn’t respond. Her eyes flicked to Jacob and then to Yvonne. She opened her mouth and then closed it. They waited for a moment before she spoke.

“I was going to say that I can go down there and see,” Abi said. “But you are right, Jacob. There is strong magic here on this mountain. Someone wanted this mine sealed. Forever.”

Jacob nodded. Yvonne looked at Jacob for a moment.

“I might not be remembering right, but isn’t that what you’ve always said when anyone asked about the mine, Jacob?” Yvonne asked. “Leave the mine alone. Let the past be buried with it.”

Jacob’s eyes flicked to Yvonne’s face. He nodded.

“So why now?” Yvonne asked. “I wondered that when we talked about going up here. Why would we go to this mine now when we’ve never been before?”

“Delphie told me to go,” Jacob said. “And to bring you. Abi is just tagging along.”

“Delphie came to you in a dream?” Yvonne asked.

Jacob nodded. He looked off at the meager trees that clung to the sheer rock, and then looked back at Abi.

“Why are you here?” Jacob asked.

“Do you mean on this planet or on this adventure?” Abi asked.

Jacob laughed at her words. His laugh caused Yvonne to laugh. Abi grinned at them.

“Tell me,” Abi said. “Why do you laugh?”

“Because asking you why you are on this planet is like asking why do I exist,” Jacob said. “At this moment, in this place, I wasn’t quite prepared for an existential conversation about the reason and meaning of human existence.”

“If not now, then when?” Abi asked.

Yvonne and Jacob laughed again.

“Okay, okay,” Abi said with a grin. “I came along because I wondered at the connection of this ‘Fire of Hell’ and this mine.”

Her words caught Jacob and Yvonne’s full attention. Jacob’s mouth opened to form a question. He shook his head instead.

“You wish to ask me why we didn’t bring the others,” Abi said.

“Among other things,” Jacob said.

“That is because you and I need to face this thing,” Abi said.

“And me?” Yvonne asked, her voice catching on the words.

“We need you to shine the light,” Abi said.

“I don’t want to do this without Blane,” Jacob said. “He saved me in the Sea of Amber. We are two sides of one coin. He … “

“You are not two sides of the same coin,” Abi said. “You are each other’s guardian. If he is here, he may be injured or consumed. Who will save you then?”

“I would keep him from that,” Jacob said.

“How will you fight this thing and save your Blane at the same time?” Abi asked.

Angry and feeling manipulated, Jacob looked down at the rock face they were standing on.

“Yes, Jacob Marlowe, we fairies always manipulate situations to our advantage,” Abi said.

He raised his right hand and pointed at her.

“You are not a fairy,” Jacob said.

“I am not,” Abi said. “Nor are there any fairies here.”

“And?” Jacob was too irritated with her to hide it.

“You are not being manipulated,” Abi said.

“Then what?” Jacob asked. He put his hand on his chest. “I am a married man. I have three children to care for, not to mention a house that’s always on the brink of falling down. My sister is ill. Her children, her husband, our large and ever growing friend-family, Blane, your partner and children. I am the head of that crazy household. I cannot just go off doing … whatever!”

“You feel badly about being gone when you were in the Sea of Amber,” Abi said.

“I feel awful,” Jacob said. “Jill struggled — with our children, with herself. It was unfair of me to wander so far. And I barely made it out!”

“But you did make it out,” Abi said.

Jacob glared at her. Yvonne put her hand on his arm.

“You are missing his point,” Yvonne said. “Everyone suffered because Jacob was gone. The three day ceremony and all of that …”

“Which brought about the birth of my child,” Abi said. “Yes, I remember all of it. I also acknowledge the suffering. What you say, Jacob, is not untrue.”

Abi turned her hand over. A cell phone appeared in her outstretched hand.

“Call Jill,” Abi said. “Tell her your predicament. Let her decide, if you must.”

Jacob picked up the phone. By some magic, the phone actually had bars signaling that it was connected to the network. He dialed Jill’s cell phone.

“Hey!” Jill said, her voice lifting in happy surprised. “I didn’t expect to hear from you. We just finished breakfast. I was just settling in to study. The kids are getting ready for the zoo. Would you like to talk with them?”

In the background, he heard the still quiet of her office.

“I need to speak to you about something serious,” Jacob said.

“Let me close the door,” Jill said. He heard the sound of the door closing in the background. “Did you hear about Fin testing his girls’ powers?”

“I heard something about it,” Jacob said.

“Let me tell you,” Jill said. “He is now appropriately terrified of our Katy.”

Jill laughed. Jacob was too uncomfortable to laugh.

“Gosh, this must be serious,” Jill said. “What’s going on?”

“I’m up here at the Marlowe Mine with Abi and Yvonne,” Jacob said.

“I knew you were going there,” Jill said.

“It looks like the entrance was specifically set for someone like me,” Jacob said.

“Didn’t your mother tell you that?” Jill asked. “Something like the precious gem is there for the right heir? I think Val told me something like that when you gave me the Marlowe diamond.”

Jill happy voice sounded so good to his ear that he let her talk without interruption.

“Well, it’s true,” Jacob said.

“And?” Jill asked.

“It’s likely to be one of those things,” Jacob said. “Like the Isle of Mann and the Sea of Amber and …”

“The Fire of Hell?” Jill asked. “Yeah. I know.”

“What do you mean, ‘You know’?” Jacob asked.

“I don’t know know, you know, specifically,” Jill said. “But it seemed that way when Delphie first went there. I’ve talked to Heather about it a couple of times. They don’t know anything at Olympia about them, just that they exist. I think Abi’s been around the world trying to get information about it and …”

“I thought I’d help Delphie, you know, do her Delphie thing,” Jacob said.

Jill laughed.

“What’s funny?” Jacob asked.

“Saving the world is your wheelhouse,” Jill said. “Not Delphie’s or mine or really anyone else’s, except maybe Blane, but then really, he saved you, not the world.”

“There was something about cartoon dwarves,” Jacob said, his self-loathing lifted by her cheer.

“That was Heather,” Jill said. “She loves cartoon dwarves.”

Jacob grunted, and she laughed again.

“Go, save the world,” Jill said. “We’ll be here when you get home.”

“You’re sure?” Jacob asked.

“Since the day we met, you’ve been saving my world,” Jill said. “I can only heal. It’s you that has to do the saving. So go. Get it done. I’m here when you need to heal.”

Overwhelmed by her magnificence, Jacob didn’t know what to say. He listened to her breathe for a moment.

“I’m going to hang up now,” Jill said. “I’ll see you when you get home.”

“I love you,” Jacob managed.

“I love you too!” Jill said.

The phone disconnected. Jacob held the phone out to Yvonne.

“Would you like to call Rodney?” Jacob asked.

“And say what?” Yvonne asked. “We are living on borrowed time. We know that. Every day that he leaves for work, he says to me ‘Thank you for blessing my life on this day.’ We are grateful for the time we have. If I die, it will still be miraculous that we’ve had this time at all.”

Yvonne turned to Abi.

“Am I going to die?” Yvonne asked.

“No,” Abi said. “The danger is for Jacob, but only in a way that is dangerous to Jacob.”

Jacob laughed at Abi’s words and she grinned.

“You learned a lot in that cabin,” Abi said. “All of that sleep and quiet. You were learning, growing in power. I don’t forsee this as being a challenge for you.”

Jacob nodded.

“You’re sure you don’t want to call Rodney?” Jacob asked.

“He knew the risk when I first mentioned it,” Yvonne said. “If I called him now, he won’t know what to do with the call or what to say.”

Jacob nodded. He held out the phone to Abi and it disappeared. They stood in silence for a moment.

“I say, we get this over with,” Yvonne said. “My guess is that our friends are eating some of Maresol’s magnificent brunch. We’ll miss it if we linger too long.”

“I think we’re going to miss brunch,” Jacob said.

“Ah well,” Yvonne said. “Let’s try to get back for dinner, shall we?”

Abi looked at Jacob and he nodded. He put his hand on Yvonne’s shoulder and she hugged him.

“For luck,” Yvonne said. “Now, what do we need to do?”

“Stand right here,” Jacob said.

Jacob went to where he’d found the crack in the rock. He puzzled for a moment. Between the trees and the summit of the mountain, there wasn’t much light in this spot. He was turning to say something to Abi when a large bird flew overhead.

“Get down!” Jacob yelled.

As he crouched, Gilfand, in his gargoyle form, landed in between him and Abi. Gilfand transformed into a sort of human looking form. This time, his long dreadlocks were shaved short. He was wearing modern outdoors clothing.

“Jacob,” Gilfand said.

Gilfand held out his hand to help Jacob to his feet. He gave Jacob a slight nod before turning his back on him. Gilfand walked to Abi and gave her a hug. He lifted Yvonne’s right hand and kissed it.

“We are ready,” Abi said, in a low, powerful tone.

“I need light,” Jacob said.

Gilfand nodded to Yvonne, and she ran to Jacob’s side.

“She might get injured here!” Jacob said. “I’d prefer it if she stayed over there.”

“You cannot keep her safe,” Abi said. “We gave up ‘safe’ the moment we undertook this mission.”

“Son, we must proceed with quick stealth,” Gilfand said.

Jacob tipped his head to the side.

“He will awaken,” Abi said.

In a blink of an eye, Gilfand was standing at the westerly most end of the circle, and Abi was standing in the east. Yvonne went to stand in the south leaving Jacob’s side in the north.

“Touch the crack child,” Gilfand said to Yvonne. “Like this.”

Gilfand’s index finger hovered over the crack in the rock. Yvonne touched her finger to the crack. A light went from her finger around the circle until the crack was lit up with a warm yellow light.

“Do you know what to do?” Gilfand asked.

“He does,” Abi said. “Go ahead, Jacob.”

Jacob closed his eyes. He remembered the way he’d drawn in energy with his breath at the golden cottage. Opening his eyes, he drew in power from the world. He held his hand over the manhole cover cut into the rock. Using his gift to grab hold of the cover, he turned the cover to the left.

It didn’t budge.

Jacob put his strength into it. The cover did not budge.

“It is distinctly possible that whoever created this never heard of ‘righty tighty, lefty loosy,’” Abi said.

“Or possibly, they locked this entrance from the inside,” Gilfand said.

Shrugging, Jacob tried the other direct. The manhole cover spun off the hole with such force that it flew into the air. The cover landed with a thud a few feet from them.

“Are we ready?” Jacob asked.

Yvonne gave him a fond look. He glanced at Abi, who was now covered in her armor, and Gilfand, who’d turned back into a gargoyle.

“Here goes nothing,” Jacob said.

He knelt down and leaned into the hole.

“There’s a ladder,” Jacob said.

“Go ahead, son,” Gilfand said.

Jacob looked at him for a long moment and then at the metal rungs drilled into the solid rock. He gave Gilfand a nod before throwing his leg over the lip of the manhole and starting down the ladder.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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