CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and FORTY-THREE
Seven hours later Sunday morning — 5:35 A.M
Seth woke to the feeling of Ava’s hands stroking his stomach. Her long fingers stopped at his naval before moving to his thighs. He opened his eyes and she was leaning toward him. She gave him a slight smile then kissed his lips.
“Ava,” Seth said. “You don’t have to…”
“I want you,” she croaked.
Her lips attacked his lips and tongue. The pure honesty of her desire brought him fully awake. He met her intensity. Their lips tingled with their magnetic fusion. Her body gave of an infectious heat and he rose to her desire. He pulled her on top of him. She sat across his thighs. With her access, she continued ravaging his mouth. She gave him a cocky smile, then moved her hips to engage.
She threw up.
Seth wasn’t able to move out of the way. Her vomit hit him in the chest and spilled onto the bed. Horrified, Ava jumped up and ran into the bathroom.Grabbing a towel to wipe off the vomit, he followed her. He stroked her back while she hugged the toilet. When her stomach was empty, he pulled her into the shower and turned on the warm water. Shaking her head, Ava’s mouth moved but no sound came out. Tears fell from her eyes.
Seth put his ear next to her mouth.
“I’m so sorry,” Ava said.
“Don’t be sorry,” he said. “You’ve been through a horrible experience. This kind of thing is normal. We need to go slowly, respectfully.”
Seth put his finger over her mouth.
“Rest your voice,” Seth said.
Under the warm stream of water, he held her to him. Moving away, she took a wash cloth and soap to scrub where she’d thrown up on him. He smiled.
“I know you feel bad,” he said. “You want everything to be normal. But right now, you need to heal and healing takes time.”
She nodded. He took the wash cloth from her.
“I’m clean,” he said. “Why don’t you stay here as long as you’d like? Or until the hot water runs out?”
She pointed to him.
“I’ll change the sheets,” he said.
She looked indignant.
“I’ve changed a lot of sheets in my life. Please. Take in the warmth. It’ll help to chase away the dark.” When she didn’t look convinced, he added, “For me. We’ll get there, Ava. Promise. There’s no hurry. We have time.”
She gave him a slight nod. He kissed her forehead and left the shower. He dried off and went to change the sheets. In the way of vomit, a little had spread over a lot of surfaces. It seemed to be everywhere. He made a pile of sheets and comforters, grabbed a pair of jeans and went down the hall to the linen closet. He returned to the room with an arm full of sheets, a duvet cover and a cotton blanket. He tossed his load into an arm chair and made quick work of the bed. He was so intent on the job that he didn’t hear the water shut off or see Ava step into to the bedroom. He looked up when she touched his back. She held his phone out to him.
“It’s Ferg,” the Crime Scene Unit supervisor said. “We’ve got trouble.”
“Homeland’s taken over the Saint Jude investigation,” Ferg said. “There’s a guy here who wants all the files. I told him that I’d have to call you.”
“Who’s the guy?”
“I didn’t get his name,” Ferg said. “He’s talking to the Chief.”
“What’s he look like?”
“He’s tall, fit, hands like a football player and… he’s… very good looking,” Ferg said. “I feel dumb saying it but the women are acting like flies on shit.”
“Black with light eyes?” Seth asked.
“More like caramel colored,” Ferg said. “You know him?”
“If it was my way, I’d fuck him,” Seth laughed.
“Yeah, isn’t that weird?”
“Give him everything,” Seth said. “He’s got a cop’s mind. Best profiler in the country.”
“How’s Amelie?” Ferg asked.
“Stronger,” Seth looked over at Amelie and smiled.
“Did she answer the phone?” Ferg asked.
“Yep,” Seth said.
“Thought so. Poor girl,” Ferg said. “Her voice is gone.”
“Just worn out,” Seth said.
“I don’t know O’Malley,” Ferg laughed. “You must have worked your famous magic to find a nice girl who won’t talk your ear off.”
“I didn’t say that culturally insensitive statement,” Ferg said. “Plus you know how much I like Amelie.”
“Did you say something?” Seth asked.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Ferg said. “The senior Homeland agent is coming to get the maps. This guy says you have to turn them over. Terrorism or some crap.”
The doorbell rang.
“Sounds like they’re here,” Seth said. “I wonder if they brought donuts.”
“Doubt it,” Ferg said. “Pricks. What are you going to do?”
“What can I do?” Seth asked.
“They’re just going to take this from us,” Ferg said.
“We’ll see,” Seth said.
“Over my dead body, O’Malley,” Ferg said. “That guy killed Denver cop. He’s ours.”
The doorbell rang again and a fist pounded on the door.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Seth said. “Listen, I’ll be so jealous if you fuck that guy.”
Laughing, Ferg hung up the phone. Ava held a t-shirt out to Seth. He gave her a partial smile and grabbed the shirt. He trotted out into the hall and down the stairs. He opened the door and laughed. There were five men standing on his walk. Wearing dark Ray Ban sunglasses and digital fatigues, they stood like muscular statues. The large man at the door moved into the house. Without saying a word, he frisked Seth. Turning in place, he nodded. Two identical people stepped out of a black SUV idling on the street.
“Did you at least bring donuts, Trece?” Seth asked.
“Nah man, no time. We just got back in town,” Captain Andrew “Trece” Ramirez said. “Dropped off Rasmussen and came here.”
Wearing the same dark glasses and fatigues, the two identical people walked through the doorway.
“Is all this ceremony really necessary?” Seth asked.
“It’s good practice,” Max Hargreaves said. He took off his glasses.
“We’re trying to look identical,” Alex Hargreaves said. She took off her glasses to hug Seth.
“You’re identical twins,” Seth said. He shook Max’s hand.
“See, practice works,” Max laughed.
“Dad said you had some maps?” Alex said. “We need everything you have.”
“They’re over here,” Seth said. “Do you have his map?”
“I do,” Alex said.
“Did you finish it?” Seth asked.
“I was supposed to do it last summer, but I never got there,” Alex laughed. “Colin and Max are going to help me today. I think I can have a map in…”
She looked at the material he had given her and shook her head.
“Not sooner than five hours,” Alex said. “Maybe six hours to get most of the details drawn. Aren’t Jake and Mike supposed to help?”
“And your nephew?” Max asked. “Charlie?”
“We can meet you anywhere,” Seth said.
“My office in the Federal building,” Alex said. “Noon.”
“Bring Delphie,” Alex said.
“I haven’t seen Delphie in a long time,” Max smiled.
“We love Delphie,” Alex said.
“Anything else?” Seth asked.
“Lunch?” Trece asked.
“Bring lunch,” Alex said. “Something good.”
“Little Anita’s,” Trece suggested.
“Got it,” Seth said. “Raz got the forensic files.”
“Good,” Alex said. “We went through the FBI profile on the plane.”
“How did you get it?” Seth asked. “He would only give me a summary.”
“He wouldn’t give it to us either,” Alex said.
“He didn’t have to,” Max said.
“We have admin rights to the FBI server,” Alex said. “It was fairly easy to find.”
Shaking his head, Seth smiled.
“Raz will have his report at noon too,” Alex said.
She gave him a nod. She and Max put their glasses on in unison. They walked together out the door. The men waited until Max and Alex were in the SUV before following them. Trece closed the door. Shaking his head, Seth went back up the stairs. He turned into his bedroom to find Ava nestled in the newly made bed.
“You found the other comforter?” Seth asked as he took off his clothing.
She pointed to the closet.
“When you were looking for my wife’s clothing?”
She gave him a half smile. He slipped under the covers next to her.
“Wanna try again?” she whispered in his ear.
“Of course,” Seth said.
Using her finger, she indicated that she’d brushed her teeth.
“Good thinking,” he said.
She kissed him. Their lips began their happy play across each other’s mouth. She was moving toward him when his phone rang. She stopped moving. He flopped back on the bed and chuckled. Reaching the table by the bed, she gave him his phone. He smiled his thanks.
“O’Malley,” Seth said.
“Dad! It’s Lizzie!”
“What’s going on?” Seth sat up in bed.
“Some bitch was just here looking for Ava,” Lizzie said. “She said she was Amelie’s sister.”
“What did you tell her?” Seth asked.
“I told her that Ava had some police thing this morning,” Lizzie said. “The bitch pushed her way in and insisted on seeing Ava’s room. I showed her the room and… When did you put her stuff there?”
“Yesterday,” Seth said. “You were out with Sandy.”
“Oh yeah, that,” Lizzie said. “I decided to put the baby up for adoption.”
Seth blinked and looked at the clock. The long hand clicked to 6:35. This was turning into quite a day.
“Sandy went with me to Catholic Services yesterday,” Lizzie said. “Is that okay?”
“Honey, you need to do what makes sense to you and what’s best for the baby,” Seth said. “Only you can know for sure what that is.”
“They were nice, but…” Lizzie paused for effect. “They need a release from… you know who.”
“Your step-father,” Seth said.
“Right,” Lizzie said. “I called him and he pitched a fit. He said the baby belongs to him. ‘He’s my property.’ He and Mom want to raise him. He’s telling everyone I’m surrogating for them. Surrogate? Me?”
“Don’t worry, honey,” Seth said. “I know how to deal with your step-father. If it’s best for the baby to give him up for adoption then that’s what will happen. Only you know what’s best for your baby.”
“That’s what Sandy said,” Lizzie said. “What are you going to do?”
“Don’t worry,” Seth said. “I’m proud of you for even considering it, Lizzie.”
“I get to pick the family, if I want to,” Lizzie said. “And I can have an open adoption. That’s where I can be involved if I want. It’s just that…”
“What?” Seth asked.
“I don’t think the baby will ever get a fair shake in life if I’m around,” Lizzie said.
“Why would that be?” Seth asked.
“Because,” Lizzie said. “His father is my father or my step-father and…”
Lizzie began to cry.
“It’s okay,” Seth said. “You’re already doing the right things. I’m proud of you for thinking of what’s best for your baby.”
“I want to rub it in their face, you know,” Lizzie said. “But I see Rachel and how little she is and how precious she is and… A baby is a person. A person shouldn’t be rubbed in someone’s face.”
“You’re right,” Seth said.
“Oh, so I told Ava’s sister that Ava lives here.” Lizzie switched the subject to try to gain some control over her emotions. “She said something snide about Sandy and how this was a half-way house or something. I told her that Sandy was my sister and she should shut up. After she stalked through the place, she left. She said she works for the DA. She told me to tell Ava to call her ASAP. That’s what she said, like it’s a word, a-sap. Who says that? Weirdo.”
“Sounds like you did a good job,” Seth said.
“I really like Ava, Dad,” Lizzie said. “But…”
Lizzie dissolved into tears.
“I mean, she’s twenty-three,” Lizzie said.
“I’m twenty-two,” Lizzie said.
“Do you want to have sex with me too?” Lizzie asked.
“No, honey,” Seth said. “It’s not like that.”
“What’s it like then?”
“I don’t see people as their age or education or what schools they went to or where they come from or how much money they have…”
“All that stuff that matters to Mom,” Lizzie said.
“I guess so,” Seth said. “I see people as a whole – soul in body, God’s light in human form. It doesn’t matter to me that Ava’s young or old. Does that make sense?”
“It’s what you always say,” Lizzie said. “It’s just that…”
“This is a confusing time for you. To me, souls call each other and the relationship we choose is a sacred bond. I love you Lizzie but I could never make love to you,” Seth said. “Is there a way I can help?”
“Can I come over today?” Lizzie asked.
“I have to work this afternoon,” Seth said. “Why don’t you come over for breakfast?”
“Maresol has Sunday’s off,” Lizzie said.
“No you can’t and don’t you dare ask Ava,” Lizzie laughed. “Let’s go out.”
“All right,” Seth said. “Ava and I will meet you…”
“Watercourse,” Lizzie said. “It’s across the street and Ava can see her new sort of house. Do you think she would be my friend?”
“I don’t see why not,” Seth said. “Should I ask her?”
“No, that’s all right,” Lizzie said.
“See you in an hour,” Seth said.
“Ok Dad,” Lizzie said. “Oh, I forgot to tell you.”
“I introduced myself as Elizabethe Barth,” Lizzie laughed. “My alter ego. That woman was so nasty I figured she didn’t deserve to know my real name.”
“Good thinking,” Seth said. “Bye honey.”
“Bye bye Daddy,” Lizzie said.
Seth set the phone down on the table. Rolling onto his side, he looked at Ava. She was laying on her side looking at him. He saw renegade tears seeping from her eyes.
“Who do you call honey?” Ava’s croaking whisper of a voice tore at his heart.
“That was Lizzie,” Seth said. “She wants to give her baby up for adoption but her step-father won’t have it. She and Sandy went to talk to Catholic Charities yesterday. Sounds like I’m going to be talking to the step-father tomorrow.”
“Your older sister went to the apartment this morning,” Seth said. “The DAs office is on alert for this Saint Jude thing. Everyone from the DA to the secretaries are working around the clock to get through all the evidence. They’ll need to be on their game when they get a chance to interview Saint Jude. Your sister must have stopped by on her way into the office.”
“Why?” Ava asked.
“She wanted to see where you were,” Seth stroked Ava’s shoulder. “They do care for you.”
“Your sister wants you to call her,” Seth said.
“Control me,” Ava croaked. “That’s what she wants.”
Seth put his finger over her lips.
“Save your voice,” he said.
“Lizzie wants to have breakfast at Watercourse,” Seth said. “Are you up for that? You can see the apartment after breakfast.”
“I have to meet with Homeland at noon,” Seth said. “It will probably take all afternoon and maybe more. We’re meeting to finish a map to find Saint Jude. Would you like to come?”
Ava shook her head.
“What would you like?” Seth asked.
Ava threw herself at him. He held her at bay.
“We can stop at any time, any time,” Seth said. “Give the signal and we stop.”
He tapped the bed.
“It is wrestling after all,” he said. “Try it.”
She tapped the bed. As it if it was their first time, they began carefully, slowly, respectfully and ended in a fervent explosion of joy.
Sunday mid-day — 11:05 A.M
Valerie sat on the main living room couch waiting for Delphie. Delphie, Charlie, Mike and Jacob were leaving for the Federal Building the moment Mike and Charlie returned from Mass.
Valerie was going with them. Her mind was made up. She steeled herself for their complaints and arguments. Those psychics were used to pushing her aside all of her life with their ‘you don’t have any powers’ talk. If she’d learned anything from Katy, it was that she, Valerie, was more powerful than anyone thought. Her hand went to the growing baby girl in her belly. Together, she and the baby were going to find this Saint Jude.
“Are you ready to go?” Delphie asked as she came in from the garden.
Surprised, Valerie turned to look at Delphie.
“I need to shower.” Delphie jogged up the stairs to the apartment she and Sam were sharing.
Certain Delphie’s attitude was a trick, Valerie crossed her arms.
“What’s with you?” Jacob asked as he came in the living room from the kitchen.
“I’m going with you,” Valerie said.
Jacob opened his mouth to speak.
“Before you say anything,” Valerie stood up to make her point. “You need me. I mean think about it. Noelle, Nash and Katy made that light. Who has Noelle and Nash’s capacity combined with Katy’s? You? I don’t think so.”
Jacob opened his mouth to speak again.
“I do, that’s who,” Valerie said. “If Delphie and I work together, I bet we can find where the turd is holding up. But you need me. You can’t do it yourself. Can you?”
On cue, Jacob opened his mouth.
“No, that’s right,” Valerie said. “You can’t. If you could, you already would have. And Katy can’t do it by herself. Noelle and Nash and Katy just make a light. That will be important when we go to get the asshole, but you have to find him first. That’s where I come in. You need me.”
Mike came in through the door from the driveway.
“Charlie’s in the car,” Mike said.
“And don’t you tell me I shouldn’t go,” Valerie said. “If anyone should go, it should be me. And I’m not working right now. I won’t overtax myself or hurt the baby. The baby and I want to do this because who knows? This guy could have been looking for us all along. I have the DNA. The baby has the DNA. The guy takes people with our DNA and tests them against that horrible creature that only Jake can fight. And I’ll give you that. Only Jake can fight that thing. Well, and the dragon, but you’re not a dragon and I’m not a dragon and…”
Valerie took a deep breath and Jacob opened his mouth to speak.
“Don’t you argue with me, Jacob Marlowe. You know I’m right,” Valerie said. “Plus Mom always, always, always said, ‘Valerie you’re…’”
“The brightest light in this world,” Jacob and Valerie said in unison.
“Right,” Valerie said. “Oh good, there’s Delphie.”
Picking up her Dior handbag, Valerie walked toward the door. She kissed Mike ‘hello’. He helped her with her coat and she went out to the driveway.
“What was that?” Mike asked.
“Valerie’s going with us,” Jacob laughed.
“I thought we already decided we needed her,” Mike said.
He nodded to Delphie.
“Did you tell her?” Delphie asked.
Mike and Jacob shook their heads. Scowling, Delphie flicked them on the forehead.
“Ow,” Mike said.
“You were supposed to tell her,” Delphie said.
“She figured it out,” Jacob rubbed his forehead.
“Are you coming?” Valerie yelled from the driveway.
Delphie and Mike trotted out the door leaving Jacob to lock it.
“Brightest and bossiest light in the world,” Jacob muttered.
“I heard that!” Valerie yelled from the back seat of Mike’s SUV.
Laughing, he joined Valerie in the back seat.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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