CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY-SEVEN
Monday mid-day — 12:20 P.M.
Valerie jogged through the quiet Lipson construction office. The leather over-the- shoulder briefcase she was carrying banged into her leg when she stopped short at Sam’s office door. She knocked.
“It’s about time,” a man’s voice came from inside.
Sam opened the door. He rolled his eyes then stepped back to let her in to the office. She smiled at Aden and gave the two angry men sitting across from Aden her movie star smile.
“Sorry I’m late,” Valerie said. “I had to get what you asked for.”
She sat down next to Aden.
“How’s Sandy?” Valerie asked. “Rachel?”
One of the angry men cleared his throat. Aden nodded in response to Valerie’s question.
“Ms. Lipson, this is a serious matter,” one of the men said. “We’d appreciate it if you’d take it seriously.”
“Hmm,” Valerie said.
She began unpacking her bag. She pulled out a netbook and a DVD. She turned on the netbook and clicked through to YouTube. She also took out a bag of chocolate chip cookies. She gave the bag to Aden.
“Delphie gave me these for you,” Valerie said.
“Can we get past the women’s coffee klatch?” the other man said.
“Now, now,” Sam sat down in a chair next to Valerie. “You wanted a meeting with Aden and Valerie. Even though my son is sick and the company is closed, we’re all here. You don’t need to be rude.”
“RUDE?” the first man asked. “Your daughter creates a video to mock our children, humiliate us, and you call us RUDE?”
“Okay,” Sam sighed. “Let’s run the video. Valerie?”
Valerie leaned forward to turn on the video. Unfamiliar with YouTube, she wrinkled her nose. Aden leaned over her and clicked the play button. She smiled her thanks.
The video opened with an animated picture of a clothing store. Three adorable cartoon pigs with little girl heads came into view. The first little girl pig began to snort. The second one joined the chorus of snorting. When the third joined in, they began to snort to the tune of James Taylor’s classic pig song ‘Mona’.
Aden had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing. Sam cleared his throat but his dancing eyes told another story.
“You will answer for this,” the first angry man said. “My daughter hasn’t left her bedroom in two days.”
“The video has gone viral!” the second man said. “Everyone has seen it! It was on Channel 9 news! We went out for dinner as a family last night and people snorted at us!”
“You’re exaggerating. Only a million people have seen it so far. Not everyone,” Valerie said. Her face was placid. “I should post it to my Facebook page.”
“You have no right to do this,” the second angry man said.
“Valerie, you were going to bring the original,” Sam said. “I haven’t seen it.”
Valerie held up the DVD. Aden stuck it into the drive on the netbook. The scene from the clothing store unfolded. The horrible blonde girls followed Noelle around the room snorting at her. The camera shifted to their mothers. The smirk on the mothers’ faces spoke volumes. Aden shifted in his chair.
“What is this?” Aden asked.
“It’s a little video we took while we were shopping this weekend,” Valerie said.
Valerie shot a glance at Sam. Sam’s face was a mask of rage.
“Those girls are always after Noelle,” Aden looked at the men in front of him. “While I agree the piggy video is a little excessive, we need to find a solution. This bullying isn’t healthy for any of the children.”
“Healthy? Healthy?” The second man’s face grew a deeper shade of red. “My children have the right to speak their mind. This is a free country and my girls are just telling it like it is. You raise a pig child, she’s going to be treated like a pig.”
Aden jumped to his feet. Valerie put her hand on his chest. She shook her head at him. He looked down at Valerie then sat down.
“Bullying is unacceptable,” Sam said. “That behavior will not be tolerated here.”
“So you’re taking the video down?” the first man smirked at Valerie.
“I want a public apology from Miss Smartypants Movie Star,” the second man said.
“That’s Mrs. Smartypants Movie Star,” Valerie said. “And don’t hold your breath.”
“You misunderstand me,” Sam said. “Your daughters bully Noelle. I’ve seen them at it myself.”
“Their own mothers approve of their behavior,” Valerie said. “Look at their faces!”
“You will take this video down,” the second man said. “Or you will hear from my lawyer.”
“I won’t,” Valerie said. “The children’s mother’s approved of their daughter’s behavior. Why wouldn’t they approve of the remade video?”
“That’s it,” the first man said. “Where’s Jake?”
“Jacob is ill today,” Sam said.
“You raise this slut and…” the second man pointed his finger at Sam.
“You’re on very thin ice here,” Sam said.
“Fuck it,” the first man said. “I’m done. I quit.”
“Why don’t you wait until you cool down a bit? There’s no reason to…” Sam said.
“I’m not staying here,” the first man said. “We’ve already taken positions at Mortensen. They begged us to go there. We start tomorrow. We came here out of respect for you, Sam, and Jake. We wanted to give you a chance to apologize.”
“I’m sorry to hear it,” Sam said.
“You realize that means you need to sell back your Lipson shares,” Aden said. “Go from an owner to an employee.”
“Your children won’t be able to continue at the Marlowe school,” Valerie said.
“We’re getting such big raises that we can easily afford to pay the Marlowe School tuition,” the second man said.
“I’ll be happy to put your girls on the waiting list,” Valerie said. “There are more than two hundred children waiting to get into the Marlowe school. Employees’ children get first priority and the spaces are limited. If you’re not an employee, you’re at the back of the line.”
“That’s outrageous,” the first man said. “Jake will never go for that.”
“Jake’s not involved at the school anymore,” Valerie said. “I’m the Marlowe-Lipson representative at my mother’s school. I took over for him at the beginning of the year. And trust me, your children go straight to the back of the waiting list.”
“You can’t do that!” the second angry man said.
“It’s a private school,” Valerie said. “The school can set its own rules. This happens to be the rule. I’m sure your girls will do fine at home this summer.”
The men looked at Valerie then at each other.
“Why don’t you give it some time?” Sam asked. “These kind of things blow over. You can always…”
“We’re out of here,” the first man said. “You can’t disrespect my family and expect me to stay.”
“I assume you brought your ownership shares,” Aden said.
“You’ll take a personal check?” Sam asked.
The men held up their shares to Lipson Construction. Without saying another word, Sam took out his checkbook. Aden went around the desk to use the phone. Tres Sierra, the CFO, came in to manage the transaction. Within minutes, the men had Sam’s personal check for their shares. They stood in front of Aden and Valerie.
“It doesn’t have to be like this,” Sam said.
“There’s no solution,” the first man said. “Tell Jake we said ‘good-bye’.”
The men stormed out of the office. The glass front door gave a solid bang when they stormed out.
“Well…” Valerie raised her eyebrows. “That was interesting.”
“Good riddance,” Tres said. “Those guys are a cancer. There’s rumblings that they were trying to vote out Aden at the end of the year.”
“Wonder where the third Dad is?” Aden asked.
“He called while you guys were talking,” Tres said. “He said, and I quote, ‘No daughter of mine is going to treat another person like that. We’ll handle this at home.’”
“It’s the end of the dynamic trio?” Aden asked. “Not likely.”
“Oh, you never know,” Valerie said.
“Will you take it down now?” Sam asked.
“Sure, Dad,” Valerie said. “But it’s already gone viral.”
“What does that mean?” Sam asked.
“Other people like the video so much they made their own copies. Even if Val takes the video down, it will be reposted by someone else,” Tres said. “God, I’m so sorry about Noelle.”
“She’s had to deal with those girls since she was little,” Aden said. “The girls are egged on by their mothers. They take out their frustration at me on her. I can’t say I’m sorry they and their horrible children are out of our lives.”
Sam put his hand on Aden’s shoulder. He nodded to Valerie.
“Wait,” Aden said. “Before you delete it, can we…”
Valerie played the video. The men laughed and insisted on playing the video again. When the video was done, Valerie deleted it from her YouTube stream. She hugged her father good bye and followed Aden out to the parking lot.
“Well, that’s that,” Tres said.
“I hope so,” Sam said. “Aden’s right. They really hate him.”
“Without shares, they have no power,” Tres said.
“I hope so,” Sam repeated.
Monday afternoon — 3:15 P.M.
“Okay,” Blane said. “Are you ready?”
“I’m ready,” Delphie said.
Blane threw another log on the raging fire in the fireplace. Jacob was laying on his back on a massage table in the middle of the main Castle’s main sitting room. He had more than fifty acupuncture needles throughout his body.
Over the course of the day, they had fought the dark entity that lingered inside him. The dark had neither taken hold of him nor let go of him. Blane was going to give Jacob an acupuncture exorcism. Because the entity’s power was so strong, Blane was not be able to set the last needle. He and Delphie had spent the last hour practicing acupuncture. He was sure she would be able to place the last needle.
Delphie had already sealed off the sitting area from the rest of the house. The rest of the family waited upstairs in the loft. Blane touched Delphie’s arm and left the room to wait in the kitchen.
Delphie set up an energy vortex around her and Jacob. She created psychic protection to protect her from the entity. When she touched Jacob’s face, he opened his eyes. He gave her a half smile.
“Go ahead,” he whispered.
Delphie stuck the needle under his collarbone. Jacob began to shake. He pulled on his shirt until it ripped from his body. His body began to sweat. He grunted and his back arched.
Delphie watched his psychic body split open and thousands of multicolored snakes came slithering out. Delphie began grabbing snakes and throwing them into the blazing fire. The fire sparked with life as the snakes were consumed. More and more snakes came pouring out of Jacob’s body. Sweating from the hard work and the hot room, Delphie ran from place to place collecting the foul creatures and tossing them in the fire.
She thought they were almost done when the tiny tip of a black tail appeared. The tip became a thick tail. The tail became a large reptilian creature. The size of a Mach truck, the enormous dark entity’s bright red eyes glared at Delphie. She tried to grab it but it laughed at her. The creature grew in size and weight. Surprised, Delphie stepped back. The creature stepped out of Jacob’s body on thin spindly legs. With it’s head scraping the ceiling, it leaned over Delphie.
“I am not afraid of you,” Delphie said through trembling lips. “I’ve known you all of my life.”
“Yessss,” the creatures voice came in a purring calm. “My Oracle.”
Delphie threw herself at the creature. Her arms barely made it around its neck. The creature shook his head and Delphie flew across the room. She hit the door to the side hallway with a bang. The door opened a crack. Now filling all of the room, the dinosaur like creature continued toward her. It opened its large mouth with sharp, crooked teeth to swallow her whole.
“Hello?” Katy stuck her head in the door. “We just got home from school and there aren’t any brownies and…”
The creature snorted and turned his attention to the small child.
“Katy! NO!” Delphie exclaimed.
Delphie shouted to hail the creature’s attention back to her. He opened his mouth over Delphie. Struck with terror, Delphie couldn’t move. Her head went into the creatures mouth.
“Hey, get away from my Delphie,” Katy said. “That’s not nice.”
With a flick of her hand, the creature flew across the room.
“Fire,” Jacob whispered. “To the fire.”
Paddie stepped into the room behind Katy. In an instant, the creature shrank to the size of a small dark spider. The tiny spider zoomed across the room toward the children.
“Katy doesn’t like spiders,” Paddie said. He stomped on the spider.
Delphie jerked Paddie off the ground before the entity could invade him. Katy bent down to look at the squashed spider. The spider began to grow into a serpent again.
“Fire, Katy, fire,” Jacob said. “Together.”
Katy looked up at her father.
“One,” Jacob gasped out. “Two…”
“THREE!” Katy and Jacob said.
The growing spider flew across the room. It hit the back of the fireplace with a thud then oozed into the roaring flames. A bone chilling scream and foul smell arose from the fire. Setting Paddie down, Delphie ran to the fire. Close on her heels, Paddie threw something from his pocket into the fire. The fire sparked, grew large, then, as if none of it had happened, the fire returned to normal. Delphie set a fresh log on the grate.
“Help me now,” Delphie said. “Do we see any snakes?”
“There! There!” Paddie said.
Paddie ran to pick up a red and black snake. Before he could touch it, the snake flew across the room. The snake hit the wall then tumbled into the fire. Delphie picked up one straggler snake and add it to the fire. On his tip toes, Paddie looked into Jacob.
“There’s a few more there,” Paddie said.
He reached his hand to get them but Katy threw them into the fire. He giggled.
“I like when you do that,” he said. Katy laughed.
“Jake?” Delphie asked.
“Time for brownies,” Jacob said. “I think I’m going to lay here a bit.”
“I’ll get Blane,” Delphie said. “He has to close up.”
Delphie held a hand out for Paddie and another for Katy.
“What did you throw in the fire?” Delphie asked Paddie.
“Salt,” Paddie said. “Katy says it keeps me safe. Daddy says it makes me lucky. I carry it in little packets because it’s yummy. That fire smelled like it could use some salt.”
“Indeed,” Delphie laughed.
Delphie knocked on the door to the kitchen and Blane appeared. If he was surprised to see Katy and Paddie, he said nothing. Blane went in to attend to Jacob while Delphie continued to the kitchen. The brownies were in the oven when Jacob came into the kitchen.
Katy ran to her father. Exhausted and pale, Jacob held Katy to him.
“Anything you want to tell me?” Jacob asked.
“No,” Katy said.
Katy and Paddie laughed at her joke. Shaking his head at the children, he laughed.
“Brownie?” Delphie asked.
“I need to…”
Jill came racing down the stairs and flew into his arms. Before Jacob could respond, she was pulling him up the stairs. She was almost out of the room when she spotted Katy.
“Katy? You’re supposed to be at Paddie’s house,” Jill said. “Paddie?”
“Paddie’s Mommy is barfy,” Katy said.
“She got the barfies from us,” Paddie said. “Daddy called and talked to some guy. The guy said you were waiting for us in the front room.”
“Oh,” Jill said. “Are you staying the night?”
“Just ‘til Mommy gets back from the doctor,” Paddie said.
“She had to go because she’s barfy AND has a baby inside. Not like us,” Katy said.
“We don’t have a baby inside,” Paddie said. Katy gave a solemn nod.
“Can Paddie stay the night?” Katy asked.
“Let’s see how things are a little later,” Jill touched Katy’s head. Turning to Delphie, she said, “I need to get Jake into the bath.”
“We’re making brownies,” Katy said.
“We’re fine,” Delphie said. “Jake needs to detox.”
“Be your best girl,” Jill said to Katy. “Delphie’s had a tough day.”
“Yes Mommy,” Katy said. The bell to the oven rang and Katy screamed, “Brownies!”
Katy’s scream brought Valerie. Jill helped Jacob upstairs for another detox bath. She helped him to bed where he finally slept.
“How is he?” Delphie asked when Jill came down.
“Better,” Jill said. “Mike’s with him now.”
“Did you see any…?” Delphie asked.
“No,” Jill said. “Mama says we have to keep an eye out but I think he’s clear. Did the kids give you any trouble?”
Katy, Paddie and Noelle were sitting in a row at the kitchen table.
“Not at all,” Delphie said. “We’re making get well cards for Paddie’s mommy, Jacob…”
“And my Mom,” Noelle beamed.
“And Sandy,” Delphie said.
“And baby Rachel,” Valerie said.
“Mommy, look at mine!” Katy jumped up to show Jill her cards. Jill took the card from Katy and oohed and ahhed.
“Neither Sam nor Mike got a call from Colin,” Jill said under her breath to Delphie. “Did you?”
Delphie shook her head.
“You think it was…” Jill started
“The creature?” Delphie asked. “Yes, it lured the children here.”
Jill put her hands on Katy then put them on Paddie. For good measure, she checked Noelle. She shook her head. It hadn’t affected them.
“Why would it want with the children?” Jill asked.
“Why indeed,” Delphie said.
Monday evening — 5:45 P.M.
“You’re sure he’s here?” Heather asked.
Tanesha and Heather were sitting in plastic chairs on either side of Sandy’s wheel chair. Heather held Mack on her lap. They were sitting just outside the hospital’s surgery center.
“He’s right there,” Tanesha said.
From their position across the wide, busy hallway, they watched Dr. Cas Morgan come out of surgery and walk down the hall.
“He’s definitely cute,” Heather said.
“Cute and feisty,” Sandy pointed to Dr. Morgan talking to a nurse.
“What do you think?” Tanesha asked.
“Still feel the stomach punch?” Heather asked.
“I can’t tell if that’s good or bad,” Sandy said. “Did you ask Delphie?”
“No, I did not ask that woman,” Tanesha said.
“Didn’t want to know,” Heather said.
They laughed. They watched Dr. Morgan walk down the hall.
“Are you talking about that guy?” Ava asked. “Dr. Cas Morgan?”
The three women turned to look at the young woman. She was watching Dr. Morgan. She was tall, thin, with a Denver Police badge on her belt. She wore a dark blue jacket with “Crime Scene Forensics” stenciled on the back over her long sleeved T-shirt. Her long dark hair was pulled back in an efficient ponytail. The women looked at each other.
“Do you know him?” Sandy asked.
Ava’s head jerked to look at Sandy. She glanced at Heather and Tanesha.
“Oh sorry,” Ava said. “I’m Amelie. You’ve probably heard Seth call me Ava. He asked me to stop by to bring Sandy a CD on my way into work. And… I couldn’t help but overhear and…”
“Heather,” Heather stood up to shake Ava’s hand. “This is Mack.”
“Tanesha.” Tanesha followed suit. “Sandy can’t really get up. She’s supposed to be resting.”
Sandy waved to Ava.
“Do you know Dr. Morgan?” Sandy asked.
“I know of him,” Ava said. “Some hotshot big wig at Homeland Security ordered a DNA through the CBI. I was coming here to get Seth, so I offered to take it. I spent about three minutes with him, Dr. Morgan. He complained. A lot. Fascist state, stuff like that. But his immigration is on the line, so he had to give a sample.”
“DNA?” Heather asked.
“Listen, I feel really awkward,” Ava said. “I’m sure you think Seth and I…”
“We aren’t people who judge love,” Sandy said.
“We’ve known Seth a long time and like him a lot,” Heather added.
“Don’t feel awkward,” Tanesha said. “We’re acting weird because we’re trying to mind warp you into telling us all you know.”
“About Morgan,” Ava said. “What I know… Um, he’s married, five kids… They aren’t here. They’re supposed to come here as soon as he gets right with immigration. I guess. Mostly…”
Ava’s voice trailed off.
“I don’t know how to say it,” Ava said.
The women were silent while they watched Ava think.
“Mostly, he’s not who or what he says he is,” Ava said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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