One hour later
“I’m not sure what this fuss is about.” Sam put his hand on the home owner’s arm. “From what you told my site manager, Tony, you knew about the waterline problem. Sounds like you and your neighbors have already spoken with the city about it.”
The man shook his head at Sam.
“Listen, it’s snowing,” Sam said. “You’ve had a difficult morning. Why don’t you head back in? I’ll let you know what we find out.”
Mumbling under his breath, the man nodded and turned back to the house. Sam jogged to catch him.
“I heard you say that you need help with the kids?”
“The Nanny quit. My wife’s on bed rest. Twins due any day. My two year old would drive a saint insane. And I have to get to work.”
“I’m sorry about your wife,” Sam said. “Christy told me that she thought your wife was pregnant.”
“Who the fuck is Christy?”
“She’s one of our road girls,” Sam said. “Blonde? Pretty? She worked your corner this week.”
The man nodded.
“Why don’t I send Christy in to watch your two year old? She’d be happy to help. You can get to work and not worry.”
“My son’s a pain in the ass,” the man said.
“So’s mine,” Sam laughed.
“You have a two year old?
“He’s twenty-six,” Sam said.
The man laughed.
“I’ll send Christy in. She’ll appreciate getting out of the cold today,” Sam said. “Can you find help today?”
The man nodded.
“Great,” Sam said. “See that was easy. And don’t worry. If your son’s too much for Christy, we’ll teach him how to fix a broken water line. That’s what I did with my son and now he owns the company.”
The man laughed. Holding out his hand, he said, “Thanks.”
Two hours later
“When you called, I was like ‘no way’,” the field director for the Museum of Nature and Science said. “But, hot damn, Jacob Marlowe, that’s an entire villiage. I bet we’ve got ten, maybe fifteen homes here.”
“Settlers?” Jacob asked.
“Ancient. Jake, I think it’s Clovis.”
“What does that mean?” Jerry Siegle, the site manager, asked. “This is not Clovis, New Mexico.”
“Ancient civilization. Thirteen thousand years ancient. We’ve got an expert at the museum. Steve Holden. He’s going to ….” The man beamed at Jacob. “You’ve just made our careers.”
“Yeah, glad we could help,” Jacob said.
The man laughed at Jacob’s sardonic tone.
“You’re saying we have to close the site?” Jerry asked.
“I’m saying you can’t work here,” the man said.
“Ah fuck,” Jerry stomped back toward the trailer.
“Ever?” Jacob asked.
“Probably,” the man said. “If this is what I think it is? The government will take over this site. In five years time, they’ll sell tickets for the good people to see.”
“I guess you probably didn’t want to hear that,” the man from the Museum of Nature and Science said.
“It’s not you,” Jacob said. “I need to talk to my guys.”
“Yeah,” the man said. As Jacob walked away, he said, “Hey Jake!”
Jacob turned to look at him.
“Thanks. Really, a lot of people would have just kept working. This is a big assed deal.”
Jacob nodded then continued to the trailer. As he approached he heard someone yelling. When he opened the door, everyone was silent. Only the whir of the heaters broke the sterile silence. The men stared at him.
“What’s the word, Jake?” Jerry asked.
“This entire job is cancelled,” Jacob said. “Off our books.”
Jerry’s assistant threw his coffee cup against the trailer’s wall.
“I KNEW we shouldn’t have called,” an assistant site manager said. “Fuck, my one chance…. God damn it.”
The other two assistant site managers shook their heads.
“That’s it, isn’t it? God damn it, Marlowe.” Jerry’s angry face was inches from Jacob’s. His index finger tapped on Jacob’s chest. “I’ve worked at this company all my God damn life. And why?”
Jerry spun away from Jacob. His employees watched their site manager in stunned silence. Spinning in place, Jerry turned back to Jacob.
“Because some rich asshole set unachievable conditions. In almost thirty years, Lipson construction’s met our fall projections three times! Three times in thirty years! Now we have to pull off some fucking miracle. God damn it.”
Jacob opened his mouth to respond, but Jerry wasn’t finished.
“This is on YOU, Marlowe. You should never have let those fuckers set ANY condition on our company. When it comes down, YOU better say that YOU fucked up because we’re not taking the blame.”
Jerry crossed his arms in defiance. Jacob opened his mouth again to speak.
“You can fire me if you want,” Jerry said. “I’m not going to work over some lost civilizations remains. I’m not going to take the blame for the employees losing the company. And I’m not going to put up with bullshit.”
Jacob raised his eyebrows with the question - was Jerry done?
“Yeah, I’m done. You’re Mom made the same face when I went on a rant.” Jerry bowed his large body slightly. “I’m sorry.”
Jacob laughed at his apology.
“You don’t have to humiliate me, Marlowe. God damn it. I’m trying to be humble.”
“I think he wants to say something, Jer,” Jerry’s assistant said.
“Oh,” Jerry said. “Go ahead. I’ll listen.”
Jacob opened his mouth to speak.
“But just so you know, I meant every word. Even though I’m sorry I go on and on.”
Jacob started laughing so hard that the men in the small trailer began to laugh.
“Ok, I get it,” Jerry said. He laughed, “Go ahead.”
Jacob’s face shifted to stone.
“The bank has called our credit. We have twenty-four hours to secure new funding.”
The silence in the trailer was deafening.
“The only thing they will take as capital is the Castle. They know that there’s no way I will put my child, my family…. Hell anyone who needs a place to stay… in the position of not having a home.”
“What about the school?” Jerry asked.
“We rent,” Jacob said.
“What are you going to do?” Jerry’s assistant asked.
“I don’t know,” Jacob said. “We’ll do something. But as of this moment, the only way to secure our debt is to either put my mother’s home up as equity or ….”
“Let the board buy the company,” Jerry said. “Mother fuckers….”
“Exactly,” Jacob said. “I want you to hear this from me. You and your men did exactly the right thing. I need you to clean up the site and get back into town. We have a couple of other situations that could use your guys and, Jerry, your experience. How long will it take to tear this site down?”
“Three days,” Jerry said. “But if we’re needed in town, then we can go there. We can tear it down this weekend.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. Can you guys get out to Golden? They shut down due to snow. They’re having trouble with the melt off. They could really use you. I need your men at County Line. They can restart but their guys moved to Steele Street to help there.”
“We’ll go right now,” Jerry said. “You’re going to sort this financing out?”
“Have to,” Jacob said. “Construction companies run on credit. We have to have credit to buy the supplies we need to complete jobs and pay employees. Without it, we close the doors.”
“What are you going to do when you get the financing worked out, Jake?” One of the assistant site managers asked.
“I’m going to get rid of the board.”
Unintentionally, Jacob smiled his evil Hockey smile. The men shifted uncomfortably. Noticing their discomfort, Jacob let out a breath.
“Let’s just get through today,” Jacob said.
“One, two, three.”
Aden yelled over the wind, snow and machinery. He waved his hand down and the loader buckets of two backhoes moved in unison. Tap, tap, tap. The trench shoring moved off the bottom of the trench.
“STOP” Aden yelled over the machinery and the wind.
The backhoe operators lifted the buckets. Aden climbed into the trench. Shaking his head, he dug a handful of dirt from the steel shoring plate. He stuck the dirt in his pocket then climbed out.
“What is it, boss?” Bambi yelled.
“I don’t know,” Aden said. Pulling the dirt from his pocket, he showed held it out for Bambi to see. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”
The dirt was a mixture of red Denver clay soil and some kind of gray matter.
“I thought these were rocks, you know.” Aden pointed to a gray chunk. “But….”
“Throw me a shovel,” Bambi said.
Bambi climbed into the trench. Honey passed her a shovel. She dug around where the steel shoring had been. Mimicking Aden, she put a handful of dirt in her pocket and climbed out. She showed Aden her dirt.
“That’s concrete,” Honey said.
“That’s what I thought,” Aden said.
“Concrete,” Bambi said. “What do we do?”
“We call the police,” Honey said.
“I don’t want to be the site that….”
“Don’t worry, Bambi,” Aden said. “Jake’s going to work all that out today.”
“How do you know? Jerry said the financing’s been pulled and….”
“I know the man,” Aden said. “He’ll work it out.”
“Police?” Honey asked.
“Police,” Aden said. “And thank God, no one was hurt. If we hadn’t had this snow storm, someone could have been crushed.”
Honey wheeled to the trailer to make the call.
“And the tapes?” Bambi asked.
“Heather and Blane are reviewing them,” Aden said. “When Jake said we had to buy those video cameras for the lights, I thought he was nuts. So expensive! But man, I’m glad we have them.”
“Me too,” Bambi said. “Me too.”
Two hours later
“This is how this goes,” Mike said.
Standing in the middle of Megan’s living room, he paced back and forth in front of Steve, Candy and Megan. He opened his mouth to speak then shook his head.
“Why are we here, Mike?” Megan asked. “You said it was an emergency.”
“And where’s Jill?” Candy asked. “If we’re getting yelled at she should be here too.”
“Yeah,” Steve said. “Why does Jill get to miss out on this yelling?”
“Jill. Yes, this is about Jill,” Mike said. “Jill is not here because it’s about her. Jill won’t marry Jacob because she thinks you guys can’t to deal with the truth.”
“What truth?” Megan asked.
Mike let out a breath. He looked from face to face. He closed his eyes to their faces then said:
“Our mother is alive.”
He didn’t open his eyes until they stopped talking.
“SHUT UP,” Megan yelled.
Steve and Candy stopped talking.
“Start at the beginning Mike,” Megan said. “You saw the bodies.”
“I saw a body, our father’s body and a charred… I don’t know what it was,” Mike said. “The state police said that Mom’s body was burned beyond recognition in the fire. Dad was thrown out of the wreckage. Most of his head was destroyed. I recognized what he was wearing and his watch.”
Mike pointed to the watch that Steve was wearing. Steve wore his father’s watch every day.
“Why would Mom abandon us?” Candy’s voice echoed her loss.
“Why do you think?” Mike asked.
“Because she had to,” Megan said.
“My mother loved me. Fiercely,” Candy said. “She knew about me. She told me that I was perfect in every way. Every day. Even though I’m gay. That’s the only reason my mother would leave me. She was forced to.”
“But Mike why would she have to?” Steve asked.
“You want to hear this?” Mike asked. “Jill tried to tell you. Each of you. But you didn’t want to know.”
“Oh Mike, we were just… crazy. I remember her saying something but… I wanted Mom to be alive so badly. I thought she was… imagining I guess.” Megan shrugged. “Is she angry?”
“Jill?” Mike chuckled. “No. This is something she has carried for a lot of years. For us.”
“I want to know,” Steve said. “I want to know.”
“Me too,” Candy said.
She held out her hand to Steve and to Megan. They took her hands for support.
“Meg and I have a different father than you guys do,” Mike said. “Our mother was married to him before she married your father. She thought he died.”
“That’s why there’s four years between me and you,” Steve said.
“And why Dad hated you,” Candy said.
“Right. I look like my father,” Mike said.
“I remember that,” Megan’s voice was vague. “When you say those words, I know that’s true. My Daddy was… funny, used to make faces, loved me… a lot.”
“He does,” Mike said. “He loves us - Steve, Candy and Jill included. He’s intervened in all of our lives when we really needed it. Money mostly. Your car, Steve, remember how the bill was twenty dollars when the estimate was six hundred? Or your school Candy? Remember how you got that scholarship to pay for knives and stuff? This house? Meg, how did you get that low interest rate?”
“How does he know about us?” Steve asked.
“Ever notice how Jill writes everything down in her journal? Every detail,” Mike said.
Steve, Candy and Megan nodded.
“Ever notice how she doesn’t have shelves and shelves and shelves of them?”
Like a light bulb flashing over their heads, their faces lit up.
“She sends them to Mom,” Megan whispers. “She used to ask for money sometimes…. She sends them to Mom.”
“Mom and her husband live together in Costa Rica. He’s retired. Mostly.”
“Why did Mom think your father was dead?” Candy asked.
“He traveled for work a lot. He was gone for years and Mom was told he died. She married Dad. I call him Dad because….” Mike shrugged. “There’s more….”
“What?” Megan asked.
“Our Mother is the daughter of one of the head of the Bratva,” Mike said. “The Russian Mob. Dad worked as an accountant for the Mob. He got in some kind of trouble, I don’t exactly know what. They had to leave the country. Mom was pregnant with Steve. She left with him but, according to Jill, she didn’t know what going on until they were here. She never had a chance to say good-bye to her family.”
“I remember that too,” Megan said. “Long plane fight. Mom was very fidgety and Dad was stone. Mike and I tried to be extra good so we wouldn’t get in trouble.”
“He stole some amount of money,” Mike said. “I’ve heard the term ‘billions’.”
Candy and Steve gasped. Megan jerked to the present.
“She knew nothing,” Mike said. “Knows nothing. I don’t either. Do you?”
He looked from sibling to sibling. They each shook their heads ‘no’.
“Jill doesn’t have a clue,” Mike said.
“So the money just….”
“Vanished,” Mike said. “Or he spent it or gambled it or it never existed. My father thinks the whole thing might have been a way to get Dad out of the country. He was killed for stealing the money. Remember those surveyors that came right after Mom and Dad died?”
“They surveyed the house and the lot. They said it was for the new loan but….” Megan rubbed her forehead. “We didn’t have to do that for our house.”
“Right,” Mike said. “They were looking for the money. Found nothing.”
“Mike?” Megan asked. “What does this have to do with Jill?”
“Mom wants to see her get married,” Mike said. “Jill doesn’t want to upset you or put Mom at risk. She’s not going to marry Jacob.”
Lost in their own thoughts, Steve, Candy and Megan fell silent.
“She works at the Marlowe School,” Mike said.
They all began talking again.
“SHUT UP!” Megan yelled. “God!”
Steve nodded. Candy stood.
“Where are you going?” Mike asked.
“I want my Mom,” Candy said. “You said she was at the Marlowe school. I’m going to see my Mom.”
“Actually, she’s outside. Waiting. For us.”
“She works at the Marlowe school?” Megan asked.
“Jake hired her when they needed more people. When Katy and your kids started going there? She speaks five languages and kids love her,” Mike said. “She came because she wanted to know Katy and your kids. Ryan knows who she is. He’s kept her secret.”
“Why is it safe for her now?” Steve asked.
“Because of me and Val,” Mike said. “There was a conversation, and an agreement to leave us alone.”
“Us?” Megan asked.
“You, me, Candy, Steve, Jill and our kids,” Mike said. “We don’t know anything about any money. Do we?”
Everyone shook their heads. Candy walked to the door.
“Wait,” Mike said. “Mom’s had some work done. You might not recognize…”
Candy ran out the door and into her mother’s arms. Crying, laughing, kissing and hugging, Steve, Megan and Candy met their mother for the first time in fifteen years.
Denver Cereal continues next week….
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