Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter One Hundred and Forty-Eight : Set

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and FORTY-EIGHT

“Mommy’s having a dream,” Katy said.

“A dream?” Tanesha asked.

“Like what I get,” Katy put her tear stained face against her mother’s.

“A psychic vision,” Tanesha said.

“A bad one,” Katy said.

At that moment, Katy looked every bit the tiny, frightened four years old girl. Her dog, Scooter, paced the floor next to her.

“I’m really scared.”

“Me too, honey.”

Tanesha went to Katy and pulled onto her lap. With Jill’s head between her legs, she rocked the little girl until she stopped crying. Scooter circled then laid down next to Jill.

“Why is this happening to Jill?” Tanesha asked.

“Because of the babies,” Katy said.

“She didn’t have them with you,” Tanesha said.

“Boys make it happen,” Katy said.

“What do we do?” Tanesha asked.

“We can’t wake her,” Katy said. “I tried. What does Mommy do for me?”

“She loves you,” Tanesha said.

“I love her,” Katy said. “All the time.”

“I love her all the time too,” Tanesha said. “Maybe we just think about it.”

Sitting on the floor of Jill’s office, Tanesha and Katy loved Jill and waited for her to wake.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday afternoon — 4:25 P.M.

“You’ll never believe what we found,” Sam Lipson said.

He’d met Barry Radow, the State Inspector, near the entrance to the coal tunnel. Near the same age, the men had spent most of their careers staring at one project or another. They greeted each other like old friends.

“At this moment, Sam, I’d believe almost anything,” Barry Radow, the State Inspector said.

“That’s the truth,” Sam said.

They continued walking toward the work crew.

“When we were young, did you really think we’d be slogging through the dark places of Denver when we were our age?” Barry asked.

“No,” Sam said. “I never thought I’d out live Celia.”

“Miss her?”

“Every day,” Sam said. “The good die young.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Barry said.

They walked in silence for a while until they reached Honey.

“You’ve met my daughter, Honey?” Sam asked.

“We’ve crossed paths a couple times.” Leaning over, Barry shook Honey’s hand. “How are you?”

“Doing well,” Honey said.

“She’s assisting, Jerry,” Sam pointed to Jerry Siegle the Site Manager.

“Jerry!” Barry said.

Jerry walked from behind a skid loader to greet Barry.

“It’s been a long time,” Jerry said. “How’s the wife?”

“Bitter and resentful,” Barry said.

“The usual,” Jerry and Barry said together. The men laughed.

“Did you really let this riff raff buy into your company Sam?” Barry asked.

“It was Jake’s idea,” Sam said.

“Youthful ignorance,” Jerry said.

The men laughed.

“I really hate this place,” Barry said. “What am I looking for?”

“You’ll see the supports,” Jerry said. “We breached the wall at the location of the entrance of the tributary.”

Jerry pointed toward the wall of the tunnel. The men walked over to the wall. About two feet from the edge of the tunnel was a cement and stone structure.

“Jeez, this is a lot of shoveling,” Barry said.

“Too tight to use machinery,” Honey said.

“What are we looking at?” Barry asked.

“Can I have some light?” Jerry asked.

A couple men ran up with a light on a stand. The light glanced on the structure.

“What are we looking at?” Barry repeated.

“They capped the spring,” Sam’s hand touched the stone and cement. “Masons.”

Barry walked toward the well cap. His hand touched the Mason mark and the notation.

“Masons,” Barry said.

“They must have capped it when they were working on the tunnel,” Jerry said.

“That’s what it looks like to us,” Sam said.

“Damned waste of time, I say.” Barry shook his head. “How long is it going to take you to put this back?”

“Day or so,” Sam said.

“Did Jake finish the barrier?” Barry asked.

“Our team has worked from the other side,” Jerry said. “They believe they’ll be done this afternoon. They had some trouble with cave-ins further up. They were able to stabilize the tunnels and do their work.”

“We wanted you to see this before we cover it back up,” Sam said.

“Consider it seen. I’ll write a report,” Barry said. “Listen, I’m sorry about all of this.”

“Ah, it’s all right,” Sam said. “We should have figured they’d have capped it.”

“You still would have had to check,” Barry said. “See ya around, Jer.”

Jerry raised a hand to wave good-bye. Barry was moving so fast that Sam had to jog to catch up. Once outside, Barry leaned his hands on his thighs to catch his breath.

“I thought…” Barry puffed. “I was sure you were going to show me some grave.”

“Thank God it was just the Masons doing their thing,” Sam said.

“You’ve heard of that serial killer? That Saint Jude?” Barry asked. “My youngest works at DPD. He says there are bodies still buried all over Denver. He’s out there today digging up more.”

“Some kind of evil,” Sam said in as nonchalant of a voice as he could muster.

“Here’s the thing.” Barry moved so his face was right near Sam’s. In a horror movie whisper, Barry said, “They don’t know where the bastard is.” Barry shivered. “Creeps me out,” Barry said.

“I’ll tell you what,” Sam said. “How about if we finish up here? I’ll send you pictures. If you see something you don’t like, you can always let me know. But you don’t have to come back down here.”

“You sure?”

“You can trust us to do the work,” Sam said.

“Thanks Sam,” Barry said.

Sam shook Barry’s hand and waved him on his way. He glanced at the surveillance van on the street then returned to the tunnel. With any luck, they knew exactly where Saint Jude was.

With any luck, he would be in custody tonight

With a sigh, Sam ducked back into the tunnel.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday evening — 6:15 P.M.

“I don’t like it,” Sandy said.

Sandy shook her head at Aden. Unwilling to argue in front of the kids, she went into their bedroom. He followed her into their bedroom and closed the door.

“I can’t say no,” Aden said. “Jake lets us live here rent free. They’ve paid my full salary the entire time I’ve been on paternity leave. We never could have paid all those medical bills without free rent, their insurance and my salary. Jake’s asked for my help tonight in the tunnels. Mike’s already guarding the tunnels under the Castle. I can’t… no, I won’t say no to him.”

“I don’t like it,” Sandy said.

“Why?”

Aden crossed his arms in front of him. Expecting her to say something about him being gone or not taking care of her or the children, he settled in for a fight. But Sandy shook her head at him and went to Rachel’s bassinette. He watched Sandy change their sleeping baby’s diaper, dress her in a flannel footie and set her back in the bassinette. Softened by her interaction with Rachel, he asked, “What’s going on?”

When Sandy turned, she had tears in her eyes. They’d been a couple for such a short amount of time and married for even less, he had no idea what she was upset about. He held out his arms and she walked into them.

“I’m terrified,” Sandy said. “Jill had some horrible premonition. She was so sick when she woke up, she threw up for a half hour. I was just barely able to get her to sleep for a while. Charlie’s freaked out that he forgot another entrance to that horrible man’s place. Seth’s been out all day uncovering more bodies. More bodies!”

Turning quickly, Sandy walked out of his embrace to the other side of the room.

“Tell me what you want me to do?” Aden said. “I can’t say no.”

“You’re right,” Sandy said. “You can’t say no. Jake lets us stay here. He and Sam have been amazing about Rachel. Sam already acts like her grandfather. Delphie spoils all of the kids rotten. A night in the tunnels is the very least we can do.”

Aden nodded in agreement with her logic.

“This guy kills children, Aden,” Sandy said. “I want the children, our children, somewhere safe.”

“Where?”

“My salon,” Sandy said.

“Sandy… I…”

“When you were in prison, I made a place, a private place, in the basement,” Sandy said.

“Where?” Aden asked.

“I’ll show you,” Sandy said. “Do you agree? Until this guy is caught, our kids go to the salon… and every other kid we can find.”

“What about Pete and his kids?”

“The kids are already there,” Sandy said. “Pete and Molly took them there about an hour ago. Jake asked them to stay at the Detroit Street workshop in case Saint Jude slips passed Mike.”

“Okay,” Aden said.

“Okay?”

“Let’s take them,” Aden said.

He strode to the door. Jerking the door open, he found Noelle and Nash kneeling with their heads against the door.  Charlie and Sissy were standing over them. Teddy stood sheepishly to the side.

“We believe you’re all in danger,” Aden said. “Sandy has a place at the salon where you’ll be safe. You will go to the salon and stay there until either Sandy or I come to get you.”

The kids started talking at once.

“This is not a matter for discussion,” Aden said. “Pack a bag. You have ten minutes. Go!”

Intimidated by Aden’s seriousness and Sandy’s tears, the kids jumped into action. With Aden’s pushing, they were out of the apartment, down the stairs and into the SUV. Sandy grabbed Buster’s leash and Buster bound down the stairs after the kids. Sandy put sleeping Rachel in her car seat between Nash and Noelle. Aden made the quick trip to Sandy’s salon. Carrying Rachel in her car seat, Sandy opened the door and shooed the kids inside. Locking the Salon door, she nodded toward the back.

“This way.” Sandy pointed toward the back. She unlocked the door at the top of the narrow stairs. “Be very careful. The stairs are super slick.”

With Buster leading the way, the kids went down the stairs to the open area under Sandy’s salon. Sandy walked toward the back wall when the wall seemed to split in two revealing a small efficient apartment. Pete’s children peeked out. Buster barked and ran to greet the kids.

“Sandy?” Pete’s oldest asked. Seeing her, he threw himself into her arms. “We’re so scared.”

“You guys know each other right?” Sandy asked.

“We work together,” Sissy said. “Hi!”

“I want you kids to stay here tonight,” Aden said.

“Dad said you’re going to catch that Saint Jude guy tonight,” Pete’s son said.

“That’s exactly right,” Aden said.

“He kills kids like us,” Charlie said.

“Oh Charlie,” Sandy hugged him tight. “You’ll be safe here. There’s a PlayStation, an X-box, cable… You shouldn’t be too bored.”

“What are you going to do?” Noelle asked. She ran to Sandy. “Can’t I go with you?”

“I want to go with you,” Sissy said.

“No,” Aden said. “You need to stay here. Sandy’s going to help Jill. I need to help Jake. We need you kids to stay here.”

He hugged Nash then Noelle. Sissy threw herself at him. He held her and kissed the top of her head. He hugged Teddy and mussed Charlie’s hair. The kids clutched at Sandy.

“Charlie is in charge,” Aden said. “Do you know where food and money is?”

“I helped Pete stock this place,” Charlie nodded. “We got some good snacks too.”

“Listen to Charlie,” Aden said. Turning to Pete’s kids, he asked, “Is that all right with you?”

Grim, the children nodded their heads. Aden hugged them all one more time then went to leave. Standing at the stairwell, he turned to see Sandy giving Rachel to Charlie. She set the diaper bag she called “Rachel’s command center” at his feet.

“You’ll take care of her?” Sandy asked.

“With my life,” Charlie said.

“I know you guys have been playing Scooby and the Gang. According to Seth and Alex, you’ve really helped solve this mystery,” Sandy said. “But you can’t help tonight. This isn’t a cartoon with fake monsters. This is a very real monster.”

“Who will kill us,” Charlie said.

“Do not give him the chance,” Sandy said. “Promise me. Nash?”

Nash nodded.

“Noelle?”

She ran to Sandy for another hug.

“You’ll come back to us, right?” Noelle asked.

“Of course,” Sandy said. “Sissy?”

Sissy wrapped her long thin arms around Noelle and Sandy.

“Teddy?”

“Yes ma’am,” Teddy said. “I know what monsters are like and I… Don’t worry. I’ll do what I can to keep everyone safe.”

“Charlie?”

Charlie looked at Rachel then back at Sandy. Nodding, he took Sissy’s arms off Sandy then pulled Noelle away. The girls hugged each other.

“I’ll come for you,” Sandy said. “Do not open this door for anyone but me, Aden, Pete or Molly. And make damned sure it’s us.”

The kids nodded.

“Buster, stay with the kids,” Aden ordered.

The ugly dog seemed to stand a little taller with his responsibility. Sandy gave them one last worried look and slid the door to the room closed. She heard a satisfying clunk of the lock from the inside. Aden followed her up the stairs and out to their SUV.

“Let’s hope they catch him tonight,” Aden said.

“If they don’t, the kids will probably form their own society and take over the country,” Sandy said.

Aden smiled at her joke. Even worried, she still emanated strength. They drove in silence to the Castle. Once there, he didn’t want to leave her side. She gave him her usual Sandy smile and hopped out of the vehicle. He was almost to downtown before he realized she had left her phone in the SUV. Contemplating whether to go back, he glanced at the time. She was going to spend the night with Jill. She’d never miss her phone. Putting it out of his mind, he went to meet Jacob.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday evening — 7:15 P.M.

“There’s Aden,” Troy said.

Captain Troy Olivas pointed to the video image of Aden getting out of the SUV. Members of Alex Hargreaves’s team, Denver Police and a variety of Homeland Security and FBI agents were crammed into the van for a briefing.

“We’re ready to move into place,” Seth said. “I wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page. Aden is joining Jacob in the tunnel.”

“Jake just let him in,” Troy said.

With video restored to the tunnel, they watched Jacob and Aden pretend to review the Lipson construction work.

“We have people staked out throughout the tunnels from here to the Castle,” the Denver Police SWAT Commander said.

“At the Castle, Mike Roper and a few members of my team are waiting,” Alex said. “We have a couple people in the Detroit Street workshop and others all the way up to the Natural History Museum.”

“The hope is that if he eludes one of us, he won’t elude all of us,” the SWAT Commander said. “DPD patrols are ready to assist wherever he pops up. They’ve been instructed to apprehend, not engage.”

“There’s no way to know how this night is going to end,” Seth said. “We have to stay alert, stay alive. Where is he now?”

“After making dinner,” Raz said. “It looks like he’s settled down to watch a movie or some television. I’ve wondered if he’s injured.”

“My men shot him at Sand Creek,” the SWAT Commander said. “Amelie’s the last person to have seen him. Did she say anything about him being injured?”

“She doesn’t remember anything,” Seth said. “Thank God.”

“Why do you think he’s injured?” Alex asked.

“The way he moves,” Raz said. “And how inactive he is.”

“I think he knows we’re watching,” Delphie said.

The professionals turned to look at her. They glanced at each other before turning to look at the screens again.

“I bet she’s right,” Max Hargreaves said.

“He’d want us to think he was impaired in some way,” Seth said. “What’s our plan?”

“We’ve cut off all the exits we know about,” Alex said. “We’ll attempt to lure him out of his residence. If that doesn’t work, we’ll go in and get him.”

“We have a variety of ways to get him out of there,” the SWAT Commander said. “Flash bombs, tear gas…”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t escalate to active warfare in the middle of downtown,” Seth said.

“Got to do what you’ve got to do,” the SWAT Commander said. “This bastard’s not getting away. Not on my shift.”

“Let’s go over luring him out,” Alex said.

“We’ll start with Valerie Lipson and Honey Scully,” Seth said. “He’s taken an interest in them. We’ll see if they can draw him out.”

“How long are we giving this little charade?” the SWAT Commander asked.

“Half hour, no more,” Alex said.

“Then we go in?” the SWAT Commander asked.

“Then we go in,” Seth said. “Would you like to review your plan?”

“To you?” the SWAT Commander asked. “No. Trust me, Magic. We’ll do what’s necessary to get the bastard out of there.”

“We go in an hour,” Seth said.

“2030 hours,” Alex said. “Before the party crowd arrives and after everyone is home from work.”

“If he moves before then?” Raz asked.

“We scoop him up,” Seth said.

“Right now, we wait,” Alex said.

“We wait,” Seth said.

“If you want to go take a look, he can’t see you,” Troy said.

“Any surveillance he had, we broke with an electromagnetic disruptor,” Alex said. “Go ahead. Stretch your legs.”

Seth got out of the van and walked down to the river. Three plainclothes Denver Police Officers lingered around the underpass and river. Seth was half way down the grass embankment when he heard Delphie’s voice. Turning around, he heard her yell something about his phone. Nodding, he looked at his phone.

He’d been out of range most of the day unearthing human remains. His phone must have shut itself off. Turning the power on, he continued down the grass embankment. As if by gravity, the Denver Police officers moved toward him. His phone gave a little tune as it turned on. He nodded to the officer near to him and the man walked over chat.

As they walked toward the underpass, the young man began a long and complicated joke. The air was filled with the raunchy joke and the nervous expectation of catching Saint Jude. Feeling his phone vibrate, Seth looked down to see that he’d received a text message. Half listening to the young officer, he looked at his phone.

“Yes.” Ava had texted one word to him.

The word echoed through his mind.

Yes! Yes! She said Yes!

Yes? What was she saying Yes to?

What did she mean? Did she mean yes or did she mean YES!

Seth’s head jerked up when the chatting officer coughed and fell to the ground. He heard a spitting sound like a muffled snare drum or a low cough. Ptat, ptat, ptat. Turning toward the sound, Seth felt a sharp object pierce the back of his neck near the base of his skull. He yanked the wooden toothpick-like shank from his neck.

Ptat. Another shank hit his neck at the same spot.

He fell face forward to the grass.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

~~~~~~~~

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