CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and FORTY-NINE
Tuesday evening — 7:35 P.M.
“Officer down,” the Denver SWAT team Commander yelled into the communicator on his shoulder. “We’re taking over.”
He jumped from the van at the same moment a SWAT vehicle pulled up. The SWAT Captain jumped in and the vehicle took off down the embankment. A SWAT team member rolled out of the vehicle. He fired a grenade at the apparatus shooting the wooden spikes. An explosion rocked the van.
“Go!” Alex yelled.
Homeland Security agents ran from the van to Seth and the other officers. Before anyone could stop her, Delphie ran to Seth. A Homeland Security agent tried to pull her away, but Max told him to leave her. Delphie and Max dropped to the ground next to Seth. Alex’s full attention was on the surveillance of Saint Jude.
“He’s on the move!” Raz said. “Ah shit.”
“Ah shit?” Alex asked.
“We lost him,” Raz said. “He moved behind something… metal… something that blocks the heat sensor.”
“He hasn’t entered the tunnels,” Troy said. “You can see Jake and Aden here. They fell during the explosion but…”
“He’s gone?” Alex asked.
“Disappeared… Like a magic trick into a puff of smoke,” Raz said.
“What’s the radar show?” Alex asked over the radio.
“Vanished,” Denver Police radar technician said. “Goddamn it!”
“I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes,” Raz said.
“See if you can find him.”
Alex leaned over his shoulder to watch. The tension rose in the van. Precious minutes ticked by.
“Anything?” Alex asked over the intercom.
“Nothing,” the Denver Police technician said.
“He’s gone,” Raz said.
~~~~~~~~ Tuesday evening — 7:35 P.M.
In the wake of the explosion, police and Homeland Security agents ran down the embankment. Delphie escaped the van and raced toward Seth. Colin and Max Hargreaves ran directly to Seth. Denver Police Officers ran to the other officers.
“No pulse here,” one officer yelled.
“Commencing CPR!” the yell went from officer to officer.
Colin yanked the wooden shard from Seth’s neck and smelled it. While Max rolled Seth over, Colin’s entire focus was on the wooden shard. He leaned down and put his face next to Seth’s mouth.
“He’s alive,” Delphie said.
Colin’s intense blue eyes took in Delphie.
“He’s non-responsive,” Max said. “Colin, this is…”
“First Responder’s Toxin,” Colin said.
Jumping to his feet and standing all of his six feet, five inches, Colin yelled. “STOP!”
No one paid the slightest attention to him. Max whistled but the police officers continued. The SWAT Commander ran over to them.
“Hargreaves! What’s going on?” the SWAT Commander asked.
“They’ve been shot with something the Interpol is calling First Responder’s Toxin,” Max said. “The idea is to incapacitate the first people who respond. The next wave will fight to keep them alive giving the perpetrators time to get away. Standard attempts to save them will kill those affected by the toxin.”
“What!?” the SWAT Commander asked.
“You have to get the men to stop CPR,” Colin said.
“We won’t just let these men die!” the SWAT team leader said.
“You are killing them!” Max said.
“Fuck!” the SWAT Commander dispatched a man to each of the downed officers. “What do we do?”
“When the paramedics arrive…” Max stopped talking as the sirens from three ambulances wailed above. “We need to set them up with oxygen and saline IVs.”
“When the toxin starts to wear off, they’ll be in incredible pain,” Colin said. “Prep IVs with pain meds.”
“But their systems will kick it?” the SWAT Commander asked.
Colin dropped to the ground to set up an IV.
“They should,” Max said.
“And you know what you’re talking about?” the SWAT Commander asked.
“Toxic terrorism is one of my specialties,” Max said.
“Ok,” the SWAT Commander said. “But if you’re wrong, I will not hesitate to tell the press you killed these men.”
“You won’t tell the press anything,” Max said. He held up his US Intelligence ID.
“Fine,” the SWAT Commander said. “I’ll call your father and tell him you screw up. You’ll have to deal with him.”
He gave Max a stern look and stalked away to meet the ambulances. Within minutes, a paramedic arrived to give Seth oxygen. They were about to transfer Seth to a stretcher when they heard a shout. The first officer who had been drugged went into seizures. In the order in which they were drugged, the police officers began violent seizures.
“Hang on Seth,” Delphie said and his body began to spasm.
~~~~~~~~ Tuesday evening — 7:35 P.M.
Seth felt nothing.
Just a moment ago, he felt something. Hope? Excitement?
But he remembered feeling something.
Face down in the grass, he tried to move his legs or arms. The wooden projectile had effectively paralyzed him.
But his mind was active, awake.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew severe pain was being held at bay by… something… a drug maybe.
He was rolled over. Unable to even move his eyes, he stared into the night sky until a shadow loomed. He saw Colin Hargreaves’s face. Colin was a skilled Special Forces medic. He must be there to help him.
He tried to say something but speech was impossible. Colin yelled something. Colin’s face was a mask of intensity and power.
Until that moment, Seth hadn’t noticed the dead silence. He was deaf.
He heard a voice.
“You’re going to be all right.”
At least that’s what he thought he heard.
Delphie’s face appeared over him. She was talking to him inside his head.
“You’re very lucky. Colin’s knows what this is.”
He saw Delphie’s kind smile and knew he was in desperate trouble. She only smiled like that when she was scared. Her face disappeared and the night sky returned.
He had never felt more helpless in his entire life.
He tried to fight.
He tried to move.
He tried to yell.
Nothing. Defeated, he drifted into despair.
Out of no where, he heard… singing. He focused his attention on the music. The song had a familiar quality. He’d heard it before… a long, long time ago… some other time he was helpless, frustrated and felt trapped. He felt the music unwind his tension.
Everything went dark.
Tuesday evening — 8:10 P.M.
“Ok,” Honey said into her cell phone. “We’ll be right there, Jake.”
She and MJ were sitting on their couch in the basement apartment. Since there was no big family dinner, MJ had just made his world famous grilled cheese sandwiches. They had laughed about MJ’s day in the tight, smelly van and Honey’s day underground. She and Valerie had been about to go downtown when MJ got the call at the last minute that Seth and the other officers were injured. SWAT had taken over the scene. She closed her cell phone and reached for her wheelchair.
“What’s going on?” MJ asked.
“Jake called and said everyone is meeting at Sandy’s salon,” Honey said. “I’m supposed to go over there.”
“What about Val?” MJ asked.
“Honey?” Valerie’s voice asked through the door.
MJ got up to answer the door.
“Did you hear anything?” Valerie asked.
“Jake called to say they’re meeting at Sandy’s salon.”
“He didn’t call me,” Valerie said. “Typical. He probably thought I’d boss him.”
Laughing, Honey plopped into her wheelchair.
“I can drive,” MJ said.
“That’s all right,” Valerie said. “I’ll drive. Plus, I think Mike and the rest of your team are going to play poker tonight. If you go to this ‘regroup’ meeting, you’ll miss it.”
Honey laughed at the look on MJ’s face.
“You’ll call me if there’s any trouble,” MJ said. “Anything suspicious.”
Honey held her arm out. MJ leaned down to kiss her. He helped Honey up the stairs to the main floor. She was almost sitting in the passenger seat when MJ ran up.
“Take this,” MJ held the pearl handled handgun. “Please.”
Not wanting to make a scene, Honey took the weapon and tucked it into the pocket of her skirt. He kissed her one last time and watched them drive away in Valerie’s old Ford Mustang.
“I got Sandy’s spare keys from the key peg,” Valerie said. “You have the alarm codes right?”
“MJ helped install them,” Honey held up the paper with the number on them.
“This is great,” Valerie said.
“Like Nancy Drew,” Honey said.
“Only better,” Valerie said. “We’re going to catch a really bad guy while Mike and MJ play poker.”
“Girl power!” Honey said.
Laughing, they drove to Sandy’s salon.
Tuesday evening — 8:10 P.M.
“Delphie, just tell me.”
Ava’s voice started strong and ended with a croak. She turned up the microphone on her cell phone. She was sitting in the passenger seat while Dale drove like a madman to Denver Health.
“I would if I could,” Delphie said. “I don’t have any idea if he’ll be all right.”
“Go through it again,” Ava whispered.
“They were shot in the back of neck near something called the Cerebellum. The wood spike had concentrated Wasp venom and some other stuff I can’t pronounce. The venom paralyzed them but their minds are active and awake. The paramedics had set up all the monitoring when the men started having seizures,” Delphie said. “The seizures were horrible. Max says they’re expected.”
“If they had given the men CPR or epinephrine or…”
“Any of the usual interventions, they would have died,” Delphie said. “Only Max and Colin knew what to do. If they hadn’t been there, the men would have surely died.”
“Can you reach him?” Ava asked. “Seth, I mean.”
“No,” Delphie said. “They gave him Phenobarbital to stop the seizures. He’s completely out for a while. Max said he’s in terrible pain – like a million wasp stings. They’ll keep them in a medical coma for a while until the CDC, FBI and Interpol can get here to give them more ideas.”
“But Seth’s going to be all right….”
“I would tell you if I knew,” Delphie said. “I can’t reach him. Jake can’t reach him. Seth’s in between worlds. Max said they usually die right away from medical intervention. But Seth’s not out of the woods.”
“He could still die,” Ava said.
“Anything could happen,” Delphie said. “This toxin’s only been used in five other places. And everyone died. No one’s survived this long.”
“This is the first time it’s been used in the US,” a male voice said in the background. “There’s no antitoxin.”
“That’s Max,” Delphie said. “We’re meeting at the Castle to regroup and decide on our next plan of attack. I wanted to stay with Seth but they need me to catch the serial killer.”
“Saint Jude is just gone,” Ava said.
“Disappeared,” Delphie said. “He must have planned the whole thing. I knew he was watching us. I just don’t know how.”
Filled with panic and despair, Ava fell silent.
“Listen,” Delphie said. “The Denver Police are already saying Seth used his usual magic to have Colin and Max there.”
“Magic O’Malley,” Ava said.
“You’ll let me know what happens?” Delphie asked.
“I will,” Ava said.
“I have to call Maresol,” Delphie said. “She’s going to freak out.”
“I’ll call when I know anything,” Ava said.
“I see your wedding,” Delphie said. “Not soon. Not for years maybe, but I still see it.”
“Does that mean it will definitely happen?” Ava asked.
“You have a chance,” Delphie said. “Don’t give up hope. He’s in incredible health, even the paramedics commented on it. And he’s in good hands.”
“Thanks Delphie,” Ava said.
“Don’t give up hope,” Delphie said and hung up.
Ava looked at the phone then tucked it in her pocket.
“You all right?” Dale asked.
“No,” Ava said. “You?”
“No,” Dale said. “But I’m glad you’re here. Did you call Lizzie?”
“When we know something,” Ava said.
“Delphie’s going to tell her when she gets there,” Ava said.
Dale was silent the rest of the way to Denver Health. They stopped to wait for a van to pull out. They took its parking spot.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Dale said.
“I can’t lose him too,” Ava whispered.
Unable to deal with her own rising hysteria, Ava bolted from the car. Dale followed her into the Emergency room.
Tuesday evening — 8:25 P.M.
“Did you stay?” Sandy asked Tanesha.
They were sitting cross legged on Jill and Jacob’s king sized bed. Jill was weak but awake. Katy was snuggled between her mom and their dog Scooter. Katy and Scooter had refused to leave Jill’s side during and after her vision.
“After he sang those songs for me?” Tanesha asked. “You know he’s done that before.”
“I know,” Sandy said.
“She stayed,” Jill’s weak voice came from under the covers. “That’s what she’s not saying. She stayed at the concert.”
“And?” Sandy asked.
“He took me back to his place,” Tanesha flushed at the intensity of the evening, the concert, the limo ride and the trip to his penthouse flat in the Pinnacle overlooking City Park.
“And?” Sandy asked.
“We talked,” Tanesha said.
“You still love him,” Sandy said.
“I don’t know how I feel,” Tanesha said. “Love is one feeling. Rage is another. He’s hurt me so many, many times. I…”
“And Cam?” Jill asked.
“Cam’s fun and so sexy,” Tanesha said. “He feels easier because there’s none of this history. But…”
“And Tres?” Sandy asked.
“I know really,” Tanesha said. “When have I ever had even one man interested in me let alone three?”
Sandy hugged Tanesha. Jill threw off her covers and sat up against the headboard. Sandy held out the cup of tea Delphie had recommended she drink. Jill looked at the tea and went a little green.
“Try a little bit,” Sandy said.
Jill took the mug. She drank a sip and was about to pass it back when she stopped to look at it. She drank it down.
“Good?” Tanesha asked.
“Awful,” Jill said. “But my headache’s gone. How many of those do I need?”
“As much as you can drink,” Sandy said. She left the room to make Jill another cup.
“Will it hurt the babies?” Jill asked.
“Delphie said Celia drank it with Jake,” Tanesha said.
“Are you all right?” Jill asked.
“Yeah,” Tanesha said. “Tres belongs with Heather. He knows that. I know that. Cam has his Federal problems and Jeraine…”
Tanesha gave a sad shrug.
“You still love him,” Jill said.
“He still loves me,” Tanesha said. “But his word is crap. Seriously crap and I…”
Tanesha looked away from Jill. Sandy came in with another cup of Delphie’s magic tea. Jill drank the second cup down and set the mug on the side table.
“Can you get up?” Sandy asked.
Jill rotated to sit on the side of the bed. She turned to pull the covers up to Katy’s shoulders. Scooter looked up at her then dropped his head back to the bed. Sandy helped Jill to her feet. Jill nodded to her friends and went into their bathroom. She was washing her hands when her ‘dream’ flooded forward. She jogged back to her bedroom.
“We have to go,” Jill said.
Looking around the room, Jill ran to her closet to get a pair of clean jeans.
“Go where?” Tanesha asked.
“You sent the kids to your studio, Sandy. Didn’t you?” Jill asked.
“How did you…?”
“Saint Jude is on his way there,” Jill said. “He’s tricked Valerie and Honey to go there. We have to get there.”
“What about the guys?” Sandy asked. “I’ll call Aden and…”
“You can’t call Aden because you don’t have your phone. It fell out in the car,” Jill said. “He won’t answer our calls because he doesn’t know our numbers.”
Sandy began digging in her bag.
“We can look for the men here but we won’t find them. They’ve gone to the Detroit Street Workshop. I don’t know why,” Jill said. “Do you have your phone?”
Sandy shook her head.
“We have to get Saint Jude. Ourselves,” Jill said. “You, me, Katy, Heather and Mack. Heather’s on her way to the Salon because she thinks Sandy called her and asked to meet her there.”
Tanesha and Sandy looked at Jill like she’d lost her mind.
“If you don’t believe me,” Jill said. “Call her.”
Tanesha dialed Heather. While they talked, Jill turned to Sandy.
“Seth’s in the hospital,” Jill said. “I don’t know if he’s going to be all right. Ava’s with him. Delphie is going to tell you when she gets here. If we leave now, we’ll miss them.”
“What happened to Seth?” Sandy asked.
“Some toxin something,” Jill said. “His only chance is if Ava finds an antidote. But she doesn’t know what she’s doing. I saw her in a lab and… that’s all.”
“Oh God,” Sandy said. “Saint Jude did this?”
“Heather’s going to meet us at the Salon. She won’t go in until she sees the three of us and Katy,” Tanesha said. “But she said she got a call from Sandy asking her to bring Mack and meet her at the Salon.”
“Crap,” Sandy said.
“Mommy?” Katy asked. “Is it time to go?”
Jill pulled a fleece sweater over her head.
“We’re taking the dogs,” Jill said.
“Buster is with the kids at the Salon,” Sandy said. “Where’s Jake’s lab?”
“Sarah’s in the kitchen guarding the door,” Jill said. “We’ll get her on the way out.”
Jill lifted Katy from the bed. She grabbed her purse and Katy’s jacket. She was halfway across the loft when she realized Sandy and Tanesha weren’t with her. She could hear them talking in her bedroom.
“Are you coming?” Jill asked. “I can’t kill this guy on my own.”
Sandy and Tanesha jogged toward her. Scooter jumped off the bed and met Jill and Katy at the door. Without saying another word, the women, child and dogs left for Sandy’s salon.
Tuesday evening — 8:35 P.M.
“It doesn’t look like anyone’s here yet,” Honey said.
The women peered out of Valerie’s car into the salon then looked at each other.
“I bet downtown is a nightmare,” Valerie said. “We heard on the radio there was an explosion.”
“You’re right,” Honey said. “They’re probably caught in traffic.”
“Let’s go inside and wait for them,” Valerie said. “Colfax has improved but it’s still…”
“Creepy,” Honey said.
Valerie went to the trunk to retrieve Honey’s wheelchair. She set it next to the car and Honey worked her way into the chair. The women went toward the salon. Valerie used the key to open the salon. Honey rolled inside to turn the alarm off.
“Should we leave the door unlocked?” Valerie asked.
“MJ would kill me if he found out I was behind an unlocked door on Colfax,” Honey said.
“I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you stay here and let people in? I’ll go in the back and start some coffee and… maybe some hot chocolate.”
“I bet they’re cold,” Honey said.
“That’s what I was thinking!” Valerie smiled at Honey.
Honey could help but beam back at Valerie. Valerie gave her a little wave and went toward the back of the salon. As she passed, Valerie flipped on the studio’s stereo.
“We may as well dance while we wait,” Valerie said.
Laughing, Honey went to the door and relocked it. She set the alarm to standby in case someone tried to force their way in. She smiled at her logic. Feeling safe behind the bullet proof glass that made up the store front, she practiced some wheelchair dancing in the salon mirrors.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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