Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter One Hundred and Twenty-Eight : Deniability

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY-EIGHT

Monday evening — 6:15 P.M.

“Thanks for the push,” Sandy said. She turned around to look at Ava. “The kids are probably waiting for me in my room.”

“Easy,” Ava pushed Sandy’s wheelchair down the hospital hall. “I wanted the chance to talk to you anyway.”

“Yeah, we figured,” Sandy said.

“We?”

“Me, Heather and Tanesha,” Sandy said.

Ava nodded.

“Turn here,” Sandy said. “We have to take that elevator.”

Ava pushed the up button then went back to her position behind Sandy’s chair.

“You wanted to talk with me?” Sandy asked.

“I do,” Ava said.

“About Seth?” Sandy asked.

“About Seth,” Ava said.

The elevator bell rang and Ava rolled Sandy onto the elevator. A family ran up to get on the elevator.

“I’m sorry,” Ava said. “Police business.”

The man and women caught their children before they entered the elevator.  Their shocked faces took in Sandy and Ava. Sandy laughed when the elevator doors closed.

“Seth is a police detective,” Ava smiled. “It’s police business.”

“What’s going on?” Sandy asked.

“You’re Seth’s only real family,” Ava said.

“Sissy and Charlie too,” Sandy said.

“You’re the only person I’ve found that knows him at all,” Ava said. “Like what’s on the CD?”

“You know Seth writes music,” Sandy said.

“I learned that this morning,” Ava said.

“He writes a sonata or a concerto when he’s working on a big case. Every once in a great while he writes a symphony. He finishes the bulk of the writing while he’s working a case, then works the piece until he’s ready to start a new one. I assume this case is heating up enough for him to start a new project.”

“He didn’t sleep last night,” Ava said.

“He’s starting a new project,” Sandy said. “He won’t sleep much until the case is done. Anyway, the CD is his latest completed piece. He gives them to me to see what I think. I listen and send them on to his agent.”

“His agent?” Ava asked.

“Seth’s work is amazing,” Sandy said. “He’s in such demand that there will be buzz for weeks prior to the piece going on the block. This is the first piece in… maybe a year.”

“On the block?” Ava asked.

“For auction,” Sandy said. “They auction the rights for movies or whatever. It’s a big event. You’ll have to ask Seth if he’ll take you. I always go, of course.”

“Auction?”

“This piece is highly anticipated because he worked with a cellist. There’s hope it’s a symphony for a whole orchestra.”

“A cellist?” Ava asked.

“You know, you’re repeating what I say,” Sandy said.

“Oh, sorry,” Ava said. “I just don’t know anything and I want to know everything.”

“He dated a cellist for a while,” Sandy said.

“Is he dating her now?” Ava asked.

“He wouldn’t be dating you if he was dating her,” Sandy said. “Seth’s a lot of things but he can’t handle more than one woman at a time. Except Maresol and me. But we don’t really count.”

The door opened and Ava wheeled Sandy off the elevator.

“Why don’t we find a place to talk?” Sandy asked. “The kids can wait a few minutes. I bet you didn’t come all this way to talk about Seth’s music or his auction.”

Ava pushed Sandy into a small empty waiting area just off the elevator landing.

“Does Seth make a lot of money selling music?” Ava asked.

“Yes,” Sandy said. “So does everyone involved – his agent, his publicist, the Colorado Symphony. Seth has an incredible talent.”

“He played for me this morning,” Ava said. “I…”

“It’s hard to believe,” Sandy said. “Is that what you wanted to ask?”

“Yes,” Ava said. “Well, no…”

Ava’s eyebrows furrowed as she tried to make a decision.

“You really like him,” Sandy said.

“I really like him,” Ava said. “Really. He’s almost three times my age.”

“You’re…?”

“Twenty-three,” Ava said.

“Seth’s fifty-eight,” Sandy said. “That’s not three times.”

“More than twice my age,” Ava said.

“And?”

“I like everything about him. Even before I knew about the music or the house or… the money… He’s funny… incredible in bed. He really listens to me… remembers what I say. When we’re alone, it’s like I’m the center of his world. I feel like I could spend my life with him but…”

“He’s not going there again,” Sandy said.

“Why?” Ava asked.

“We don’t have time for the why,” Sandy said. “What do you really want to know?”

“Ex-wives,” Ava said. “I want to know about his ex-wives.”

“Short answer or long answer?”

“I have to get to work and your kids are waiting for you,” Ava said.

“Short answer for now,” Sandy said. “Seth’s first wife only wanted him for his parent’s money. But his parents disowned him for being a cop.”

“But…”

“The house?” Sandy asked. “That’s part of the long story. The first wife had a couple girls then divorced him. She thought she’d get a large settlement but his father had just disowned him. She got half the rights to some of his work, not chump change, but not what she thought she deserved. I didn’t know Seth when he was married to her. So I only know what he says and what my Dad used to say.”

“His daughter is in town?” Ava asked.

“Lizzie, his oldest,” Sandy said. “She’s a little younger than you are. She’s staying at my apartment to ‘get to know her Dad.’ That’s what she told me but she hasn’t spent any time with him.”

“I guess I knew that,” Ava said. “Seth’s called her a bunch of times but she doesn’t return his calls.”

Sandy nodded.

“He says my ex-wives.”

“His second wife is a little different,” Sandy said. “It’s a very sad story. You sure you want to hear it?”

Ava nodded as if she was prepared.

“You know Seth and my Dad worked vice,” Sandy said.

“And got addicted to drugs… alcohol,” Ava nodded.

“Right,” Sandy said. “Seth met Bonita while he was high. They got married while he was high. He wasn’t writing music then.”

“Because he was high,” Ava said.

“Mostly because he wasn’t working out big puzzles,” Sandy said.

“Like murder,” Ava said.

“Right,” Sandy said. “Anyway, Bonita and Seth had two boys in two years – Pablo and Gabriel. After Gabriel was born, Seth decided to get clean. He wanted to be a detective, my Dad was already sober, and… Gabriel was special… musical. He would fiddle with the piano keys. Seth cleaned up his act, started running and playing the piano again. Of course, he and Dad made detective, no problem. But Bonita was an alcoholic. Things didn’t go so well.”

“It doesn’t sound good,” Ava said.

“They lived in this tiny house in the Highlands,” Sandy said. “Seth and Dad got their first big case and Seth stopped sleeping. He was either writing music or working. Bonita was furious. Seth was just gone and she…”

“Felt abandoned?” Ava asked.

“Mostly, she didn’t like his work affecting her drinking time,” Sandy shrugged. “I don’t know that for sure. I just think that. Seth stopped playing the piano at home.”

“Where did he play?” Ava asked.

“The posh places are the Brown Palace or the Burnsley. He tries out classical music there,” Sandy said. “But when he’s stuck and can’t think of what’s next, he plays at Charlie Browns.”

“The dive bar?”

“He loves to play the sing-a-long,” Sandy said. “There isn’t a piano player in town that won’t just move over when Seth shows up.”

“Seth’s good,” Ava said.

“Seth’s really good and doesn’t take the tips,” Sandy said. “It’s a great deal for the piano players.”

“You were talking about Bonita?” Ava asked.

“Bonita got drunk one night and went to find him. The kids were in the car. It was dumping snow. She ran the light at Broadway and was hit by an 18 wheeler. She and Pablo died at the scene. She was eight months pregnant. They tried to deliver the baby but he didn’t make it. Gabriel hung on for about a week.”

Ava blinked back the sorrow she felt for Seth and his family.

“Seth never got over it. He blames himself,” Sandy said. “It nearly killed him. For a while, Dad and I weren’t sure he would make it. He vowed to never marry or have kids again. So, no matter how much he likes you, he won’t make it permanent.”

Ava’s head went up and down in a nod.

“You should just enjoy your time with him,” Sandy said. “He’ll treat you well. You’ll have a lot of fun, eat a lot of donuts. But prepare yourself, some day it will end. It does with everyone.”

“Everyone except you,” Ava said.

“And Maresol,” Sandy said. “Maresol is Bonita’s mother. But we’re not his lovers.”

“Sandy?” Aden’s voice came down the hall. “I hear her voice…”

“I have to go,” Sandy said. “Feel free to come by. I’m here until I’m better. It will be a while. I’d like to get to know you.”

“That’s nice of you,” Ava said. “Especially since…”

“Enjoy yourself,” Sandy said. “Really. Soak it up. He’ll give you everything you ever dreamed of.”

“Except marriage… children,” Ava said.

“Except what he can’t give,” Sandy said.

“There you are,” Aden said. He leaned down to kiss her. “I was getting worried.”

“It’s my fault,” Ava said.

“Have you met, Ava?” Sandy asked.

“At the mansion,” Aden said.

“Nice to see you again,” Ava smiled. “I need to get to work.”

Impulsively, Ava leaned down to hug Sandy. She whispered, ‘thanks’ and took a hasty retreat to the stairs. Ava made it to the first floor before she started to cry. Through blurry eyes, she ran to her car. Sitting in her warm car, Ava cried for Bonita, Pablo, Gabriel and the unborn baby. She started her car when her phone rang. Wiping her face with her hand, she confirmed that she was on her way in. Turning the corner onto Seventeenth Avenue, she vowed to enjoy her time with Seth as if each day was a gift. By the time she reached the downtown station, Ava was back in control.

For now.

~~~~~~~~

Monday evening — 8:15 P.M.

“You have to come get me,” Razor whispered into Charlie’s disposable phone.

“Where are you?” Charlie asked.

Charlie set down his hand of cards. He stood up from the poker game he was playing with Nash and Teddy on the floor of his room. Leaving Nash and Teddy to argue over who won, Charlie went out into the hall of the apartment over Sandy’s salon.

“You know where,” Razor whispered. “He’s going to kill me. I just know it.”

“Okay, okay,” Charlie said. “I’m going to get some help. Hang on.”

“I’m hanging either way,” Razor said.  “Ah shit…”

Charlie’s phone cut out.

“Razor?!” Charlie looked at the disposable phone. It was out of minutes. He threw the phone against the wall. “Fuck!”

Hearing Charlie, Pete came running from the kitchen. Nash and Teddy stuck their heads out the door.

“What is it?” Pete asked.

“I have to go out,” Charlie said. “I need…”

“You’re not going anywhere,” Pete said.

“I have to go,” Charlie said. “Razor…”

“You’re not going out in the middle of the night to see your drug buddies,” Pete said.

“God damn it!” Charlie yelled.

Charlie jumped up and down with anger. Unimpressed, Pete scowled at him.

“You’re not listening to me!” Charlie screamed. “I have to go!”

“I’m not hearing anything worth listening to,” Pete crossed his arms.

“Okay fine. I wasn’t exactly honest with Uncle Seth,” Charlie said. “I know I should have been, but I wasn’t. Now, Razor’s in trouble.”

“Drugs or alcohol.”

“Murderer trouble,” Charlie said.

“Murderer?” Pete asked. “What are you talking about?”

“I need to call my Uncle Seth and Aden and…”

Collapsing into himself, Charlie fell against the wall. He looked up at the ceiling.

“What is it?” Pete asked.

“Have you ever had the feeling that you totally and completely screwed up, but you didn’t really know you were screwing up when you were screwing up?” Charlie asked.

“Yes,” Pete said. “I’ve felt like that.”

“I really screwed up, Pete,” Charlie said. “You have to help me. Razor’s my best friend and…”

“And he’s high?”

“The guy hung him,” Charlie said.

“What guy?” Pete asked. “You’re not making any sense.”

“The guy, the murderer guy,” Charlie said. “The one Uncle Seth has been looking for.”

Pete looked at Charlie as if he’d lost his mind.

“Call Aden,” Charlie said. “Call him now.”

“You need to settle down,” Pete said. “If there’s anything here, the adults will take care of it.”

“They can’t,” Charlie screamed “I have to.”

“Why?”

“Because you can’t get in,” Charlie said. “Only I can and now Razor’s going to die and…”

“Okay, okay,” Pete said. “I’ll call Aden. But you’re not going anywhere until I talk to Aden.”

“I’m calling Uncle Seth,” Charlie said. “Okay?”

Pete nodded. Charlie looked around the hallway for his phone. It had shattered. He began picking up the pieces.

“Use mine,” Nash gave Charlie his iPhone. “But if you break it, you buy me another one with your own money. Deal?”

“Deal,” Charlie took the phone from him.

Charlie looked at the phone and shook his head. Nash held out his hand and Charlie gave him back the phone. Nash found the number and dialed it. He gave the phone to Charlie.

“Hello?” Charlie said to Seth.

“Charles,” Seth said. There was piano music in the background.

“Sorry to bug you but…”

“You’re never bugging me, son,” Seth said. “Did something happen?”

“No,” Charlie said. “Well, yes. How did you know?”

“Delphie told me you would stop lying to me when something happened,” Seth said. “Ready to talk?”

“It’s Razor, Uncle Seth,” Charlie leaned close to the phone. “He’s hanging.”

“Where?” Seth said.

“I have to show you,” Charlie said.

“I’m on my way.” Charlie heard Seth footsteps and a door close.

“Pete won’t let me go,” Charlie looked up to see Pete’s face marked with concern. Pete shook his head.

“A police investigation is no place for a child,” Pete said. “Aden agrees.”

“I’m not a child,” Charlie said.

“They’re right,” Seth said over the sound of his car starting.

“But I have to show you!” Charlie said. “You’ll never find it otherwise. You can’t see if from the street or the path or anywhere. You have to know where it is.”

“Can you see it from above?” Nash asked.

“Yeah, probably,” Charlie said. “Maybe. I don’t know.”

Nash pulled his laptop from his bag and started typing.

“I’ll be at the shop in fifteen minutes,” Seth said. “But I’m picking up Delphie on the way. If you lie this time…”

“She’ll catch me,” Charlie said. “Fair enough. Nash thinks he can help from here.”

“Good thinking. Work with Nash,” Seth said. “I’ll be right there. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“Like that’s possible,” Charlie said.

“We all lie, Charlie,” Seth said. “Let’s just hope your friend doesn’t have to live with the consequences.”

“Yeah,” Charlie mumbled. “Or die with them.”

Seth had already hung up. Charlie slid down the wall until his behind hit the floor. He set down Nash’s iPhone.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” Charlie screamed and began to hit his thighs. Pete dropped to his knees to try to help Charlie. Nash picked up his iPhone to protect it.

“What’s going on?” Teddy asked.

“I fucked up,” Charlie said. “And my best friend is going to die because of it.”

“He’s gonna die because you can’t go?” Nash asked.

Charlie nodded.

“What if we figure out how to be there and not be there?” Teddy asked.

“What are you talking about?” Charlie asked.

“We can use the satellite to help Seth and his guys find your friend,” Nash said. “We’ll be there to guide them.”

“How?” Charlie asked.

“First let’s see if Google Maps can get us close.” Nash turned back to his laptop. “Sandy has wireless. I installed it myself but we’ll need more bandwidth than that.”

Taking the laptop, he ran downstairs. Charlie, Teddy and Pete followed him closely behind. Nash found a network jack and plugged in the laptop.

“Ok where?” Nash asked.

“It’s kind of by where Stapleton was,” Charlie said.

“Streets?”

“Smith road,” Pete said. “Quebec. By the Home Depot?”

“Past that,” Charlie said.

“Got it,” Nash said.

“That’s just a map,” Charlie said. “I can’t find it by…”

Nash clicked a button and the satellite image appeared. Nash dialed in to the closest view.

“That’s it,” Charlie said.

“Where?” Nash asked.

“See where those old planes are?” Charlie asked.

“Right there,” Teddy asked.

“Ya, see that cement? Those big pieces on the bank of the river? The entrance is under there.”

“I don’t see it,” Teddy said.

“Left bank,” Nash pointed to what looked like a set of old cement sidewalk pieces. “I think that’s Sand Creek.”

“See you don’t have to go,” Pete said. “I’m putting my foot down here. You boys don’t need to be out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.”

“But how will we know what happens?” Charlie asked.

“You’ll just have to wait until the morning,” Pete said.

The bell to the shop rang and Pete left to get the door. Nash started busily working on the laptop.

“Don’t worry,” Teddy whispered. “We’ll be able to follow.”

“How?” Charlie whispered.

“We might have borrowed someone’s satellite access code,” Nash said.

“Might?” Charlie’s eyebrows went up.

“Shhh,” Teddy said.

Nash clicked a button and the Google satellite image came back up on the screen. Seth, Delphie and Noelle ran into the shop.

“Where is it, Charlie?” Seth asked.

“Right here,” Charlie pointed to the spot on the Google Maps satellite image.

“Good work,” Seth said. “You kids stay here. I’ll drop by after I take Delphie home. If you’re still awake, I’ll tell you everything.”

“Ok,” Charlie said. “Sure. That’s fine.”

Prepared for an argument, Seth squinted at Charlie. Charlie smiled.

“I don’t know what you’re up to,” Seth said.

“He’s not lying,” Delphie said.

“Don’t worry, Uncle Seth,” Noelle said. “We’ll be right here.”

Seth gave them one last doubt-filled scowl. He and Delphie ran out of the shop. The kids waved them good-bye.

“Do I want to know?” Pete asked.

“Not if you want full deniability,” Teddy said.

Pete gave Teddy a long look.

“Is it illegal?” Pete asked.

“Only sort of,” Nash said. “But we won’t get caught. We have permission. Sort of.”

Trying to decide, Pete chewed the inside of his lip.

“Can I stop you?” Pete asked.

“Nope,” Nash said. Teddy and Charlie shook their heads.

“You’re not in danger?”

Nash, Teddy and Charlie shook their heads.

“You’re not going to hurt yourselves?”

They shook their heads.

“You’re just going to work on this computer?”

The gang nodded in unison.

“I’ll make popcorn,” Pete said.

Pete went up the stairs of Sandy’s salon to the apartment. Nash opened the laptop and the children stared at the image. Sensing movement, Charlie looked up to see Noelle slip her hand into Teddy’s hand. They gave each other a goofy smile.

“Do I have to be the dog?” Charlie asked.

“The dog?” Nash asked.

“Ted here is Fred. Noelle is Daphne,” Charlie said. “I’m definitely not Velma.”

“I’m not Velma!” Nash said.

“Right,” Charlie said. “So you’re either Shaggy or Scooby and I don’t want to be the dog.”

“Shaggy’s kinda a stoner,” Teddy said.

“You’re kinda a stoner,” Nash said.

“He addicted to those Scooby snacks,” Noelle said.

“If the shoe fits, Norville,” Nash said. “I think Scooby is cool.”

Charlie shook his head at them.

“Sissy can be Velma,” Noelle said.

“Sissy’s going to love that,” Charlie said.

“Ooh look,” Nash said. “It’s started!”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

~~~~~~~~

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