Friday morning — 5:25 A.M.
Dressed in her pajamas, Jill ran down the stairs from the loft. Her bare feet made a tight drumbeat as she pounded past the landing. Slipping around the corner, she almost ran over Honey. Honey had been wheeling at top speed toward the stairs. Jill caught Honey’s chair before they fell over.
“The jury returned!” the women said together.
“Ann just…” Jill started at the same time Honey said, “I got…”
They both gave a nervous laugh.
“You first,” Jill said.
“The jury insisted on staying all night.” Honey’s voice was fast and excited. “The victim’s advocate said they reviewed every bit of evidence, everything. She got the call this morning. The jury has reached a decision. That’s what she said. ‘The jury has reached a decision.’ What did Ann say?”
“Pretty much the same thing. Ann said she was sure they would stay the weekend. After all the befuddling counter testimony and everything else, she and the DA thought the jury was confused and would want the weekend. But…”
“The victim’s advocate said this was good news.”
“Ann said a quick verdict is usually a guilty verdict.”
The women beamed at each other.
“We made it!” Jill exclaimed.
“Ann said that sentencing would be in a couple weeks.” Jill bit at the skin on the edge of her thumb. “She said that the jury may make a recommendation but since it’s not a capital case, the judge decides on a sentence.”
“I hope she’s put away for life.”
“At least,” Jill said. “We’d better get dressed! We’re supposed to be there at seven. They want Katy and Paddie there too. Oh, I need to call Colin.”
“Shoot I don’t know if they’re in town,” Jill continued her nervous chewing on her thumb.
Honey put her hand on Jill’s arm. She pulled Jill’s thumb from of her mouth. Jill looked down at Honey.
“Congratulations!” Honey beamed. ”We made it through three weeks of hell!”
“Congratulations to you,” Jill said. “You’re amazing!”
“I’m so excited to get back to work and my regular life,” Honey said. “Oh and guess what?”
“The doctor said MJ and I can try for a baby again next month,” Honey beamed. “Can you imagine? Done with this crap and a baby. I hope I get pregnant right away.”
Jill leaned over to hug Honey. She kissed her cheek.
“Now let’s go get dressed!” Honey said.
Honey spun in place and wheeled off before Jill could say another word. Jill took the stairs to the loft two at a time. Leaning against the door, she couldn’t help but smile.
The trial was almost over.
Friday morning — 8:25 A.M. The Castle
Delphie wandered through the main Castle living room. Today, by some act of the Goddess, everyone would be gone from the Castle until after dinner time. After her miserable night, Sandy was working today. Noelle and Nash were at school and work until they went to see the baby this afternoon. Honey, MJ and Jill plus Jacob, Katy and her little friend, Paddie, were at the trial. Delphie even thought most of Jill’s family was going to be there to hear the verdict. Sam was covering for Jacob, and Aden. He left early and would be home late. Valerie and Mike weren’t due in from Prague this evening. Rosa and her cleaning team had arrived early and finished their weekly scouring of the Castle. Even the dogs were at the groomers today.
Tonight, they would have a lot of celebrating to do – Valerie was home; Mike’s art show opened on Sunday; the awful trial was over; Aden and Pete had survived the night and seemed to be gaining strength; and a new baby to love for Sandy, Noelle and Nash. As always, dinner would be a loud, laughing party.
But for now, Delphie had her Castle all to herself.
After months of longing for the solitary peace and quiet of the empty Castle, she felt a little lonely. She straightened a pillow on the couch. Patting the cushion, she decided to take a bath in Sam’s big tub. She was almost to the hall when she heard a noise. Turning, she gasped in horror and stepped back.
Levi Johansen stepped into the living room. The demon from her childhood had arrived to take her back.
Raising his hand, he used his psychic powers to grip Delphie’s mind. She fought him off as she and Jacob had practiced since Christmas. She was barely able to defend herself. Invisible to the naked eye, the two powerful psychics were locked in a battle of will and mind. Feeling a burst of his energy, Delphie panicked. She forgot all she’d learned and took off running toward Sam’s room. Johansen caught her at the door.
He wrapped his hands into her bottle bright red hair. He smashed her forehead against the door to stun her. Using both of his hands, he pressed his will into her mind.
“You’re mine,” he said.
Friday mid-day — 12 noon York Street Club
“My name is Enrique.” His anxious voice came out in a croak.
“Among other things, I am an alcoholic. It’s been two days since my last drink.”
Sitting outside in his car, he’d almost thrown up from the terror of simply walking into this AA house. Now that he was here, he felt all right, nervous, but almost as if he belonged. Enrique sighed with relief when the man next to him introduced himself.
One day at a time.
That’s all he had left.
Friday early afternoon — 1:15 P.M.
“Mr. Blanchard, are we ready to hear the verdicts?” the Judge asked.
After arriving early, they had spent the morning waiting for the defendant. She and her attorney had attempted to renegotiate her plea bargain. Today! After three weeks of nonsense, she’d decided she wanted the plea. The victim’s advocate said she was abusing the victims. Their office filed some special form on Jill, Katy, Paddie, and Honey’s behalf. The District Attorney was furious. Listening to the Judge, Jill could tell that the Judge was angry too.
“Let us proceed,” the Judge said. “Have you reached a verdict?”
“Yes, your honor,” the jury foreman stood. He gave a piece of paper to the bailiff.
Jill watched the tiny slip of paper move across the room. Jacob grabbed her hand. Sucking her thumb for the first time since last summer, Katy snuggled further into Jill’s lap. The little family braced for the verdict.
The Judge’s dark fingers made the piece of paper seem bright white. The Judge gave a small nod.
“I’d like to poll the jury,” the Judge said. “Do you agree with this verdict?”
One at a time, the jurors stood to say, “Aye.” When the last juror sat down, the tension in the courtroom raised a notch.
“To the charge of assault with the intent of murder, the verdict is…”
Jill thought she would pass out.
Jill wanted to cheer and scream but she knew she’d get thrown out of the courtroom. Breathing deeply to control her excitement, she heard:
The step-sister was found guilty on every single charge!
MJ covered Honey in a hug. Jill and Katy hugged Jacob until Paddie begged to come up. With Katy on one hip and Paddie on the other, Jill hugged her brother, Steve, and sisters, Megan and Candy, and mother, Anjelika, until she ended up back in Jacob’s arms.
The Judge pounded her gavel to gain order. Finally, everyone sat back down.
“The jury has requested special circumstances,” the Judge said. “Even though I am not a fan of the death penalty, I’m sorry to say that special circumstances are not allowed in this case. Somehow Honey Lipson managed to survive, so we are unable to entertain the death penalty in this case. That said, I will determine sentencing in two weeks.”
With another pounding of her gavel, the Judge adjourned the court.
“Let’s!” Jill replied.
“I guess that’s our cue,” Jacob patted MJ on the back.
The happy group left the courtroom to celebrate their victory.
Friday afternoon — 2:35 P.M. The Castle
Sitting on the edge of Sam’s bed, Delphie conserved her strength. She’d endured hours of psychic interrogation as a young child. She could endure it now that she was strong, well loved, and experienced.
But she was starting to lose track of her answers. His questions had become wild, crazy and off centered. She said whatever came into her mind. If her answers were vague or unclear, he would hurt her either use his psychic powers to squeeze her mind or hit her.
She’d do almost anything not to be hit. She had hated being hit as a child. She hated it now.
Why hadn’t he taken her back to Leadville? What was he waiting for?
When he was hungry, he dragged her into the kitchen by her hair to demand that she make his lunch. He used to only like restaurant food, expensive fancy food. But today he only wanted a sandwich. That was all a sandwich. They ate and he returned to his crazy interrogation.
Thank the Goddess that age had taken any sexual urge from him. While she was certain she would survive whatever he dished out, she just didn’t want to have to endure him today.
She’d become so accustomed to being loved, respected, and cared for. These hours with Johansen were almost more humiliating than when she was a child, when she didn’t know better. Every time she was ready to give into her despair, she saw Celia near her. Celia’s support helped her through the worst of the day.
“You may get one from the bathroom, Chastity,” he said. “I’m going to take a nap. If you leave, you will die. Your mind will break into pieces. You know this. No Marlowe can save you now.”
“I will take a bath while you nap,” she said.
“Fine,” he said.
Taking off his ancient dress shoes, he lay down on Sam’s bed. His scarecrow limbs made him look like more like a coat hanger person than the demon he was. When he closed his eyes, she went into the bathroom. She filled the tub with warm, rose scented, foamy water then stepped in. When her entire body was in the tub, she dared to reach for the bathroom telephone. As silently as she could, she picked up the receiver.
No dial tone. Johansen must have cut the lines. She’d never used a cell phone. Jacob bought her one but she couldn’t figure out how to use it. It sat, uncharged, on her dresser. She cursed her stupidity.
For the first time, Delphie gave into her hopelessness. She slipped below the suds and wept.
Friday afternoon — 3:40 P.M. Lipson Construction
“Sorry, honey, I can’t join the party,” Tres yelled to Tanesha over the loud music in the background. “It’s awesome, really wonderful news.”
“It’s not that,” Tres said. “My brother needs some help moving in. He’s going to stay with me for a while.”
“Yeah,” Tres said.
“But I thought he owned his house,” Tanesha said.
“He does,” Tres said. “He’s ending it with Calvin. Calvin said he’d move out at the first of the month. Enrique doesn’t want to throw him out…”
“Like he did Blane?”
“Well, yes, that’s exactly what he said,” Tres said.
“Huh is right,” Tres said. “He quit his job today too.”
“That’s what I thought,” Tres said. “Sorry I’ll miss the party.”
“It’s all right,” Tanesha said. “I have to work at seven anyway. I think they have a family dinner this evening. I just thought you’d have fun if you came.”
“I would have,” Tres said. “Thanks for the invite. I’ll be with Enrique the rest of the night.”
“Ok, I’ll catch you tomorrow,” Tanesha said.
Tres smiled when he set down the phone. Since they’d had their big talk, he and Tanesha seemed to be closer, more honest. She was becoming his best friend, maybe the best friend he’d ever had. Grabbing his coat, he went out to his car.
What the hell was going on with Enrique?
Friday afternoon — 4:45 P.M. 19th Avenue Medical Building
“No!” Nash yelled back. “We just didn’t get to see. He’s shy. Like me!”
The kids had gone back and forth since they left the doctors office.
“You tell her Sandy. I’m right aren’t I?” Nash said.
Not wanting to get in between the arguing kids, Sandy put one hand on Noelle’s shoulder and the other on Nash’s shoulder.
“Sandy?” Noelle asked.
“I don’t know,” Sandy said. “I was so excited that the baby was healthy. Did you see its little fingers?”
“Her thumb, Nash,” Noelle said.
“I’m kind of glad we don’t know,” Sandy said. “Will you be terribly disappointed if she’s a girl, Nash? Will you be terribly disappointed if he’s a boy, Noelle?”
“No, but…” Nash said at the same time Noelle said, “I’m still right.”
“You are not!” Nash said.
“What if you’re both right?” Sandy asked. Laughing, she added, “What if it’s a girl AND a boy?”
“Ewwwww!” Nash said while Noelle screamed in horror.
“Can we get ice cream?” Noelle asked as they left the elevator.
“Of course,” Sandy said. “But not a lot. Just a single scoop. Ok. Remember we have a big dinner tonight?”
“Mrs. Valerie’s coming home and Mike too!” Noelle said.
“Mr. Mike?” Sandy asked.
“He just likes to be called Mike,” Nash said.
“Ok,” Sandy said. “Ice cream, then we get ready for our dinner party.”
The children burst from the building and ran to the car. Sandy trotted after them. Smiling, she drove to Liks for ice cream.
Friday evening — 5:25 P.M. The Castle
Valerie stopped walking when she reached the side door of the Castle. Tipping her head to the side, she puzzled. Mike came up behind her carrying their bags and his hockey gear.
“No,” Valerie said. Her hand touched the glass of the security door. “Something’s wrong.”
“What do you mean?” Mike asked.
“Delphie always meets me at the door. I’ve never come home and had her not open the door when I’m standing right here,” Valerie said. “Something’s very wrong. I can almost smell it.”
“She probably burned dinner,” Mike said. “Come on.”
Mike used his key to unlock the security door, then the original solid oak door underneath. He held the door for Valerie. Still unsure, Valerie hesitated. He gave her a little shove and she stepped inside. He set their bags next to the living room closet.
He followed Valerie as she meandered through the silent living room and into the kitchen. By the time he reached the kitchen door, Valerie had turned. She was shaking her head.
Mike spun in place. He took the stairs two at a time. Running down the hall, he burst into Delphie’s apartment.
Only settling dust and silence.
He was almost to the stairwell when he heard Valerie scream. He pounded down the stairwell to find Valerie slumped against the kitchen counter.
“Babies,” she gasped. “Contractions.”
Sensing movement, he turned to see a tall thin man dragging Delphie by her hair. He was ready to jump the scrawny man when Valerie screamed again.
“No, Mike! Don’t do it, Mike!” Delphie screamed. “Stay with Valerie! He will kill us all!”
Mike dropped to Valerie’s side. Valerie screamed again.
“NO Marlowe will survive this day,” the man said.
Friday evening — 5:40 P.M.
Jacob helped Jill out of the back of MJ’s SUV. When Jill turned to get Katy and Paddie from their car seats, Jacob went to the driver’s window to talk to MJ.
“SUNDAY!?” Honey leaned over to ask Jacob.
“I have a little surprise,” MJ said. “Jake helped me find a little place in the mountains. I thought maybe a weekend away.”
When she didn’t respond, MJ got nervous.
“J-j-j- just us. I th-th-thought i-i-it would b-b-be nice.”
Honey gave a little cheer. She kissed his cheek and MJ looked relieved.
Feeling movement, Jacob leaned down to pick up a tired Katy. He looked over at Jill as she lifted a sleeping Paddie into her arms. Their eyes held for a moment. They were a little loose, happy and looking forward to spending naptime in each other’s arms.
She leaned in to kiss MJ’s cheek. Honey blew her a kiss. Standing in the driveway, they waved to Honey and MJ as they drove off. Jacob leaned over Katy to kiss Jill’s lips. They began to walk toward the Castle.
“You think we…” he said.
Jacob stopped walking. His face stiffened from smiling to serious, almost deadly. Jill touched his arm to make sure he was all right. When he looked up, he gave a terse whisper:
“Wake up Paddie. Jill! Do it now.”
Jacob ran around the back of the Castle to the foot high stained glass windows of Delphie’s chapel. Without hesitation, he kicked out the antique glass from one of the windows.
“Jacob! No,” Jill said. “Those are irreplaceable!”
He nodded to her then went back to work kicking out the window. When the window was gone from the space, he laid his coat over the ragged edges of the frame.
“Go down there,” he said to Katy.
“I don wan to, Daddy,” Katy said. “I’m really tired.”
“Katherine Marlowe, you will get down there this instant,” he said.
Stunned and terrified by his tone, Katy began to cry. She squirmed out of his arms and hid behind Jill’s legs.
“You’re scaring her,” Jill said. “What’s going on?”
“Something terrible. That’s what’s going on,” Jacob said, his voice somewhere between despair and rage. “Katy and Paddie are in danger. Katy in particular.”
“Let me go with them,” Jill said. “Get them settled.”
Jacob nodded. He hadn’t thought of Jill going with the kids. That was a better plan. She would be safe. If he died…
Rather than finishing the thought, he took a groggy Paddie from her. He set Paddie on the ground. Holding her hands, he guided her through the tight space. He dropped her to the ground. She ran to a pew and dragged it under the broken window. Standing on a pew, she took Paddie from him.
He picked up Katy and kissed her cheek.
“You scared me when you were like my old Daddy,” Katy said. “I thought you hated me.”
“Never,” Jacob kissed the girl’s cheek. “I can only, always, love you. Even if I’m scary.”
“Don’t worry, Daddy,” Katy said. “Your Mommy explained everything.”
“I call her Naomi,” Katy said.
The little girl threw her arms around Jacob.
“I love you, Daddy,” Katy said. “Just remember, you’re stronger than him because you can love. Love will kill him. I don’t know what that means but that’s what your Mommy said to tell you.”
Jacob kissed Katy’s head. He helped her through the opening to the chapel and into Jill’s arms. Jill set Katy down then returned to the opening.
“I love you, Jacob Marlowe,” she said. “You come back to me.”
He leaned down to kiss her.
“I love you,” he whispered.
He stroked her cheek then watched Jill take the kids toward the pillows near the back of the chapel. With one last look, he ran toward the side entrance of the Castle. Holding open the security door, he let out a breath.
This was it. This was the moment he’d spent the last months preparing for. He was fit and strong. His mind was clear. His mental and psychic capacities had grown with steady practice. He was as ready as he would ever be.
For a moment, he wished he was somewhere else, someone else. He wished he didn’t have to open this door and fight to the death with a man he barely knew. He wished for a hundred more quiet mornings and sunlit summer evenings. He wished for the children, his children, he might never meet. He longed to see Katy married and happy.
But Jacob was never one to waste a lot of time on wishes. The moment passed and he was ready again.
Nodding to himself, he opened the oak door and walked inside.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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