Thursday morning — 9 A.M. Rose Hospital
Aden stood in Sandy’s doorway. His hair was wet and his skin shiny from a fast shower.
“Aden!” Sandy beamed at him.
“I’ll leave you for a moment. Then we must speak with the doctors.”
Anjelika kissed Sandy’s cheek and touched Aden’s arm before leaving the room.
“How are you?” Aden and Sandy said at the same time.
Sandy smiled. He bent over to hug and kiss her. Looking up, he saw the baby’s heart beat. He grinned.
“Meet your baby,” Sandy said.
Aden kissed her again.
“What about the kids? Aden, they’ve been really upset.”
“I was just there,” Aden said. He pulled two cards from his pocket. “They made you get-well cards.”
Beaming, Sandy read Nash’s then Noelle’s card. She smiled at Aden.
“They are very sweet. How are they?”
“In pain,” Aden said. “But all right. You should have seen Noelle. She said, ‘Now Daddy, you did something wrong and you will have to just pay for that.’ It’s the first time I’ve seen her be so calm and… I don’t know, like she’s my daughter.”
“How are you?” Aden asked.
“I don’t know,” Sandy said. “They took me for more tests this morning. Anjelika said she wants me to go home but not my home. To the Castle.”
“Sam posted my bail and took me there,” Aden said. “I got there after six and they were already busy setting up a place for all of us. Anjelika and the rest of Jill’s family were there working.”
“Why… I mean, what happened yesterday?”
“I lost it,” Aden took her hand. “As long as I’ve known you, I’ve had to sit helplessly by while you struggle with the pain inflicted by that awful man. I want so much to make your pain go away, to make it better. When I thought Noelle was in the same situation? Especially after what happened with Nuala? And all that crap at Nash’s school? I couldn’t stand by anymore. I just couldn’t do it. I had to end this madness for you… for Noelle… for Nash.”
“But you put everything at risk – your custody of the kids, your job, us. My father could have killed you.”
Aden nodded. He looked away from Sandy’s concerned eyes. As if drawn by a magnet, his eyes returned to the baby’s heart beat.
“You’ve never been out of control,” Aden said finally.
“You’re also not a man,” Aden gave her a half smile. “I’m glad you’re not. Did you hear that the Assistant Principal was arrested?”
“It was on the news,” Sandy said. “He had child pornography on his personal and work computer.”
“Scumbag,” Aden said. “That’s why he’s been on Nash! It’s unbelievable.”
“Are you all right?”
“Sure,” Aden nodded. “Just an easy night in jail.”
“Raped?” Aden laughed. “That’s never happened to me. No, I was kept on my own. I had the night to think about my sins. The DA didn’t want anything else to happen to me.”
“Will you lose your job?” she asked.
“No,” Aden shook his head. “You’ve probably heard that Celia predicted this would happen. Jacob said that Sam would stay until this was over. I’m ready to do what I need to do to move on.”
“You’re hands are pretty banged up,” Sandy said.
“I’m not accustomed to hitting people,” Aden nodded.
“That’s a good thing.”
“Listen, I’m really worried about you,” Aden said. “Jill said that these injuries aren’t minor and…”
“Looks like we’re going to find out,” Anjelika said as she walked in the room. “It’s time to meet the doctors. They are waiting outside.”
“Sorry, I’m late,” Seth came in the room with a box of donuts. “I needed some sustenance. Donut anyone?”
Thursday morning — 9:15 A.M. The Castle
Jacob opened the door to Katy’s room where Mike was painting. Valerie was sitting on the bed drinking a cup of tea while Mike painted the fairies. The roar of four HEPA filters, set up to protect Valerie from the paint fumes, made conversation almost impossible. Mike was so focused on his work that he didn’t hear or see Jacob. He looked up when Valerie touched his shoulder.
Jacob waved both of them from the room.
“Don’t you have a company to run?” Mike asked.
“Which company?” Jacob asked. His face was set somewhere between angry and exhausted. “I was on my way to a site when I received the weirdest phone call. I thought I’d stop by to see what you thought.”
“What happened Jake?” Valerie asked.
“I got a phone call from an agent selling Sandy’s father’s house,” Jacob said. “You know MLR properties is on the list for houses that need a quick sale. The agent said the owner needed money immediately. I was trying to figure out where I’d heard the address before when she went into the whole story. The Feds have frozen all of Sandy’s father’s assets except for the house. Sandy’s father needs get the money out of the house to pay for his legal fees. No lawyer will take his case without payment up front and he doesn’t want to take a chance on a public defender.”
“Sounds like they’re going to prosecute the bastard,” Valerie said.
“Well, that’s my question,” Jacob said. “That’s what I think we need to decide on.”
“Crap, Jake, what do I know? You just put my name on this company so I would have a stake in the profit,” Mike said. “I don’t know anything real estate. I just go where you tell me to go.”
“Wait a minute,” Valerie said. “If Mike’s name is on this company, then it’s part mine too. Let’s hear Jake out.”
Shrugging, Mike gave a longing look toward Katy’s room and his painting project.
“What’s the issue?” Valerie asked.
“If we buy the house, we’re supporting Sandy’s father in defending himself,” Jacob said. “On the one hand, this is a democracy and he has a right to defend himself. Blah, blah, blah and all that civics stuff. On the other hand, he’s a complete scumbag who should rot in prison after being tortured by Dick Cheney’s goons. Why would we want to support someone like that?”
“If you don’t buy it, what happens?” Valerie asked.
“Someone else will,” Jacob said. “There’s a lot of scrape and rebuild in that neighborhood right now.”
“Would you like to refurbish his house?”
The gleam in Valerie’s eye made Jacob look her up and down.
“Not a chance, psychic boy. I still know how to keep you out of my head,” Valerie said. “Use your words.”
“No, these houses were built by the Air Force during or right after World War II. They have some neat details – coved ceilings, red oak piece floors - and are solidly constructed.”
“But?” Valerie asked.
“They don’t inspire me at all. And we have plenty of rehab work. The phone’s been ringing off the hook since Jill’s started working with us. We have a waiting list for most of this year and some of next.”
“That’s why it’s taken me so long to get to Katy’s room,” Mike said to Valerie.
“What happens if we don’t buy the house?” Valerie asked.
“Someone will buy it,” Jacob said. “That’s the point. It’s a great deal. We could scrape the building in two hours and resell the lot for double what we bought it for. With the media attention and FBI presence, the house is tainted. The agent said they won’t be able to sell the house to homeowners after yesterday’s media coverage. I guess most of the pornography was filmed in that house.”
Mike grunted with disgust.
“So we could buy the house….”
“We?” Jacob asked.
“Shush,” Valerie said. “We could buy the house, scrape it, then hold onto it until the drama goes away. When do they want the check?”
“But Valerie, we’re supporting this asshole’s defense! We’d be…”
“Someone else will. Why not us?”
Valerie clapped her hands together with glee. Mike and Jacob looked at her as if she’d lost her mind.
“How fast can you get ownership?” Valerie asked.
“The agent says she can provide a detailed property search showing ownership and liability claims. If we do a quit claim? We can have possession by the end of the day today. Then thirty days until all the paperwork is filed through the courts.”
“But you can modify the house on a quit claim?”
“Sure,” Jacob said. “Why? What are you up to?”
“We leave tomorrow at noon. Can you do it before then?”
“Don’t be a baby, Jake! Trust me! This is going to be fun!”
Jacob glanced at Mike. Mike shrugged his shoulders. They both looked at Valerie. She was counting something on her fingers. When she caught their look, she dropped her fingers and gave them her movie star smile.
“I do have my own money, you know. I could buy it myself…” Valerie’s voice mocked Jacob. “I mean, if you’re too chicken.”
“Very funny,” Jacob said. “You need to come in to Lipson to work today and tomorrow before you leave. We have to make decisions about what to do without Aden.”
“Fine,” Valerie said. “I will work long and hard today and tomorrow. Anything else?”
“What are you planning?” Mike asked.
Valerie gave him a little girl smile and he shook his head.
“This is not going to be good,” Mike said.
“Go on, Jake. Make the call! We’ll wait right here.”
While his eyes puzzled over Valerie’s face, Jacob redialed the agent on his blackberry.
“Not good at all.”
Thursday afternoon — 2:35 P.M.
“What about this one?” Honey asked MJ. “Do you like this better than the other pantsuits Valerie helped me buy?”
She wheeled out to look at her olive light wool pantsuit in the full length mirror. MJ was sitting in a high backed chair at their dining room table.
“You’re beautiful,” he said.
She buttoned then unbuttoned the jacket. She tugged on the silk blouse underneath. She’d struggled to find clothing that looked nice and professional while she sat in her wheelchair. Most clothing was made for standing people.
“You always say that,” Honey said. “I need to look right.”
“You need to…” MJ shook his head as the words disappeared.
Honey wheeled over to where he was sitting. His blue eyes held her pale blue eyes. He reached out to stroke her hair.
“I have to do this, MJ. I’m the only one who can testify to what my sister was like as a child,” Honey said. Imitating the assistant-DA’s voice, she added, “You’re the only one who can put her away for life.”
MJ’s lips pursed. He opened his mouth then shook his head.
“You must be upset,” Honey said. “Please, please, please MJ. I can’t do this without you. Please help me. Please try. Don’t leave me to do this by myself.”
MJ ground his teeth together. He rubbed his forehead, tapped certain calming points on his face, then blew out a breath.
“Th… th… the trial starts tomorrow,” MJ said.
“Jury selection starts tomorrow. We won’t be in trail until next week sometime. The DA said that we should expect them to dilly dally around about jurors. They have to select twelve jurors with three alternates.”
“Wh…wh… Why do yu… yu… you have to go?”
“They think that having me there, like this, will show the potential jurors what she’s capable of.”
“I wish we could just move on. I hate that your sister has this power over us.”
“I wish none of this happened. A year ago, I could walk, dance, run, climb…” Honey shrugged. “I could move my hands. I could do so many amazing things that… I never appreciated. Simple things… walking to lunch, wiggling into a pair of jeans, knitting, painting my toenails.”
“You painted your toenails?” MJ’s eyebrows pinched together.
“Well, no.” Honey sighed. “You just don’t get it.”
Flipping her wheelchair around, she zoomed back into their bedroom. Near the door, MJ jumped in front of her wheelchair. She ran into him with a solid ‘thump.’ He held firm. Giving an exaggerated sigh, she crossed her arms over her heart.
“I get it,” MJ said.
“You get what?”
“I understand what you’re saying. You’ve suffered a lot… a lot. There’s no question. I’m upset because I don’t want you to suffer anymore.”
“You mean the trial?”
“What if all this never happened?” MJ asked the question they often asked each other when they were down.
“MJ, I can’t do that today… I just can’t.”
“Come on, it’s not that hard,” MJ said. “If all of this never happened, we’d never be married.”
“You wouldn’t even be in my life.”
“We’d never live in this beautiful home,” he said.
“I’d never have my great job with Bambi.”
“We’d never be planning to have a baby,” he said.
“We’d never be building a real, whole life together.”
“I’ve never been this happy,” he said. “Ever.”
“I’ve never be this happy.”
“Is it worth it? Giving up your legs for all of this?” he asked.
“You?” she asked.
“Fuck yeah!” MJ said.
“What do we have to do?” he asked. “What’s it going to take to get this done and over with?”
“I have to go tomorrow and Monday and every day after that until they put my sister away forever.”
“That’s my girl.” MJ smiled.
“So which outfit?”
“Doesn’t matter,” MJ said. “You’re beautiful in all of them.”
“Didn’t you and Val buy something… sexier?”
“A couple things. Some lingerie and a pretty dress for celebrating when the trial’s over,” Honey nodded. “Val said she’d try to come home to celebrate with me.”
“When do I get to see the sexy stuff?”
“After I pick out something to wear tomorrow,” Honey said.
“What you have on is perfect,” MJ said. “I’d never lie about something this serious.”
Thursday afternoon — 4:12 P.M Rose Hospital
Standing near the entrance of Rose hospital, they looked out at the photographers, videographers, and press waiting for the ‘abused girl.’ A nurse pushed her wheelchair while Aden, Seth and Anjelika walked next to her. Sandy gulped at the site of the press.
“I’ll go get the car,” Aden said.
“DPD has kept them away from the entrance. The entrance cannot be blocked,” Seth said. “We can’t do much more than that.”
“Can I stand?” Sandy asked. “I’d feel better if I could walk out.”
“Just don’t overdo it okay,” the nurse said. “I’ll stay with you until we get to the car.”
With Anjelika’s hand on her elbow, Sandy walked slowly toward the door.
“Like Greta Garbo,” Anjelika whispered.
Sandy threw her shoulder’s back and held her head high. She was about to step out the door when they heard the sound of a large vehicle near the door. Shocked, she watched three excavators creep up in front of the door. The monstrous vehicles effectively blocked her from the hoard of press.
Valerie Lipson waved to Sandy from the middle excavator. She moved to the press side of the excavator to distract the photographers. Jill’s Lexus pulled up in front of them
“Come on!” Jill yelled from the driver’s seat.
“Your chariot, my dear.” Aden appeared at her side.
“Go on, Sandy. Greta Garbo couldn’t have received a better offer!”
Aden swooped Sandy up into his arms and carried her to the SUV. Tanesha hopped out of the back seat so that Aden could set Sandy in. Sandy scooted next to Heather and Tanesha got in. Aden ran around to the passenger seat. Once Sandy was safe inside, the signal went up and the Lipson excavators moved out.
“It’s good to have friends,” Seth said to Anjelika as they watched the procession of excavators move off.
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