Aden’s arms went around her shoulders. He held her tight to him. Feeling movement, Aden looked up to see Sandy’s father aiming a handgun at them.
“Wait…” Aden started “HE’S GOT A GUN!” Seth yelled at the same time Max and Alex yelled, “GET DOWN!”
Her father fired twice into Sandy’s back. Sandy slumped forward into Aden.
“NO!” Aden screamed. He worked to hold Sandy up.
Seth fired hitting Sandy’s father in the right shoulder. Her father’s shoulder exploded upon impact. Screaming with pain, the man fell backward to the floor.
“Sandy! Sandy!” Aden cried. “Oh my God!”
Afraid to look, afraid to let go of her, Aden held Sandy up.
While Alex ran to Aden and Sandy, Seth and Max ran to her father. Max kicked the handgun out of his hand. Seth spit on Sandy’s father then raised his gun again.
“Yeah, let’s not go psycho.” Max said.
Max pushed Seth’s handgun up. Leaning down, Max wiped up Seth’s spittle with a handkerchief.
“There’s a few other plans for him,” Max said.
The injured man gave a sadistic laugh.
“SHUT UP!” Seth raised his gun again.
“I made a deal with the Feds!” The man’s eerie laughter drew everyone’s attention. The house was silent. “You’ll all got to JAIL and I’ll be right free!”
The front door burst open. Captain Ramirez led the charge into the room.
“DENVER POLICE! FREEZE!”
Seth and Max raised their hands and froze. Policemen filled the room. Weapon drawn, Captain Ramirez moved to Alex and Aden’s side.
“We need help!” Aden yelled from where they had laid Sandy. “She’s been shot! Please! Please help!”
“She’s wearing body armor,” Alex said. She put a hand on Aden’s shoulder. “Doesn’t mean she’s not hurt, just that she’s not dead. I’ve been shot like this and it hurts like hell. She probably passed out from the pain.”
“Body armor?” Aden asked. “How…?”
“She’s Katy’s Auntie,” Alex said. “Let’s let them take a look.”
Aden and Alex leaned back as the paramedics moved over Sandy.
“Do you know what this is?” the paramedic pointed to Sandy’s bandaged head.
“She was hit with a backpack yesterday,” Aden said. “She has some stitches. But, sir, she’s pregnant. You’ll….”
Sandy whimpered and opened her eyes. Aden kneeled over her so his face was next to hers. The paramedic took the bandage off Sandy’s head to look at the wound.
“Aden,” she whispered. “I don’t feel very good.”
“I bet,” he said.
Aden and Alex’s head’s jerked over to Sandy’s father. Leaning against the wall for support, the man cackled with laughter. He began chanting that he would be free and everyone else in jail. He would have the boyfriend’s daughter whenever he wanted. His glee took everyone’s attention.
“HEY!” the paramedic yelled as Sandy rose to her feet. Wobbly at first, she gained her footing. In a step she was in front of her father.
In one swift practiced move, she jerked her knee into her father’s groin. Her father fell over in pain and Sandy collapsed to the ground.
“Sandy!” Aden and the paramedic ran to Sandy’s side.
“Sir, we can’t tell what’s going on with her until we get the body armor off,” the paramedic said. “We’ve got to get her to the hospital.”
Uniformed police officers lifted Sandy onto the stretcher. Aden moved to follow the stretcher but Alex put a hand on his chest.
“You’re in the custody of the Denver Police now,” Alex said. “I’ll go.”
Aden nodded. Alex and Captain Ramirez followed the stretcher out of the building.
“We think they’ll just book you and let you go, but we don’t have control over that process,” Max said.
“Is it true what he said?” Aden asked.
“He seemed delusional to me,” Max said.
“Did he make a deal with the Feds?”
They fell silent as they watched Sandy’s father escorted by Denver Police from the building.
“He made a deal with the Feds,” Seth said. “But his crimes happened in the City and County of Denver. The DA isn’t as lenient as the Feds.”
“Nor is the Interpol,” Max said. “But the Feds did say they wouldn’t prosecute him on the sale of his videos if he released the list of buyers and testified on the supply chain. Just a second.”
Max turned away to speak with the Denver Police.
“So he’s going to be free?” Aden asked.
“He’ll die in prison,” Seth said. “If not sooner.”
“I didn’t kill him,” Aden said under his breath. “I didn’t kill the baker’s father.”
“And that’s a good thing.” Seth patted his back.
“Everything all right?” Aden asked.
“They took my gun,” Seth said. “Standard procedure. IAD will do an investigation. Thank God, and Max, I didn’t kill the baker’s father either.”
“I’ll be on desk duty for a while which is good. Sandy’s going to need me. I’ll walk out with you.”
“We’re going to cuff you,” Seth said. “There’s a crowd of your employees here. We need you under control. Can you do that?”
“Command says that every Lipson employee is here,” Seth shrugged. “You’re a popular guy.”
Max returned from speaking with the police.
“You’ll call Jill for Sandy? Take care of my kids?” Aden asked Max.
“Jill’s on her way,” Max said.
A police officer cuffed Aden’s hands behind his back. With a uniformed Denver Police officers at each side, Seth put his hand on Aden’s arm. They walked out of the house.
A cheer rose from the people surrounding the police barricade. The Lipson employees cheered and hooted for Aden. Aden nodded to the crowd. Lipson employees jumped the barrier. Within moments, Aden, the police officers and Seth were surrounded by hundreds of construction workers. The police pushed at the Lipson employees but they stood firm.
“You arrest him, you have to arrest all of us,” Bambi said.
“WAIT!” Aden yelled. “Everyone stop!
The Lipson employees turned to look at Aden.
“I appreciate what you’re doing,” Aden said. “It means a lot to me that you’re here. But I need to do this myself. I made a choice. I broke the law. I can deal with the consequences.”
“But Aden, we love those kids too,” Bambi said.
“We have kids, Aden,” Jerry said. “What you did you did for all us parents!”
“Every kid is our kid!” A voice yelled the Marlowe School’s slogan from the back of the crowd.
“Jerry. Bambi,” Aden said. “I need you to take my place. Be leaders here. This is not the time for misguided heroics.”
Bambi sniffed back a tear then nodded. Jerry’s face darkened to a scowl. Bambi kissed Aden’s cheek. Turning away from him, she moved into the crowd.
“Let’s get down to police headquarters!” Bambi yelled.
“Round it up!” Jerry yelled.
Aden, Seth and their police guard watched the Lipson employees move away.
“That was well done,” Seth said.
“Thank you, sir,” Aden said. “Did you hear we’re going to have a baby?”
“I thought you were in a cooling off phase,” Seth laughed.
Aden laughed. The policemen nudged Aden forward and they began walking across the grass. The police officers helped Aden and Seth into the back of the car.
“I just hope she’s all right,” Aden said.
A half hour later Wednesday — 6:10 P.M.
Running full speed, Jacob burst into the Rose Hospital waiting room. He skid to a stop in front of a Lipson site manager. A team of Lipson people had already gathered to support Sandy.
“Where’s Jill?” Jacob’s question echoed his panic.
“Jill?” the man repeated.
“My wife. Where’s my wife?”
“She’s back there…” a woman standing next to the site manager pointed toward emergency.
Jacob was running again. Ever since Delphie told him Jill was in the hospital, he couldn’t shake his terror. His ears heard only the timpani of his pounding heart. His mind filled with the horror of having to live without his precious Jill. He’d always known there would be a violent confrontation between Aden and the baker’s father. Was Jill wounded? Injured? Dead?
Trailing a yelling nurse, he jogged from green curtained area to green curtained area until he reached the back of emergency. He stopped short.
“SIR!” the nurse yelled. “You can’t be back here.”
“I have to find my Jill!”
“Jacob?” Jill poked her head out of a curtained area near the opposite corner.
She was in his arms. He held her until his heart stopped pounding, his breath began to even and the pressure from his unshed tears eased.
“What is it?” Jill whispered in his ear.
“I can’t live without you,” he said.
She held him tight.
Wednesday evening — 6:10 P.M.
“Who are all these people?” Aden asked.
Stopped at the corner of Broadway and Thirteenth, they could see a large crowd surrounding the downtown Denver Police Station. The police cruiser started across the intersection.
“Is there an event tonight?” Seth asked the officer in the driver’s seat.
“No sir,” the officer said. “They’re here for Norsen.”
“Those aren’t Lipson people,” Aden said. “We wear uniform shirts, hats…”
“They announced on the radio that the guy was a pedophile and pornographer. Some reporter got a Fed to say that they’ve been watching him for six months. People are pissed,” the officer said. The officer turned the car into the station. His voice dripping with sarcasm, he added, “You’re a hero, Norsen.”
Aden looked up to see the Assistant Principal from Nash’s Middle School being escorted into the building. Another cruiser pulled up. The officers pulled out the father of the boy who gave Nash so much trouble. By the time the officer came around to get Aden out, another five police cruisers pulled up with men in the back.
“Who are these people?” Aden asked Seth.
“People who purchased from Sandy’s father,” Seth said. “Having child pornography on your computer is a crime.”
“But that was Nash’s Assistant Principal!”
“Yep,” Seth said.
Two police officers came to get Aden. The crowd went wild when Aden was pulled from the police cruiser. Aden nodded to the crowd then let himself be led into the station. The waiting area was jammed with Lipson employees who cheered when they saw Aden. While the officers pushed Aden through the crowd, people touched his shoulder in support. Once in the back, the officer took Aden past the people arrested for child pornography.
“We’re kind of full up,” the officer said. “We’re going to leave you with O’Malley. He’ll get you through booking then the Chief will decide what to do with you. Your lawyer is already waiting for you.”
“Samantha Hargreaves,” the officer said.
Policemen looked up as Aden passed. They nodded or smiled.
“In there,” the officer said.
He held the door open to a small closet like office. Samantha was sitting on a desk waiting for them.
Aden raised his handcuffed hand but the officer was gone.
“I’ll get them.” Seth unlocked Aden’s hands. “What do you know about Sandy?”
“Nothing,” Samantha said. “Jill said they’re running tests and she’s still out. She’s pretty bruised up.”
“But she had on body armor!” Aden said. “Doesn’t that mean she’s Ok?”
“Not always,” Samantha said. “Her body still received the full impact of the bullets. That’s a lot of stress. Given that she has a head wound, is pregnant and has been under so much pressure? There’s just no way to know.”
“What happens now?” Aden asked.
“We wait,” Samantha said. “They want to move the other guys through booking before they book you. They won’t put you together so we think they’ll book and release you. That was one of the deals on the table. My guess is, with the crowd outside, the DA will be here soon.”
Wednesday — 7:36 P.M.
“I understand Sandra is here.”
Sandy’s mother approached Jill while she and Jacob waited outside Sandy’s curtained area. Knowing how happy Sandy would be to see her mother, Jill smiled. The woman glared at Jill.
“Thanks for coming. I know…” Jill started.
“Is she here or not?”
“We can only have two people here,” Jacob said. “I’ll go to the waiting room.”
Jacob squeezed Jill’s hand then kissed her cheek. Jill smiled at him then turned to the angry woman in front of her.
“She just woke up,” Jill said. “The doctor is talking to her now. We have to wait until they tell us we can go back.”
Sandy’s mother flared her nostrils then nodded her head.
“Angry?” Jill asked.
“I suppose you knew about this the whole time,” Sandy’s mother said.
Jill’s eyes were luminous. She nodded.
Sandy’s mother ground her teeth. Her rage was apparent.
“You can go in now,” the nurse said. “She’s very fragile. We’ll give you a chance to visit before we take her for tests.”
Jill held the curtain for Sandy’s mother.
“Mom!” Sandy exclaimed.
“Do not speak to me,” Sandy’s mother said. “I knew. I just knew to my bones that he left me for another woman. It never occurred to me that the other woman was my own daughter.”
Too horrified to speak, Jill went to Sandy’s bed. She took Sandy’s hand in silent support.
“I was two years old!”
“And the sex tapes? You made those tapes behind my back so that everyone would know that he wanted YOU and not me! You’ve humiliated me!”
“But…” Sandy’s voice shifted from indignation to pain.
“You were always trying to sit on his lap. Kissing his cheek. I knew you were a whore! I just never knew how low you could possibly go as to steal MY husband from me!”
“I did it for you!” Sandy sobbed. “For your child support!”
“You are no child of mine,” the woman said. “I will never forgive you for betraying me! EVER!”
Jill launched into action. Pushing the woman’s shoulders, she shoved her out of the small space.
“Get out!” Jill exclaimed. “OUT! You are no mother! Get out!”
“Slut whore,” Sandy’s mother spit in Jill’s face. “You’ll get what you deserve.”
Jill slapped the woman’s face. Sandy’s nurse ran over to the women.
“Can you get someone to help this… person out of here?” Jill asked the nurse.
The nurse took the woman’s arm and began to escort her from the emergency room.
“I’m not paying for this hospital stay,” Sandy’s mother turned to say.
Shaking her head at Sandy’s crazy mother, she returned to Sandy’s bedside. Sandy was sobbing uncontrollably.
“I should have died. I should have died. I should have died,” Sandy repeated over and over again.
Not knowing what to do, Jill smoothed Sandy’s hair.
“How am I going to pay for all of this?” Sandy asked.
“You’re not,” Jill said. “I already paid for it.”
“Heather and Tanesha are on their way,” Jill said. “We’re going to take care of you, Sandy, like you always take care of us.”
Sandy turned her face away from Jill.
“I’m so glad you’re alive,” Jill said. “I know Aden is glad you’re alive. And Seth.”
“I’m glad you’re alive.”
Heather came through the curtain. She went to the other side of Sandy’s bed to hold her hand. Tanesha followed Heather through the curtain. She held onto Sandy’s toes. Her smile said what had been repeated.
“When you’re better, we’ll decide what to do about your Mom,” Jill said.
“What Mom?” Sandy asked. “I’ve been disowned!”
“Yeah like that crazy mess was worth owning,” Tanesha said. “Yours is bat shit crazy. Mine’s crack whore. I get to see her on the corner of Colfax and Broadway. You want to trade?”
Tanesha’s tone made them laugh. Even Sandy smiled.
“Sorry ladies but we need to take her for some tests,” Sandy’s nurse said.
“Can one person go with me?” Sandy asked.
“Sorry,” the nurse said. “They can wait right here until you get back.”
“Love you!” Jill leaned over and kissed Sandy’s cheek.
Heather kissed Sandy’s cheek and Tanesha patted her feet. They watched as an orderly came to push Sandy out for her tests.
“Tell all,” Tanesha said to Jill.
Jill relayed the grim story.
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