Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal : Chapter Eighty : Step by step


Tuesday evening – 7:15 P.M.

Sighing, Honey looked out the window of the SUV.

“Tired?” MJ asked.

He slowed to turn onto Seventeenth Avenue from Race Street. They were making their way to St. Joseph’s Hospital to visit Heather and her new baby.

“Tired? Yeah, I’m tired,” Honey said. “I was just thinking about what the DA said.”

“You’ve said that a couple times, but haven’t told me what he said.”

“I don’t want you to get mad,” Honey said. “Especially since we got invited to see the new baby. That’s a really big deal.”

“To be invited?” MJ asked.

“To be a part of the family,” she said. “Jill said Heather asked for me and wanted the baby to meet Auntie Honey and Uncle MJ.”

MJ placed his large hand over her hand. They smiled at each other.

“I never expected all of this,” Honey said.

“I never expected they would name the baby Mack,” MJ laughed.

“Samuel Mack Lipson,” Honey said. “They wanted to name him after Dad, since he and Celia saved Blane. The Mack was pretty obvious since he was born at the store. Six pounds, ten ounces. Jill said they are over the moon with Mack. Blane hasn’t wanted to even set him down.”

MJ pulled into the parking structure. Lost in their own thoughts, they were silent until MJ found a parking spot. After putting the SUV in park and shutting off the car, he turned to her.

“I’d like to know what the DA said.”

“Ann… You remember who that is?”

“The Assistant DA who is prosecuting the case,” MJ said.

“Right. She said they went back to the judge’s chambers and the judge was mad. She thinks my sister’s lawyer, Mr. Blanchard, is trying for a mistrial.”


“Because she said I was ‘cute as a button’ and ‘adorable.’ The judge wanted to know what the defense had planned since I ‘blew his abuse defense out of the water.’”

“What did he say?”

“He said they never planned on using the abuse as a defense. Anyway, Ann said they’re planning to prove that I’m paralyzed because you botched the medical. You were in it with my sister and you did this to me on purpose.”

Blowing out a breath, MJ sat back in the seat.

“Ann asked me if you and my sister were lovers,” Honey said. “Were you?”

MJ shook his head.

“You don’t remember,” Honey said.

“I don’t remember,” MJ said. “If it happened, it was a long time ago. But I don’t think we did. I never liked her. I always thought she was… evil. But I can’t be sure. I don’t have that kind of memory any more. You know that.”

“Hmpft,” Honey said. “Well, according to Ann, they’re planning on saying that you and she were lovers and planned the entire thing to get me out of the way. She stabbed me for you. Now that she’s in prison, you’re pretending to be with me so no one suspects.”

Not knowing what to say, MJ nodded his understanding.

“I asked Ann, ‘What about Trevor? She was married to Trevor? Sold Jill into prostitution and Katy too?’ Ann doesn’t know what they’re going to say about Trevor. Maybe you and my sister were going to get together and Trevor would have his Jill? She doesn’t know.”

“When did I make this plan with her?”

“I guess when you were in on their scheme.”

“Oh, that’s good,” MJ said. “I was on tape all of that time. You can hear me. And what they’re saying too.”

“I said the same thing but they said that was the problem.”

“Why?” MJ asked.

“Because the DA and Ann have been instructed to leave your team out of the case. If they introduce your tape, they open the door to ask about your team. Her lawyer is gambling that the Feds would rather let her go, get off misdemeanor assault, than expose your team.”

MJ got out of the driver’s seat. He took Honey’s wheelchair from the back of the SUV and came around to her door.

“You’re mad.”

“I’m not mad,” MJ said. “I’m also not going to get hooked into this crap with your sister. She’s always been evil. She’s evil now. She’s trying to get to you in the most basic way possible – destroy your faith in the people who love you. She did it to us before and I won’t let her do it now.”

“So you did sleep with her?”

MJ sighed. He lifted Honey into her wheelchair. After helping her settle, he set a vase with a dozen pink roses in her lap.

“I’ll tell you what,” MJ said. “The LC has investigated every person who I had sex with – anyone I remembered, anyone who said we did. It’s supposed to be as complete a list as possible. She has one for everyone on the team. Some intelligence thing. I can ask her if your sister is on the list. Would that make you feel better?”

“No, I don’t care,” Honey said.

“You don’t?”

“You married me not her. And no matter what she says, you’d never have married her. Ever,” Honey said. “As for the rest, I know you’re good at what you do. The docs at Craig said over and over again how lucky I was that you were there to save me. ‘Only an experienced, field trained professional could have saved your life.’ That’s what they said. So I don’t care what their lawyer or so called experts say. Plus I know that you love me and would do anything to keep me here.”

Smiling, MJ kissed her cheek. They took off toward the hospital. They were waiting at the elevator when Honey asked:

“Are they going to let her go because of your team? If they let her go, she’ll come straight after me.”

“I don’t know,” MJ said. “But I’ll find out.”


Wednesday morning – 6:25 A.M.

“Aden?” his secretary’s voice came over the speaker on his office phone. “Your lawyer’s on the phone.”

“Lipson or personal?” Aden looked up from the share report he was reading.

“Samantha Hargreaves.”

“Thanks, put her through,” Aden said.

Aden took a drink of water before he answered the phone. With any luck, the charges would be dismissed today and he could move on with his life. Smiling at the thought, Aden picked up the phone.

“Are you sitting down?” Samantha asked.

Aden beamed. She must have good news.

“Yes, what’s the news?”

His heart pounded in his chest. His mind raced forward to his future dreams – a new school for Nash, marrying Sandy, a new baby, and Noelle’s beautiful unbruised face. He was careful not to pant into the phone.

“They’re holding your hearing TODAY! In an hour and a half. Are you at work?”

“I’m at the office,” Aden said.

“Wearing a suit?”

“I have one here,” Aden said. “But my hearing can’t be today! I won’t get a chance to say good-bye to the kids or Sandy or…”

“You don’t have an option, Aden. This is an emergency hearing. They’re recalling your bail. The DA may have already sent officers to come to get you…”

“Aden?” his secretary’s voice came over the speaker phone. “There are two police officers here to see you.”

“Tell them I’ll be out in a few minutes,” Aden said to his secretary.

“The police are there?” Samantha asked.

“Yes,” Aden said. “I’ll get changed and go with them. You’ll be there?”

“I’ll call Sandy,” Samantha said. “She’s with the kids today?”

“Yes,” Aden said. He felt his heart dropped in his chest. He could barely keep the sorrow from his voice.

“Ok, I’ll see you at the court room.”

Aden dropped his head into his hands. He felt the paper of the financial report against his face. Overwhelmed with emotion, he rested for a second then got up to change his clothing. Using his speaker phone, he called Jacob and Sam to let them know what was going on. Sam came in his office just as he was tying his tie.

“Today’s the first day of the rest of my life,” Aden said.

“Every day is.” Sam smiled. “You’ll do fine.”

“What about…?”

“We’ll take care of everything here. You’ll catch up fast when you get back.”

“And Sandy?”

“We’ve already contacted Social Services,” Sam said. “They can stay with us. Delphie and I have filed to be additional guardians of the kids. You’re going to have to trust us.”

“Trust?” Aden asked.

“Yes, trust,” Sam said. “You do what you have to do and we’ll take care of the rest. When you’re done, we’ll sort out what needs to be sorted.”

Aden nodded.

“Let’s go,” Sam said.

Aden followed Sam out to the reception area. The police officers handcuffed Aden and led him out to their police cruiser. Like the dream of his future just moments before, Aden watched the Lipson Construction office fade from sight.


Wednesday morning – 9:11 A.M.

“Mrs. Scully, have you ever seen any burns like this?” Ann Campbell asked.

The Assistant DA picked up a photo of the back of Jill’s head after she had been burned with acid.

“I saw Jill when she had those burns,” Honey said.

“Any other time?”

“I had those burns when I was about eleven,” Honey said.

“How did you get those burns?”

“My sister put car battery acid in my shampoo,” Honey said.

“Objection! Assumption!”

“How did you know your sister put the acid in your shampoo, Mrs. Scully?” the judge asked.

“She told me,” Honey said. “She said it was retribution for trying to make her look bad. She tried to do it again when we were in high school but after being burned once by family shampoo, I always bought my own. I hid mine in my room. She ended up burning our little sister Briana and Mom. Dad was furious.”

“Your little sister was…?” Ann Campbell asked.

“Six years old. She tried to shampoo her own hair. It was her second time washing her own hair,” Honey said. “She has a scar on her neck and back from it.”

“These scars?” Ann Campbell held up a photo of Briana’s neck, back and a small half moon scar on her forehead. “Please enter into evidence this picture of Briana Lipson.”

“Yes,” Honey said. “I have one too.”

“Would you mind showing us?” Ann Campbell asked.

“No ma’am,” Honey said. “I need some help.”

The bailiff helped Honey take off her silk jacket to expose her neck and shoulder.

“You have to look past the surgery scars, but I have the same scars on my shoulder and neck.”

Honey pointed to her shoulder and neck. When she looked up, she saw that everyone in the courtroom had a kind of stunned expression on their faces. Confused, she looked for MJ. His face was grim but he smiled at her. She looked up at Ann Campbell’s face. The Assistant DA worked to recover her professional demeanor. Honey blushed and pulled on her jacket. The courtroom was uncomfortably quiet. She fiddled with her diamond wedding ring.

“And you don’t remember what provoked this attack?” Ann Campbell asked.

“My sister and I never got along. I couldn’t ever tell what would set her off. I was usually her fall guy. She’d make fun of me at school, soil my clothing, rip up my favorite shirt, spread rumors about me, whatever. It was that way until I moved out.”

“When did you move out?”

“After high school. I worked for Lipson Construction on a road crew in high school. When I could work full time, I got an apartment.”

“What was your relationship with your sister like then?”

“I never saw her,” Honey said. “She lived with Mom and the girls. I would go home to do laundry or hang out with the girls, but I never saw her. I didn’t have any contact with her until she started dating Trevor last year.”

“What brought you into contact with your sister again?”

“Mom wanted me to meet her boyfriend because she thought they’d get married,” Honey said. “I met them for lunch in December of last year.”

Honey had been coached not to talk about Trevor, but her blood boiled just remembering how smug her sister was at that lunch. She sat there, all high and mighty, with a married guy. A guy married to her friend, Jill! Honey glanced over at her sister. Her sister curled her lip at Honey.

“When did you see her again?”

“Mom wanted me to help her with the wedding,” Honey said. “I was a bride’s maid, went to a couple wedding showers, engagement party, stuff like that.”

“If you and your sister weren’t close, why did you go?”

“My Mom asked me to go,” Honey said. “I’m sure that people have a lot to say about my Mom, but she’s always tried really hard for us. She asks me for very little so I always do what she asks.”

“Your Mom asked you to help your sister later too. Isn’t that right?”

“Mom asked me to help her and her husband get back and forth from the airport for their honeymoon,” Honey said. “Mom had a business appointment that morning so I took off work to take them to the airport. I was supposed to pick them up. I was a little late, like ten minutes, and I saw them leave with someone else.”

“Who did they leave with?”

“Michael Scully, Jr.”

“Your husband?”

“He wasn’t my husband then,” Honey said.

“Ok, thank you Mrs. Scully,” Ann Campbell said. “The prosecution would like to reserve the right to recall this witness.”

“You may cross, Mr. Blanchard.”

Honey swallowed hard at the cruel look on her sister’s attorney’s face. She’d been warned that he would ask her about every detail. This part of the case was to make her look stupid. She smiled at him. She’d spent a life time with her sister trying to make her look stupid. He was going to have to work very, very hard to gain any ground with her.


Wednesday morning – 10 A.M.

Sandy sat near the front of the courtroom with Nash on one side of her and Noelle on the other. She marveled at how easy the day had started. She made love to Aden. Like most mornings, he had talked to the baby. He was so sure they were having a little girl. He always called her ‘Josie.’ While she’d made coffee, he woke the kids for an early breakfast. The kids went back to bed and Aden left for work.

It was an easy, happy, loving morning.

When Samantha Hargreaves name appeared on the caller ID, Sandy knew what was going on. She didn’t need Samantha to say the words, ‘Aden will have his hearing today.’

She just knew. Aden would go to jail and she would be alone. Alone with his kids. Pregnant and alone. Alone to deal with her father’s crap. Alone. Like metal shutters slamming down on a room in her mind, her emotions shut down.

She woke the kids and told them the news. Sullen and sad, the kids began to get dressed. Sitting in the living room, Sandy had stared off into space. She wasn’t thinking when she’d answered the knock at the door. There was a knock and she answered it. She hadn’t even looked to see who it was. She just opened the door.

Anjelika stood on the other side.

Anjelika chastised Sandy for not asking or looking to see who it was. When she saw Sandy’s blank response, Anjelika smiled.

“Now is the time you need a mother,” Anjelika had said.

Without another word, Anjelika sat Sandy down on the couch. She made her some tea with Delphie’s special honey. She’d turned on some piano jazz for Sandy to listen to. Anjelika then helped the kids get ready. She’d arranged for a car to take them to the courthouse. She’d made sure there was a bodyguard waiting to protect Sandy at the courthouse. She even coordinated with Jacob, Sam and Delphie for who would be at the courthouse.

In fact, Sandy was pretty sure she would not be sitting in this courtroom if Anjelika hadn’t arrived at her doorstep. She reached over to hold Noelle’s hand. Nash’s hand was tucked under her arm. She could feel the pulse of nervousness run through the kids. They had no idea what would happen today.

They only knew it would change their lives.

Possibly forever.

Denver Cereal continues next week…


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