Wednesday — 3:25 P.M.
Riding in Jill’s Lexus SUV, Sandy watched the Denver neighborhoods fly past her passenger window. They drove up Seventeenth Avenue Parkway past the gorgeous mansions. As a child, she’d walk to her father’s house past these mansions. While she walked, she’d dream of living in one of her favorites. On her way to her father’s house once again, she pressed her forehead against the cool passenger window to keep from screaming. Jill’s car turned on Monaco Parkway. These mansions were even more beautiful, more posh, and never seemed more unattainable.
Like a suicide bomber, her past had come to destroy her perfect present. She wasn’t going to live happily ever after. She was going to live chained by the prison of her past. They were turning right on Eighth Avenue before anyone in the car spoke.
“You need to put this on,” Alex Hargreaves said. “You can put it on over your clothing but we wear them underneath. They’re more comfortable that way.”
Sandy looked at Captain Ramirez, who was driving. Without saying a word, he pulled the car to the curb. He left the car idling for warmth then got out of the car. Max got out of the back seat. Sandy pulled off her sweater and long sleeved t-shirt.
“Just next to your bra. That’s how I wear mine.” Alex leaned forward to help Sandy.
Sandy put the vest on. Fastening the body armor over her heart, she put her t-shirt and sweater back on. When she was done, Alex opened her window to signal the men. Max got in the back and Captain Ramirez slipped back into the driver’s seat. He turned right on Locust and they drove the next few blocks in silence.
They slowed at a police roadblock. The Denver Police had cordoned off the block around her father’s house. Captain Ramirez spoke to the officer. The officer’s eyes seemed to shoot arrows at Sandy when he looked at her. Blushing bright red, she collapsed into herself before he looked in the back seat at Alex and Max. They continued the half block to her father’s house then parked. There were at least eight police cruisers surrounded by policemen with their guns drawn.
Every eye was focused on her father’s one story brick bungalow. The curtains were drawn on the two casement windows facing Locust Street. A light was on in one of the basement rooms. The bare lawn gave the house a dilapidated air.
Sandy’s door opened. Unbuckling her seat belt to get out, Sandy saw her Godfather, Seth O’Malley had opened her door. She threw herself into his arms. He lifted her out of the car.
“What’s going on? What’s happened?” Sandy asked.
“It’s an entire mess up,” Max said. “Looks like Aden opened a can of whoop ass on your father. Aden has your father and is digging through things looking for something… we don’t know what. The problem is that the team needs that material to build our international case. If Aden destroys it, the case goes up in smoke.”
“You can imagine no one is very happy about that,” Seth said. “We’ve been trying to reach Aden but he won’t answer his phone or the house phone. You didn’t tell him about the case?”
Sandy shook her head.
“She was told not to,” Max said.
“It’s not your fault Sandy,” Alex said. “They should have moved earlier.”
“You’ve heard that the wheels of justice move slowly?” Captain Ramirez said.
“The wheels of international justice sometimes barely move at all.”
“Is Aden all right? Is he going to kill my father?” Sandy asked.
“He didn’t arrive with a weapon.” Seth’s face was grim. “That’s good for him.”
“What do you mean?” Sandy asked.
“Nothing,” Seth said. “Let’s get you over to the phone. We’re hoping if you call maybe he’ll answer.”
“Sandy, do you know what he’s looking for?” Alex asked.
“His daughter said she was going to be in one of my Dad’s movies,” Sandy said. “He was talking to her on the phone… then just hung up. It’s not like him. None of this is like him.”
“It’s not the man you know. It’s the man he was,” Seth said. “Hargreaves, is this thing with his daughter true?”
“I don’t know,” Alex said. “Like you, we’re just along for the ride. It’s more their deal.”
Alex nodded toward Max and Captain Ramirez.
“I’ll find out,” Max said.
With Seth at her side, Sandy followed Max to the leader of the operation. She heard that they had been watching the house when Aden arrived. She heard that they were there within fifteen minutes. She heard that they were monitoring video and audio surveillance inside her father’s house.
The words and sounds of the FBI operating team came at her as if they were food she could not digest. She knew the words, certainly heard them, but couldn’t quite understand what they were saying. She felt as if she was floating in a bubble of unreality.
This could not be happening.
The FBI wanted her to talk to Homeland Security. She had a long incomprehensible conversation with a man who acted like she was an idiot. She was passed off to the Denver Policeman who was running the scene. When the Denver Police Officer finished what he had to say, she was led back to Seth.
Even with Seth there, she felt very small and very alone. All the noise, all the weapons, and her Aden at the center of everything. She knew he’d warned her that he had a violent past. He’d warned her that he was a criminal. He’d warned her.
Why didn’t the past – his past, her past - just go away?
Almost as if it wasn’t her idea, a single thought came into her head.
“The past will go away when I make it go away.”
Sandy nodded to herself. She had to get inside that house.
Seth was holding onto her with an arm over her shoulder while he talked to a policewoman. When Sandy shifted away from him, he took his hand off her shoulder. With quick efficient movements, she put a knot in her long hair. Seth stepped toward the policewoman.
Sandy took off toward the house.
Running as fast as she knew how to run, she ran down the cement path. When she reached the porch, she hopped into the left basement window well. She yanked open the basement window. In one motion, she slid into the basement. She landed on her feet. Feeling movement behind her, she spun around to see Alex then Max come through the basement window. Seth followed Max.
“Sandy what the hell!” Seth said in a terse whisper.
“Shhh…” Alex said. “We’re here now.”
“I’m taking Sandy out of here!” Seth grabbed her arm.
“I’m not going anywhere.” Sandy shook him off her. “This started with me. It’s going to end with me.”
Wednesday — 4:30 P.M.
“Where are you going?” Honey asked the line of men clocking out. “We have another hour.”
The man looked at Honey, shook his head then walked out the door.
“HEY!” Honey said. “What is going on?”
Hearing Honey’s voice, Bambi ran out from the office.
“STOP!” Bambi yelled.
Every eye turned to look at her.
“What is going on?” Honey asked.
“We heard on the radio that Aden has lost it on some guy. The radio says the guy’s a suspected pedophile and child pornographer. The police have the house surrounded.”
“We’re going to help,” the next man said as he clocked out.
“I’ve know Aden since we were day laborers together,” a man said as he took out his employee card. “If Aden’s lost it, then we all should.”
“Don’t think you can stop us,” a woman said. “The other sites are going too.”
“Going where?” Honey asked.
“To Locust Street. We’re going to be there when Aden needs us.”
Just then Bambi’s company radio squawked.
“Yeah,” Honey answered the radio while Bambi tried to talk some sense into her employees.
“It’s Jerry, Honey. Is Bambi there?”
“She’s dealing with a mutiny.”
“I’ve got the same thing here,” Jerry said. “And frankly? I’m going too. You gals need a ride?”
“Who’s going to tell Jake?” Honey asked.
“We were thinking his step-sister would tell him,” Jerry laughed.
“See you there.”
Honey looked up to see Bambi clocking out.
“You’re going too? What about the site?”
“Aden’s a good friend. They’re right. We should be there if he needs us,” Bambi said. “Will you stay here to wrap up?”
“I will,” Honey said. “And I’ll call Jake.”
“Oh, Jake knows,” Bambi said. “His mother predicted this when she was alive. She used to tell Aden over and over again that he must not kill the baker’s father.”
“How do you know that?”
“We dated after he broke up with Lexi. Miss Celia was alive.”
“You dated Aden?”
“For a while. Didn’t work out,” Bambi said. “He’s been a great friend. He introduced me to Mack just because he thought I’d like him.”
“You knew Aden when he was using drugs and stuff?”
“He drank, mostly,” Bambi said. “He talks about his ‘violent criminal past’ but he wasn’t really that bad. Mostly he was drunk and in the wrong place at the wrong time. He never had real violence in him. He’s too aware of other people, even drunk and high.”
“Why did he get sober?” Honey asked.
“I couldn’t deal with him drunk,” Bambi said. “Celia was on him about it. But it was mostly the kids. He finally got it together for Nash and Noelle. They mean everything to him. If he did this thing, it has to have something to do with the kids.”
“With a pedophile? I hope not!” Honey exclaimed.
“Me too. See you there?”
“I’ll close up shop and meet you there,” Honey said.
“I’ll look for you. Thanks Honey.”
Shaking her head at the insanity of the day, Honey wheeled outside to close the site.
Wednesday — 4:45 P.M.
“How did you know about the window?” Alex whispered to Sandy.
“That’s how I got in when he wasn’t here.” Sandy looked around the basement. “As a kid, you know.”
She cocked her head to the side and listened to the footsteps above.
“They’re in the living room,” Sandy whispered.
Sandy slipped off her shoes then went to the bottom of the basement stairs. Turning to the others, she said, “The fourth step creaks and the second one from the top makes a loud noise. The door scrapes when it’s open more than three-fourths.
“How…?” Seth started.
“I used to hide from him,” Sandy said. “A lot.”
Seth’s face shifted one darker shade of grim. Leading the way, Sandy crept up to the main level of the house. At the top of the stairs, she pointed to the right down the hall. Sliding across the red oak floors in her socks, she made a soundless journey to the living room.
From the doorway, her eyes took in the destruction. The room had been torn apart. Paper floated in the air. Drawers hung open. Cabinet doors hung broken on their hinges. The couch and chairs had been ripped apart. A glance toward the bedrooms told her the same destruction was happening throughout the house.
Aden held the shoulder of her father’s shirt in one hand. He dug through the bureau in front of him with the other hand. Her father taunted Aden with a cruel laugh. Her father’s work shirt was soaked with blood from his face.
“Aden,” she said.
Aden’s head jerked in her direction. Her father made a noise and Aden punched him in the face. Taking a step into the living room, she squashed her urge to yelp. Her father’s face was a mass of swelling bruises and blood. His nose was broken. His dentures either fell out or were forced out. And still he jeered and laughed at Aden.
“Shut up!” Aden yelled at her father.
“Sandy, he says he has photos of Noelle! Doing…horrible…!” Aden shook her father and screamed, “SHE’S JUST A LITTLE GIRL YOU SICK FUCK!!”
“Oh Sandy, I’m glad you’re here. This guy wants to get in on our action,” Her father laughed.
“Shut up!” Sandy said to her father.
“Oooh is this the boyfriend!? You’re mother’s told me all about him,” her father said. “Listen fella, I already got all the good years out of her. But your daughter, she’s…”
“DO NOT SPEAK!” Aden yelled into her father’s face.
Sandy slipped into the room. When she moved, Alex, Max and Seth came into the room behind her. Holding handguns, their weapons were trained on Aden and her father. They formed an arc around Aden and her father.
“Denver Police! Everyone stop!” Seth said. “The house is completely surrounded. We have weapons on you. FREEZE!”
Sandy slid between her father and Aden.
“He’s a compulsive liar,” Sandy said. “He lies about everything. Any thing he tells you is a lie. You can’t believe a word he says. And even if he tells the truth, he’ll lie a second later just to cancel out the truth.”
Her father laughed at her words.
“SHUT UP!” Sandy and Aden yelled together.
“They have the house under surveillance, Aden,” Seth said. “There’ve been cameras and mics inside the house for the last two months. We’ve had men following him for six months.”
“He’s had one conversation with Noelle. At school, that’s all,” Max said.
“I still had her!” Sandy’s father said. “She wanted me soo bad! She was fresh….”
Sandy punched him in the shoulder.
“Disgusting lying cretin,” Sandy said. “Shut up.”
“There’s no way, Aden,” Max said.
“Let him go and we’ll take care of him,” Alex said. “Just let him go.”
Sandy caressed Aden’s neck. Her hands cupped his face. Standing on her tip toes, she kissed his lips. Aden’s eyes broke their stare at her father. His eyes shifted to her face. Like a wave, his face softened until he smiled at Sandy. He tossed her father away from him to hold her.
“Sandy,” he said as an out breath.
She held with all of her might.
A second later, as if it hadn’t happened, Aden shuddered and the rage returned. While Sandy stood pressed against him, his long arms picked her father up by the placket front of his shirt. Aden gave her father a violent shake.
“How could you!?” Aden shook her father again. “You’re a fucked up useless human being who destroys people. Do you have any idea the pain your own child lives with? Because of you? You worthless piece of shit!”
Using her hands, she forced Aden head to look at her.
“Aden,” Sandy said. “He doesn’t matter. He’s nothing. He doesn’t matter anymore.”
“He’s hurt you beyond repair. He’s hurt Noelle,” Aden said. “Don’t tell me to just let it go because I can’t! I won’t! I wasn’t there to stop it then but I certainly can…”
“Aden, we’re going to have a baby,” Sandy said. “We have the kids and a new baby and a whole life right here in the present. He belongs to the long ago past. He doesn’t matter.”
Aden’s head jerked toward Sandy. His eyes scanned her face for any lie. She nodded. His face sparked with joy. Tossing her father into the wall, he scooped up Sandy in a hug. He held her tight to him then let her go. While their eyes held, his hands went to her shoulders.
“I had an appointment to get my shot but we took that last minute trip to Maine. I cancelled the appointment and forgot to make another,” Sandy said. “There’s just been so much going on with Jill’s wedding, Heather’s baby, work, us, the kids… well, everything. I lost track.”
Holding her eyes with his, his hands moved to hold her belly.
“Must have been when we were in Mexico. Around my birthday,” Sandy said. “Remember the guide said that the Temple of Tables might have been a fertility temple At Chichen Itza? I guess it was.”
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 screamed.
“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.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow….
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