Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal – Chapter One Hundred and Thirty-Two : Probed


Monday – 2:30 P.M.

“Where’s Mommy?” Katy asked as she climbed into the Lexus SUV. “Monday Mommy. That’s how it always, always goes.”

“You and I need to talk,” Jacob said.

“About what?” Katy blinked her big dark eyes at her father. Jacob snapped the safety belt to her car seat.

“Very funny,” Jacob said. He went around to get in the driver’s seat. “Did you think I wouldn’t notice that you were avoiding me?”

“You’ve been working, working, working.” Katy demonstrated his overwhelm with a flail of her arms. “Grandaddy said you were making up for some people who went away. It doesn’t make any sense to me but that’s what he said.”

“I’ve been covering two sites for some jerks that quit,” Jacob said.

“Good riddance. That’s what Grandaddy said,” Katy said. “They were mean to Noelle so I hate them.”

“Their daughters were mean to Noelle,” Jacob said.

Jacob started the car and drove away from the Marlowe school. Katy waved to Paddie as they left the parking lot.

“Where are we going?” Katy asked.

“To the shop,” Jacob said. “So we can talk.”

“Oh,” Katy said.

Ever dramatic, Katy gave Jacob a trapped prisoner look. Jacob laughed and Katy laughed at her joke. They drove to Detroit Street and into the driveway of Jacob’s wood shop. Jacob pulled the SUV into a bay and closed the door. He helped Katy out of her car seat and took her back to the office he used for his building rehab business. He got out some milk and a tray of warm brownies. Katy clapped her hands.

“Are you avoiding me because of the dragon and snakes?” Jacob asked. “It’s pretty scary for a little girl.”

“No Daddy,” Katy said. “You don’t scare me. Ever. Paddie either.”

“You don’t want to talk about moving objects?” Jacob asked.

Katy gave him a solemn nod.

“Why?” Jacob asked. “I’m the one person in the world who could understand.”

“Girls aren’t supposed to move things,” Katy said.

“They haven’t,” Jacob said.

“Auntie Valerie can,” Katy said.

“What do you mean?” Jacob asked.

“She can make things come to her,” Katy said.

“What things?”

“Anything she wants. Movie jobs, Mike, pretty dresses, whatever,” Katy said. “That’s what Naomi says anyway. Naomi says that her sister was the same way and that they never thought about it as like their dad or you. But it’s the same.”

Jacob puzzled at his mother’s wisdom coming through his daughter.

“When did you start…?” Jacob wasn’t sure how to ask the question.

“I used to hide my old Daddy’s keys. He was mean and it made him crazy not to find his keys,” Katy said. “Always, always. But he started to hurt Mommy because he couldn’t find his keys so I stopped. For a long time, I stopped. Then I saw you do it and I thought maybe it was okay if I did it for big things.”

“Like dragons?” Jacob asked.

“And sand castle tunnels,” Katy said.

“That’s how Paddie knows you can do it,” Jacob said.

Katy nodded.

“But it’s a secret,” Katy said. “He will never ever tell anyone, ever.”

“You don’t move things in pubic?” Jacob asked.

“Never.” Katy’s tiny hands went around her belly. “I don’t want to be probed.”


“By government people,” Katy said. “Paddie saw a show about being probed and told me that can I might be probed by government people.”

Katy nodded.

“I would never let that happen,” Jacob said.

“But you would be probed too!” Katy’s voice rose with her anxiety. “Mommy too!”

Tears filled the child’s eyes. Jacob picked her up off the couch and put her on his lap. He rocked her back and forth until her fear eased. Snuggled on his lap, she ate a brownie.

“Daddy?” Katy asked.

“Yes Katy,” Jacob said.

“What does probed mean?” Katy asked.


Monday — 7:15 P.M.

They had invited a hundred people but there was more than twice that number the antechamber to Boettcher Hall. Seth had been mingling from one person to the next. He’d spent the most time with Sandy, Aden and the kids. All of the boys had brand new tuxedos. Noelle and Sissy were wearing gorgeous Valerie Lipson hand me down designer dresses. He ooohed and ahhed over each of them while he basked in their excited banter. He was laughing at the boys antics when he heard, “Seth! Over here!”

Seth tried not to groan. His agent was waving him over to the one person Seth had been avoiding - Colorado’s Attorney General, Aaron Alvin, Ava’s father. Seth hugged Delphie and shook Sam’s hand before he plastered a smile on his face and walked over. His agent made the introductions. After a round of back slapping, his agent wandered off in search of a reporter. Seth shifted uncomfortably.

“Nice to see you, O’Malley,” Attorney General Alvin said. “I hear you’re doing great work on the Saint Jude serial killer case.”

“Thank you, sir,” Seth said. “I believe we will catch the killer. Your daughter has done a fantastic job of connecting the victims. It’s a huge step forward. Did she tell you?”

“She didn’t need to,” Attorney General Alvin said. “I doubt it will surprise you, but I’m the kind of father who keeps tabs on his children.”

Raising his eyebrows, Seth shifted uncomfortably.

“Yes, O’Malley,” Attorney General Alvin said, “I know about you and Amelie.”

“What is it that you know, sir?” Seth asked.

“Yes, play sly,” Attorney General Alvin said. “Personally, it’s not like you stood a chance.”

“A chance, sir?”

“When my daughter sets her sites on something, she usually gets it,” Attorney General Alvin said.

“And what site did she set?” Seth asked.

“You, O’Malley,” the Attorney General said. “You remember the Cigarette Killer?”

“I do,” Seth said.

“Amelie was twelve when you worked that case. She read the Denver Post every single day to keep up with the investigation. She pestered me for inside details.  She even spent her entire summer watching the trial. You may remember meeting her.”

“Amelie, sir?” Seth shook his head.

“The Cigarette Killer case is the reason she went into law enforcement,” Attorney General Alvin said. “Nothing her mother said or I said made a difference. She wanted to be just like her hero detective. She worked her ass off to graduate college early and intern with the FBI.”

“You pulled a few strings,” Seth said.

“More than a few,” Attorney General Alvin said. “I wasn’t surprised when I learned you were dating.”

“Dating, sir?” Seth asked.

“Won’t last,” Attorney General Alvin said.

“Sir?” Seth asked.

“My daughter is dogged at what she wants. She’ll do anything, put herself through enormous trials but once she has what she wants…,” Attorney General Alvin shrugged. “She never stays very long. Once she’s conquered one goal, she’s on to her next challenge. I expect her to give up this whole law enforcement thing any day. Her mother would like her to be a doctor. She really should be a doctor. With her experience with the Denver Police, she would accepted at UC Anschutz Medical School right away.”

Seth watched the man’s confident smile and steely eyes.

“She can’t change what she is,” Ava’s father said. “She’ll flit from thing to thing until she has children. Just like her mother. Of course her mother was more interested in charities and the tennis circuit than police work. Here they are!”

Carrying glasses of champagne, Ava and her mother approached.

“Her mother does not know you’re dating,” Attorney General Alvin leaned in to say in Seth’s ear. “Let’s keep it that way.”

“The man of the hour,” Ava’s mother said. “We’re very thrilled to hear the new symphony, Seth.”

“Vivian! How delightful to see you,” Seth kissed her cheek. “Thank you for coming.”

“We wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Ava’s mother said.

“We were just talking about the Cigarette Killer,” Ava’s father said. “You remember that case, don’t you Amelie?”

“It’s one of the finest pieces of detective work I know of,” Ava said. “That case is the reason I went into forensics.”

“O’Malley was the detective,” Ava’s father said.

“He was?” Stunned, Ava gawked at Seth.

“You didn’t know?” Ava’s father laughed.

“No,” Ava said. “I had no idea.”

“It was a long time ago,” Seth said.

“I wish you would use your powers of detection to figure out who gave my daughter this gorgeous eternity diamond necklace,” Ava’s mother said. “What do you think, Seth?”

“Are you sure it’s not a loan like in that movie…?” Seth asked.

“Pretty woman?” Ava’s mother asked.

Ava blushed. When Seth gave her the necklace, she’d asked if it was a loan.

“With Richard Gere?” Ava’s mother asked.

“Yes, I believe that’s it,” Seth said.

“I asked the same thing,” Ava’s mother said. “You would think my daughter would want to introduce me to the man who bought her diamonds and designer dresses.”

“You would think,” Seth said.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Seth’s agent said. “But it’s time to get started.”

Seth nodded to Ava’s mother and father. He stopped to give Sandy a hug and then followed his agent toward the stage. Looking out over the audience, he saw a uniformed police officer speak with Ava and her parents. The same officer jogged across the floor toward him.

“Sir?” the police officer asked.

Seth turned.

“We’ve received a credible threat to your life,” the officer said. “You’re secure in this room, but will need police escort to leave. Technician Alvin has agreed to secure your hotel room prior to break. I’ll be here the entire show and escort you to your room when it is secure.”

Seth nodded.

“Thank you officer,” Seth’s agent said. “Ready Seth?”

Seth closed his eyes for a moment. Nodding to his agent, he took a breath then walked to the Grand Piano on stage. He looked up to catch the Colorado Symphony conductor’s eyes. The man nodded to him.

And the symphony began.


Monday — 7:30 P.M.

Ava wasn’t sure when the music began. She only felt the movement and pressure of her own emotions. One moment she wanted to dance for joy. A few minutes later, she felt the oppressive pressure of her parents and their expectations. Feeling almost as if she could no longer breathe, she was about to jump from her seat when the mood shifted.

And her heart broke open.

She noticed her mother crying into her sleeve the way she did when she didn’t want her father to know. Ava looked around the room to see tears falling down the cheeks of many people in the audience. Even the pros, Valerie Lipson, Stephen Speilburg, and other famous people she recognized from the magazine stand at the front of the grocery store, were weeping.

The dream continued. Ava felt lifted from her sorrow to the highest peak of Mount Elbert where she played among the clouds. With the fairies as her companions, she soared through the majestic beauty of high country meadows, bubbling creeks, and danced with the dragonflies across the surface of Twin Lakes. Spinning, dancing and laughing, she was returned to her seat in Boettcher Hall.

Ava felt a hand on her shoulder. Looking up, a uniformed policewoman was indicated it was time for them to secure Seth’s hotel room. She gave her mother some tissue and trotted out of the room.

“We’re a little behind schedule. I couldn’t…,” the uniformed police woman said. “Did you cry?”

Ava jogged as fast as her gown and high heels could go. They moved across the patio toward Fourteenth Street.

“I felt like my entire insides were torn out,” Ava said.

“Then rearranged in perfect order,” the policewoman said. “Amazing. I didn’t know music could do that.”

They continued across Fourteenth Street to the Curtis Hotel. Ava turned to look back at Boettcher Hall and saw police officers securing the area in their wake. They nodded to the officers in the entryway and took the elevator to the eighth floor. They jogged down Sci Fi themed hall to the premium suite Seth’s agent had reserved. The policewoman and Ava checked the room.

“I’ll be outside if you need anything,” the policewoman said.

“I was to stay outside to protect Detective O’Malley,” Ava said.

“Detective O’Malley?” the policewoman asked.

“The officer said there was a credible threat…”

“Against you, Technician Alvin,” the policewoman said. “The guy Detective O’Malley is after is a danger to him and you.”

“What are you talking about?” Ava said.

“You don’t know?” the policewoman asked.

“I was told there was a threat to Detective O’Malley’s life,” Ava said.

“Your roommate’s dead.” The policewoman put her hand on Ava’s arm.

“Beth,” Ava whispered. “How? What?”

“Her boyfriend found her about six. She… Anyway, she must have tricked the perp into thinking she was dead because she wrote: ‘St. J coming for Am’ in her own blood on the kitchen floor.”

“Oh my God,” Ava said.

“You’re Am, aren’t you?” the policewoman said. “Amelie?”

“Beth has called me ‘Am’ since grade school,” Ava nodded. “Did she… suffer?”

“I’m not going to lie to you. You’ll find out anyway,” the policewoman said. “She suffered. A lot. But she fought back. He got some of what he gave. She pulled out chunks of his hair and gouged him with her nails. There’s a lot of forensics for your team.”

“She has a black belt in karate,” Ava said.

“She kicked his butt,” the policewoman said. “And tricked him into leaving her to write her note.”

Ava sat down in a high backed stuffed chair.

“Saint Jude is back in town,” the policewoman said. “He’s coming to clean up the mess. That’s what he told the homeless kids. You and Detective O’Malley are first on his list.”

“Oh,” Ava said.

“The Chief wanted you safe,” the policewoman said. “He booked this suite for the rest of the week. He’d like you and O’Malley to stay here until we catch him.”


“Stay here,” the policewoman said. “We’ll escort you back after O’Malley takes his break.”

Ava nodded to the policewoman.

“O’Malley’s kind of a nut, amazing musician and composer but a total nut,” the policewoman said. “Can you handle him for an hour?”

Ava nodded.

“There’s another bedroom if you want to just avoid him. But no matter what. Don’t leave this room without me. You and me. We’re a team until they catch this guy.”

Without another word, the uniformed officer left the suite. Unsure of what to do, Ava stared at the suite door. She hadn’t planned on spending this hour with Seth. She’d planned on drinking champagne and having a bite to eat with her parents. Now, for whatever reason, she was exactly where her mother warned her not to be - in Seth’s suite after he’d played his new piece.

Would he demand animal sex?

Would he be totally out of it?

Would he…?

She heard this weird buzzing in her ears. Her eyes riveted on the door. There was a knock on the door. Her policewoman rolled in room service with dinner for two. Ava signed the receipt and the policewoman left. Ava was pretty sure she’d said something, but when the policewoman left she dropped back down in the chair.

Her ears continued to buzz and her eyes continued to stare.

She wasn’t sure how long before Seth arrived – ten minutes, maybe two days. He stepped into the room and dropped to his knees in front of her. Without saying a word he held out his hands.

In his arms, she began to cry.

Denver Cereal continues next week…


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