Tuesday early morning — 4:20 A.M.
“Slow down. Slow down,” Sandy whispered into the telephone. “I don’t understand what you’re saying. What happened?”
“It’s your father, Sandy,” Seth yelled over the siren of his squad car. She could hear the engine of his car rev as he drove.
“What is it?” Next to her, Aden sat up in bed. “What happened?”
“Nothing. Don’t worry,” Sandy said. “You have a half hour. Go back to sleep.”
Carrying her cell phone, she got out of bed and went out to the living room of the apartment they were staying in.
“What is going on?” she asked Seth again.
“Your father was transferred to county last night. No one’s sure if he killed himself or if someone did it for him,” Seth said. “The Feds are freaked out. Everything’s up in the air. Someone should be there to get you.”
There was a tap on the apartment front door. Sandy went to answer the door. MJ stood outside. She held the door for him to enter.
“MJ’s here,” Sandy said.
“Is that O’Malley?” MJ asked.
“Great. I’ll call you from the jail,” Seth said. “Do not go anywhere without someone you know.”
“Someone I know?” Sandy asked.
“The Feds put out the word that this a contract hit out of China. Sandy, if it’s true, you’ll be the next target.”
Sandy dropped to the couch.
“I’ll be in touch,” Seth hung up the phone.
“What do you know?” Sandy asked MJ.
“Nothing. The LC called and said to get up here.”
MJ took a handgun from a holster on his hip. He flicked off the safety and cocked the gun.
“Oh no you don’t,” Sandy said. “We have little kids here. You put that safety back on that gun and cycle that action.”
“Do it,” Sandy said. “No one even knows I’m here. And anyway, who could get through all the security here. Ever since that Trevor thing, and you moved in, there’s security everywhere.”
“Better to be safe than sorry,” MJ nodded.
“That’s what I’m saying. Cycle the action and put on the safety!”
Not wanting to upset her further, MJ did as she asked. They sat looking at each other.
“You don’t have any idea?” Sandy asked.
MJ shook his head.
“You’re just doing what you’re told?”
“You know how many people applied for my job? Eight thousand. So when the LC says jump, I jump.’”
“I guess we just wait,” she said.
“We just wait.”
Tuesday afternoon — 2:12 P.M.
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” the bailiff asked Honey.
Honey’s mouth was so dry that her voice cracked. She took a drink from her water bottle. The water was cold against her throat. To avoid looking at the crowded court room, she focused on the plastic bottle. Arrowhead. Delphie had tucked the frozen bottle into her wheelchair this morning.
She looked up to see the Assistant District Attorney, Ann Campbell, walk across the courtroom toward her. The woman smiled in an effort to reassure Honey.
“Can you state your full name for the court please?” the assistant DA asked.
“Honey Lipson Scully,” she said.
“You had another last name?” Ms. Campbell asked.
“I was Honey Gilmore until my father adopted me when I was nine or ten years old.” Honey cleared her throat.
“Your father is Greg Gilmore,” the assistant DA said.
“My father is Sam Lipson,” Honey said.
“Let me rephrase,” Ms. Campbell said. “Your biological father is Greg Gilmore.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Honey’s voice dropped at the mere idea that she was related to Greg Gilmore.
“What was Mr. Gilmore like as a father?” Ms. Campbell asked.
“Objection!” Honey’s sister’s attorney, Miles Blanchard yelled. “Relevance?”
“Your introductory statement said that your client’s childhood created the template for her troubled life,” the assistant DA said.
“That’s correct,” the judge said. The judge’s piercing voice softened as she smiled at Honey. “Mrs. Scully, you may answer the question.”
“He…” Honey cleared her throat. Her eyes looked down and her crippled fingers.
“Why don’t you rephrase the question?” the judge asked Ms. Campbell.
“Honey, what can you tell me about Mr. Gilmore?”
Honey’s eyes moved over the people crammed into the audience. She saw MJ smile at her. Jill winked at her. Sitting next to MJ, her mother, Tiffanie, was anxiously biting her nails. The door opened and Sam Lipson stepped into the courtroom. Across the space, Big Sam’s compassionate hazel eyes filled Honey will warmth. She nodded. She could do this.
“Greg. That’s what we called him. Greg.”
“Why did you call him Greg?”
“Because he refused to accept that we were his children. Even though we look like him,” Honey said. “He was convinced that my mother cheated on him. He used us as an excuse to beat my mother for being a ‘whore.’”
Honey gulped at the word. Looking at the judge, she said, “Sorry.”
“You’re doing fine,” the judge said.
“So Greg beat your mother? Once? Twice?”
“Every day, sometimes more, when he was around,” Honey said. “He was agitated all the time, hyper. I guess he was on drugs. I mean, I saw him smoke pot, shoot heroin, snort a whole bunch of meth, cocaine, whatever. He wasn’t so hyper when he was on drugs. He was mean when he was drunk. Really mean. When he had drugs, we had money. Everything was good or as good as it could be when he was around.”
“Greg was a drug addict, alcoholic, and wife beater. What did he do for money?”
“I don’t know,” Honey said. “He’s in prison for stealing. He’s in for life now after getting three felonies. But he was always in and out of jail. He’d go out some night, get picked up by the police then be gone for months at a time. Mom had to find ways to feed us. We would clean the hotel rooms.”
“My Mom and I would split up the hotel.”
“When did you start doing that?”
“I remember cleaning at four or five, so some time before that,” Honey said. “My sister is two years older than me. She went to school.”
“This is fascinating, but can we get to the point?” Miles Blanchard, her sister’s attorney, asked.
The DA had told her that Mr. Blanchard would try to keep the jurors from liking her or forming a bond with her. Honey smiled at the man. She must be doing well.
“Let’s keep moving,” the judge said.
“I’ll cut to the chase,” the assistant DA said. “You said your father hit your mother. Did he hit you?”
“Yes,” Honey said.
“And your sister?”
“She was his favorite. He held her on a kind of pedestal, said she was the best of all of us leeches. If she did something wrong, she’d tell him that I did it, and he’d hit me. I think she was reprimanded, but I don’t remember him hitting her.”
“You say ‘hit’ what do you mean?”
“I couldn’t go to school because I was so battered. He broke my arm a few times. When my Dad adopted me, they had to re-break my arm to make it work right.”
“But your sister went to school?”
“Yes, she was good at school,” Honey said. “Mom and I would clean the hotel while she went to school.”
“Mr. Blanchard has said that your sister was ‘raped’ by your father,” the assistant DA said.
“I don’t remember that,” Honey said. “Mom and I were always at his disposal. He kind of idolized my sister. She’s pretty, funny and smart. They’re a lot a like – my sister and Greg.”
“Objection! Conjecture!” Mr. Blanchard jumped to his feet.
Startled, Honey looked at the judge. The judge gave the attorney a stern look. Turning to Honey, she smiled.
“You can only tell us about your experience, Mrs. Scully,” the judge said. “Not your judgements or what you think about it.”
“Just the facts?” Honey asked. “But they are a lot a like. That’s a fact. They look like twins.”
“Stick with your facts,” The judge smiled. “I ask the jury to disregard Mrs. Scully’s statements regard comparison between her sister and Mr. Gilmore. Please proceed.”
“Mom and I were supposed to take care of his needs,” Honey said.
“Your father didn’t rape your sister?”
“Not that I know of,” Honey said. “And I don’t know when he would have. He usually had Mom and me in bed with him.”
“You slept in the same bed with your mother and father?”
“He would have sex with Mom then me,” Honey said. “That’s usually how it worked. I couldn’t read or write. Greg said it was the only thing I was good at.”
Ms. Campbell walked back to her table to give time for Honey’s last statement to linger in the air. Honey glanced at Mr. Blanchard and saw a smug look on his face. Her sister leaned over to say something in his ear. He nodded as if to say, having sex with Greg was the only thing she was good at. Honey’s head jerked toward the loud cough in the audience.
He loved her no matter what. Honey gave him a soft smile.
“This is a good time to take a recess,” the judge said. “Ms. Campbell? Mr. Blanchard? I want to see you in my chambers in fifteen minutes.”
Honey wheeled past the jurors on her way to MJ and her family. She could feel their eyes on her. When she looked up, an elderly woman near the end smiled at her. She nodded and kept moving. Inside, she couldn’t help but smile.
The jury was starting to like her.
Tuesday afternoon — 3:11 P.M.
Sandy looked from face to face in the small conference room. The District Attorney, some Federal representative, Seth and another Denver Police Detective were arguing over what should happen next. She wasn’t sure why they insisted on her coming to this meeting. She only knew that she had to be there.
Samantha Hargreaves, Aden’s attorney, had filed to have the charges dropped against him. After all, the person he assaulted was no longer an issue. The DA was furious. The Feds were enraged that their key witness was murdered while in Denver Police custody. Everyone kept looking at her as if she might be the solution to their problems.
No, she didn’t know anything about any Chinese.
No, she was never involved in the distribution part of her father’s business.
No, she had not been in contact with her father after he got out of jail.
Yes, that’s right, she hadn’t spoken even one word to him since she was twelve years old. Was that so hard to believe?
The men stopped talking to her after that. She was not the answer to their problems. They still wouldn’t let her go home.
In her mind, she fantasized about going home, to her home, her little condo on Seventeenth Avenue. She imagined walking in the brick building then up the stairwell to her second floor condo. She’d open her front door and be home. Maybe she’d sit out on her small balcony. She might walk across the street for a cup of coffee from Watercourse Foods. Drinking her coffee, she might wander over to Marczyk’s for some baking supplies. With her arms filled with her reusable bags, she would walk home while planning the cake that would occupy the rest of her afternoon.
Seth touched her hand and she returned to the small room.
“I’m going to take Sandy home,” Seth said. “We’ve already determined that she’s safe at the Marlowe-Lipson home. This entire debacle has been a shock to her system. She needs to rest.”
The Feds started screaming again. The District Attorney screamed back. And Sandy leaned back in her chair. Once again, her father had splattered his garbage all over her life. Even dead, the man continued to work to destroy her life. Sandy settled in for what was sure to be a long afternoon.
What kind of cake was that?
Her mind shifted to somewhere far away from this room.
Tuesday afternoon — 4:07 P.M.
Heather was standing at the MAC counter when she felt a strong contraction. She’d been having false labor for the last week or so, so she thought nothing of it. With the economy as bad as it was, she was the only employee until five. Anyway, she figured she’d be in labor for twenty-four hours or maybe forty-eight hours. She also figured she would be late. After all, this was her first pregnancy.
Everyone told her she would be late and in labor for at least twenty-four hours.
But everyone also told her about morning sickness, general depression, exhaustion, swollen feet, feeling like you could eat a house, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Luckily, she hadn’t had any of those problems.
Well, swollen feet. But swollen feet where a part of working retail. Heather turned away from the customer in front of her.
“Oof,” she said.
“Are you okay?” the young woman asked.
“Just a little false labor,” Heather said. “I think we should try this other mascara. That black is too dark. Have you tried the deep blue?”
And so she got through the next ten minutes. Delighted with her makeup, the customer spent over a hundred dollars and even asked Heather is she would consider doing the makeup for her wedding. While chanting ‘please leave’ inside her head, Heather smiled and nodded. She collapsed onto a high stool when the customer left.
Glancing at her watch, she began to call her birthing team to find:
Sandy was still with the police jerks.
Jill was still at the stupid trial.
Tanesha was still at work at Denver Health.
She didn’t even have a car. Her new car was getting an upgrade done. Blane had dropped her off for work then said something… what did he say?
“Oofff,” she said.
She felt a trickle, then a whoosh of wetness.
She was having this baby!
Where were her girls? Sure, Blane had gone to every class and was going to do acupuncture but she needed HER GIRLS. She tried to call Tanesha again.
Crap. She left Tanesha a text message. Heather held the phone to her forehead willing it to ring. With contractions coming a minute a part, she faded a little bit.
“Hi,” Blane said. Somehow he arrived on the other side of the counter. “Are you all right?”
“She doesn’t look great, Blane.”
Who said that? Heather thought. Her head rotated to see none other than TRES SIERRA!
Ooh that came out a little loud. Did she just scream? In the middle of MAC? Her boss will kill her!
“He helped me get the car,” Blane went around to the other side of the counter.
“She’s having the baby,” Tres said. “I’ll call 9-1-1.”
“I don’t think we have that kind of time,” Blane said. “This baby is coming now. Heather? Heather?”
Heather looked at him and smiled. Here he was. She needed him and here he was. For the first time in her entire life, a man came through for her. Just for her. Even though he had said he would be there, he had said he wanted to be there, she’d never believed him. Until this moment. Blane was here.
“Let’s get her off the chair,” Tres said. “Do you have needles in the car?”
“I have some with me,” Blane said. “I was going to give her a treatment. She’s been having contractions for a week or so. She’s been pretty uncomfortable… no sleep…”
“Get the FUCK out of my way.”
Tanesha. Tanesha. Is that you?
“It’s me, honey.” Tanesha’s face appeared in front of her. “Who are you?”
“I’m…” Tres sputtered. Tanesha whipped around to look at him.
“I’ll tell you who you are – you’re the guy who’s going to do exactly what I tell you to do. First, you’re going to close the doors to this shop. We do not want some passerby watching our baby be delivered. Then you’re going to find me towels.”
Tres jumped at Tanesha’s commands.
“WAIT!” Tanesha said. “Give me your jacket.”
Tres took off his jacket. Tanesha placed the jacket under Heather’s head. Tres stopped for a moment to say something.
“GO!” Tanesha made a motion with her hands. “Blane, you ready with your needles? You’re going to have to do the needles and help her breathe. Can you do that?”
“I’m ready,” Blane said.
Tanesha? I feel funny. Lightheaded.
“Her blood pressure is up,” Blane said.
“You better get to work then,” Tanesha said. “Something happens to Heather, you’re going to have to deal with Jill AND Sandy AND, more importantly, ME. You don’t want to have to deal with me. Now get to work.”
Blane began placing needles.
“Heather? I’m going to take your pants off and underwear,” Tanesha said.
But what about… you know…
“Can’t have a baby through your undies,” Tanesha laughed.
Tres gave Tanesha a stack of towels.
“Where did you get these?”
“I bought them next door,” Tres said. “I also got some fleece blankets for the baby.”
“Place the towels around her. Leave a stack down near her knees. You will not look at what’s private. You hear me!”
“I’m going to wash my hands,” Tanesha said. “You did call 9-1-1?”
“They’re on their way,” Tres said. “I told them she was having the baby but…”
“How’s her blood pressure Blane?”
I feel better, good, not so scared. Did you see? Blane’s here? He came through!
Laughing, Tanesha disappeared from sight. Heather was jostled back and forth as Tres put the towels around her. The contractions ripped through her one after another.
“There’s a couple people here,” Tres said. “Women.”
“No, they say they work here,” Tres said. “One woman says she’s your manager. She said she’s closing the shop.”
“Don’t worry about us or the store, Heather. Just worry about yourself and the baby.” A woman’s voice wafted over the counter.
“We love you, Heather!” A teenager’s voice said. “Can we help?”
“You sure can,” Tanesha said. “We need some water or ice for Heather. We also need someone to wait for the paramedics at the door so they don’t get lost.”
“I’ll wait for the paramedics,” the high school girl ran out the door.
“She’s crowning!” Tres yelled.
“Excuse me,” Tanesha said to the women. Walking around the counter, Tanesha punched Tres in the shoulder. “You were not supposed to look.”
“I have done this before,” Tres said. “More than once. In my family, birthing babies is an entire family affair.”
“Great,” Tanesha said. “You can help Blane with the breathing. Heather?”
Yep! I’m here! I’m doing my breathing! Tanesha? I think he’s coming now.
“On my call ready, Heather?”
I’m ready! I’m ready!
“One – Two – Three! PUSH!!”
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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